artifacts and mental health best practices

I recently provided some comments to a journalist at Mashable about why I like “cursed” accounts/content online; you can read that story here. I think the depth of feeling you can have for an abandoned/decontextualized object or image can be kind of a signpost of where you are as a person mentally, emotionally — and artistically if you swing that way.

I’ve been thinking a lot the last few days about how I see myself as a creator. I’m wary to call myself a creator or an artist because I feel like I don’t “produce” anything compared to the many working artists, musicians, and other creators that I know. I’m always around artists (and have been since I was a child; my dad’s a pretty good musician and writer) but have never really felt like an artist myself. I think I’m going to try to call bullshit on myself and try to appreciate the stuff I do put out into the world.

Last night I went to see Sean Bonnette play with Shellshag and Marisa Dabice of Mannequin Pussy at PhilaMOCA. I met a girl there (and apologies to her, I swear to god I thought she was 14 or 15 but it turned out she was 20; to be fair to myself it was an all-ages show). I’ll call her C. C told me when I asked how old she was that she had recently been taken aside by a transit police officer who thought she was a lost child. She had a very strange, open manner about her and was handing out small stickers that she designed to strangers (which were super cool, by the way). I noticed her immediately because she reminded me of myself when I was younger and we were also both wearing the same type of Doc Martens work boots. Normally when I meet someone at an event and we’re both alone I make an effort to kind of stick by that person. I’m someone who functions better in public with someone else. But C had a way of disappearing into a crowd silently and she just kind of moved around all night like a cheerful small ghost, so I made an effort to not actively follow her around because I figured that would be creepy. We added each other on Instagram, though.

C didn’t give a shit what people thought of her; she seemed like she was genuinely motivated by the idea of sharing and making other people happy with her art. I fucking wish I could be that way. I think mostly I’ve been motivated by making myself happy when I make art — which is just as valid, but it means that my art is very internal.

Photography is my only visual art; I have a Zenit 412LS which is a Russian 35mm SLR produced around the year 2000. It has a Zenitar M2s MC 50/2 lens, which, like most Russian glass, produces a kind of dreamy effect especially when you’re working with narrower apertures. This is the effect that smartphone producers have finally emulated with “portrait mode” in order to artificially produce “bokeh” which I guess is cool if you’re into that sort of thing, but the older I get the more affection I have for analog technology and analog processes, especially since my day job in IT is so heavily focused on computers and software solutions as opposed to actual machines.

This is recent stuff (from 2016-2018), but really I’ve been doing this photography thing for a long time. It’s been a “hobby” for something like 14 years. I think you can see differences in how I approach it now, maybe? At least, I think I have a better understanding of light and tone now; but I’m still not really trying to capture technically perfect images, just capture a look/feel/sense/moment, and experiment with the look/feel of different types of film. Is that art or is that just self-indulgence? Fuck it, it’s art if I say it’s art.

These are pictures from throughout 2007 taken with a point and shoot camera. I no longer have any of the original scans of these, so I’m stuck with these lo-res versions from an online archive, which definitely changes the way you experience them. But they’re pure in a certain way, and definitely taken “on the fly.” I might be able to find the original prints and negatives but they’re up in my old attic bedroom of my father’s house which has its roof falling in and I wouldn’t be surprised if they’re water damaged.

I got to thinking about this because Sean’s music is often about art and creativity and how you can be creative, ethical, and good and kind in actual human space, and because C was a very good example of that. And because I have a documented history of being incredibly hard on myself and therefore hard on others around me. My mom says it’s because I want things to be pure and this is because I’m a Virgo, and my Scorpio rising sign means that I’m extremely intense and sometimes scary about that. Regardless of what you think of astrology it’s a pretty spot-on character analysis and it means I sometimes can be a bit too serious about myself.

A side-effect of effectively treating my anxiety has been that I think I’m less serious now, but considering how fucking serious I was before, I think I still have a ways to go before I can experience joy without worrying about it too much, or over-analyzing it, or blowing it up. But I’m well on my way.

Mental Health Best Practices

(inspired by Richard Brautigan’s Karma Repair Kit and AJJ’s Keep on Chooglin’)

  1. Get enough food to eat, and eat it

  2. If you anxiety vomit before you go out, don’t beat yourself up over it. Eat something else that will settle your stomach. Seltzer and bread are good for this.

  3. Related to (2): Don’t take meds on an empty stomach

  4. Being alive can be a purely dysphoric experience. Decontextualize objects or ideas that you see that confuse you, and you may find that you relate to them instead of being scared by them. Then, bring them back to their original context and see if you understand them better.

  5. Pay attention to how your body reacts to things you put it through

  6. Cut your losses and play bass

  7. Shitpost as much as you want

  8. Eat the rich

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