In an age of increasing uncertainty, instability, and anxiety, thinking about our own mental health — and that of those around us — feels more urgent and necessary than ever. Today marks World Mental Health Day, an initiative that’s been run by the World Federation for Mental Health since 1992. Mental health problems, can, and obviously do, affect anyone, any day of the year, but as British mental health charity Mind says, “today is a great day to show your support for better mental health and start looking after your own wellbeing.”
By now the statistics around mental health are well known but bear repeating: one in four people in the UK experience a mental health problem every year, and in England, one in every six people report a common mental health problem each week. It’s an issue that affects us all.
The creative industries are demanding and difficult. Rewarding, yes, but demanding and difficult, too. There are tight turnarounds to meet, clients to appease, invoices to chase, last-minute amends that need attention ASAP, and the day-to-day issue of having to remain creatively active and alert on days when you’d much rather browse Netflix in bed.
It’s Nice That has gathered together a multi-disciplinary collection of creatives from across the world, who consider the implications that mental health and wellbeing has on their practice; with the intention of creating a virtual space of calm and tranquillity, somewhere to sit and think and take time to reflect.
Out there in the real world, we’ve found ourselves in Austrian Art Brut residences and east London zine-making workshops. We’ve spoken to moving-image masters Metahaven, extraordinarily honest photographer Steph Wilson, and the team at Dazed Beauty have given us an insight into how the way we look can have radical effects on how we feel.
At the risk of sounding like a continuity announcer, if you have been affected by any of the issues discussed in today’s coverage, and would like to find out more, donate, or just have a chat; please contact one of the dozens of incredible charities — including Mind, and CALM — in the UK doing amazing work around mental health.
“There's no difference between artists with special needs and others”: The story of The House of ArtistsJyni Ong —
Approximately 20 kilometres north of Vienna is a small building on a hill, adjacent to the Vienna Woods. It is known as The House of Artists and belongs to the village Maria Gugging. Despite its unremarkable and provincial setting, this house is one-of-a-kind, nurturing some of the most interesting artistic talent in the world.
“Wrap facts in fictions, and fictions in facts”: Metahaven on its ICA show, Version HistoryBillie Muraben —
Vinca Kruk and Daniel van der Velden started working together when they met at the Jan van Eyck Academie in Maastricht, in the early 2000s. Their first piece of design-led research was focused on the Principality of Sealand, a former World War II sea fortress in international waters off the coast of Suffolk. “We worked with the stories that surrounded the self-proclaimed nation, not necessarily aiming to arrive at something finished”, says Vinca. Their time at the Academie aligned with the unofficial independent state’s time as an unregulated data haven, and their project defined a hypothetical identity for Sealand. This was also when they forged their collective identity, and found the name Metahaven. “That moment coincided with technological changes, the internet, social media and in 2005, YouTube being founded,” Vinca explains. “All of these developments have been influential in how we make work, how we arrive at work, and how we work through work.”
Version History, which opened on 03 October at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), is Metahaven’s first solo exhibition in the UK. The show features a new moving-image commission, Eurasia (Questions on Happiness), as well as their films Hometown and Information Skies, all of which consider the overlaps between geopolitical, technological and emotional concerns.
Be whoever you want to be: Bunny Kinney on what makes Dazed Beauty so differentJosh Baines —
Beauty doesn’t always make us feel good. But we’ll get back to that.
Steph Wilson speaks honestly about her relationship with mental health and photographyLucy Bourton —
Steph Wilson is a photographer able to convey a message in her work, without directly shouting about it. She has an ability to embed messages, whether its sneaking feminism into a fashion shoot or portraying her own thoughts in the pose of one of her own subjects. It’s difficult to describe but there’s something about Steph’s photography that just makes you feel things.
“Five books that bring me calm”: Anxy Magazine's Indhira Rojas' BookshelfRuby Boddington —
“Books have always had a calming effect on me, not just for the stories they carry, but the visual narratives they bring into my life,” Indhira Rojas, founder and creative director of Anxy Magazine tells It’s Nice That, “I find the visual stimulation quite soothing.”
An illustrator and designer anonymously explain how to tackle a brief infringing on your mental healthLucy Bourton —
Dealing with clients in the creative industry can be like playing a game.
Rabbits Road Press gives us a lesson in zine-making for wellbeingLaura Isabella —
I meet illustrator Aleesha Nandhra and Sofia Niazi from zine OOMK (One of My Kind) at Rabbits Road Press. Housed inside the front room of Manor Park Library, the press offers, well, a one of its kind open access Riso-press for the local community and crafty Londoners, alike. The initiative was set up by the staff at OOMK, a collaborative publishing practice led by Sofia Niazi, Rose Nordin and Heiba Lamara. Working together since 2014, the trio make, publish and distribute printed works arising from self initiated projects. Their zine, OOMK is a visual delight, handcrafted and printed biannually, its content pivots upon the “imagination, creativity and spirituality of women.”
Jan Buchczik on how illustration helped him be at ease with himselfLucy Bourton —
Jan Buchczik’s portfolio communicates with viewers through simplicity. Without fail, an illustration by Jan will be drawn with just a looping black line that somehow communicates a multitude of feelings despite being drawn with one flat trademark tool.
It’s hard to think of an artist whose association with mental health is as great as Yayoi Kusama’sJyni Ong —
It’s difficult to name an artist more speculated or talked about than Yayoi Kusama. Her work is able to encapsulate the feeling of hallucination or happenings through swarms of spots, and consistently the narratives of her artworks have centred around mental health.
Opinion: Art therapy gives patients a voice when there are no wordsMillie Gaum —
When I started my foundation in art I was already quite ill, and I don’t know what kind of illness to call it but I was very depressed-stroke-anxious. I go to my foundation at art college and everyone was really expressive and doing their ‘passionate art’ but I seemed to have switched off that button completely. I became interested in community art — focusing away from my own work.
Matter is the inclusive magazine that treats brain injury with grace and good humourLaura Isabella —
“For me, the idea for Matter came from a desire to tell the stories of our members, and this special community, in an authentic and interesting way,” Laura Owens, Communications and Development Manager at Headway East London tells It’s Nice That. “Working in PR and marketing I spend a lot of my time writing about our work, however I always find the most powerful and interesting words I share are quotes that come directly from our members. Or I find that one of their artworks or poems will convey something much more powerfully than I could ever try to,” she tells us.
Illustrator Tor Brandt takes us to a private place of peace and tranquilityJosh Baines —
Tor Brandt’s found a place where he’ll always feel calm. “It’s a hill surrounded by open fields as far as the eye can see. The field has some frees, and the weather is warm without it being hot. There’s no one there but me, and some animals who may come and go as they please. While I’m on that hill, time stands still in the outside world, so I can stay there as long as I want without missing anything,” he says. “That last point is very important to me, because I always kind of feel like there isn’t time enough in reality.”
For fashion designer Georgina Johnson strength means not being afraid to say noGeorgina Johnson —
Earlier this year, I prepared to bring out a capsule collection for Laundry Service, a brand I started on graduating in 2016 for my soon to be first stockist. One afternoon, I froze at my sewing machine at the thought of finishing something I’d initially given someone else to do. In that moment I realised I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t produce the collection that was draining all my part-time cash and my mind.