Our Article Writer Daisy Leigh-Phippard shares her thoughts on art as our tool to fix ourselves and our situations.
We’ve all had those days when everything just seems to go wrong, or semesters when every assignment and workshop doesn’t go right. We’ve come out of a lecture feeling worn out and unmotivated, just wanting to go home and collapse face first into bed. While that first reaction to face plant the pillow is what a lot of people will go and do, sooner or later we’ll get bored and move onto something else to get us away from the stress of modern society. It comes down to your definition of art, but most of us will gravitate towards some form of artistic escapism when we need to switch our worrying brains off. Artistically inclined or not, going home to draw for hours or sitting down in front of Netflix to watch someone else’s creative vision are both taking advantage of art as a metaphorical first aid kit.
It’s not so easy to imagine painting over some deadlines with water colours or using a needle and thread to stitch up our exhaustion and it actually working though. I, for one, would love it if I could just press play on a film and it would literally pause time that I could be spending on my actual film course. But, in a way, that’s kind of the point of consuming art: my tutors always joke about how watching a film is technically research, and it is. As a filmmaker, taking in as many examples of other people’s work in the field can only be a good thing. As artists in general, consuming everything that falls into our path is research if we want to recreate the human experience creatively.But I’m not just here to justify procrastination. With the rise of self care we’re more aware than ever that taking time away from work, social media and every other pressure we’re piled on ourselves is an important thing. I would argue that consuming art and entertainment is one of the most effective ways we can do this. In its most basic form, art is about telling narratives to its audience in various ways – narratives that often have to do with confronting issues that we all experience at some point in our lives. Remember the desire to face plant the pillow? Go watch Kiki’s Delivery Service to see what I mean. Art has a way of capturing our experiences and feeding them back to us, and there’s nothing more comforting that being shown something you’ve felt by a complete stranger and knowing you’re not the only one to feel it.
So then, rolling out of bed and opening up a beautifully designed picture book makes sense, even if it is addressing something a child would find entertaining. Really we’re all still people trying to make sense of new things – university students especially. And it’s not all about consuming what other people have made, it’s about creating it yourself too. Frida Kahlo famously painted butterflies and flowers onto the plaster corsets she had to wear because her spine was too weak to support itself, because it gave her a way to escape the cages her body was literally kept together with. As much as we’d all love to come out of that bad lecture, jump in a taxi to the airport and fly away somewhere for a few days it’s not going to happen. But getting out of our stressed heads for a few hours through creating something, anything, is a pretty close compromise. What we have made at the end is a bonus.You don’t have to have a little tin packed with paper, pens, paints, camera lenses and sewing needles to do it. Most of us probably aren’t skilled with all of the tools available, as much as we’d like to be. But just a word document on a computer and half an hour typing can be enough of a metaphorical plaster on a bad day to make a difference. More and more I find myself coming home and going to the easy stuff like Facebook and YouTube in the background to ‘get away’ from stress, but I’m still in the same place once I turn it off.The times that I decide to properly take a step back and pull up my video editing software, pick up a book or take out my pens and just devote myself to creating something for a few hours are the times that I come back actually feeling able to deal with the stress of everyday life again. So perhaps it takes a little more effort once we’ve fallen face first into bed, but in the long run using our own artistic first aid kits is the best escapism we have.
Words by Daisy Leigh-Phippard, Illustrations by Vanruethai Chansue