Him: OK. What I would really like to talk with you about, um, if you’re agreeable, is, is your writing and your magazine, ‘cause what, what is so fascinating to me is um given, given how, I can’t think of the right term, I see your spoken language as transparent, you know, quite free of, as I said, figurative language, your writing is full of plays on words, and um, very, you know, lots of play on sound, um, lots of irony and, and this kind of capacity to shift discourses, so, can you talk about, say, can you talk about this thing?, the choice to use all of these different discourses?
Me: um, can you refer to anything specific?
Him: yeah, well, so, so, it’s sort of like a putative journey of a particular character, and then within that, you know, you play with font, you play with, you know, early on you start with um, kind of comic book kind of language, or graphic novel to be, and then you talk about um, the um, the process of diagnosis, and it’s a very ironic kind of view of it, and that’s where there’s a lot of the play on language, and then there’s sort of um, the quotes from sociological works then there’s the very clear statements about problems with the mental health system and how it addresses the person, there’s the very funny thing about gender, um and then, so that coming after the um, that’s a, that’s a sort of discourse about gender and, and, you know, particularly male projection onto landscapes and the environment, and that comes after the deliberate critique of psychiatry’s use of gender and, yeah, then you’ve got Tommy, the story, you know, so, so there’s all of these shifts between borrowed discourse, comedy, critique, slap-in-the-middle the problems that a person faces with mental health, and then there’s this kind of constant interleaving of these very, very beautiful images of nature, I mean that’s my look at it, can you tell me about like, the creative decisions?
Me: um, well, the zine was an assignment for uni, for a graphic design subject, ah, and one of the um, goals of the project was to convey emotion, to make a connection with whoever, or some people call them the viewer, the reader, um, so it was kind of, I really wanted to convey how negative I feel about the public mental health system, but I know that when somebody’s talking to me and they want to um, impress upon me their opinion, and with the possibility of me changing my mind, I’m just not going to respond to people shouting or pointing their finger, or being aggressive or anything like that, so that was why I chose to use a lot of my kind of humour, um, just to get my point across in a non-confrontational kind of way, and um, so that’s why that, it’s kind of a funny collection of stories, hopefully for most people, um, with um, the changes, or the shifts in discourse, that’s kind of just because I’ve become aware of these kind of theories from studying at uni, and they just explain so much of the social world to me, and um, really I was just, kind of just being a bitch, like really making fun of um psych, the psychiatric profession, the public mental health system, with the aim of sort of hoping that people would, by laughing and, feeling an empathy with the characters in the stories would sort of think well, maybe yeah, I’ve never considered it this way, I might ask one of my friends who has a mental illness what they’ve experienced, or might do some further research and find out what’s, you know, what’s, some other people’s opinions on the topic
Him: and was your experience, um, do you think that there was a gendered aspect to your experience?
Me: oh yeah, it was like um, it was blatant, yeah, it was actually kind of disturbing, like I can remember thinking when, after I’d been in the psychiatric unit for a few days I sort of thought, like, what training have these people had?, where do they get their information, like, yeah, really outdated, um, racist, sexist, possibly homophobic, ageist, all these isms man, and like for people in human services, you really, well not all staff, but many staff members categorised patients according to really dumb stereotypes, and gender was a big one, yeah
Him: so then that, that comes into your, comes into your creative work, OK, and was this, ‘cause you talked about um, over the last six to twelve months starting to think about representing, you know, um, being more open around having had an experience of mental illness, was this the first, so, did you present this to a student body as well as to a teacher, or?
Me: ah, in that particular subject we had a blog, our personal blog which you accessed via the subject, ah, so the expectation was that you would put in an entry every week, it could be about research, other artists, um, creative avenues you were exploring, whatever helped you get to the final product, so, um, ‘cause remembering I’m a distance student, so um, the blog for the subject is open to any other student in the class
Him: OK, and so you made a conscious decision that that was an experience that you would include and how did that play out then?
Me: um, in terms of?
Him: um, did you, did you get positive responses?
Me: oh OK, um well, keeping in mind that it was a graphic design subject, the majority of um, ‘cause you had the ability to comment on other students’ blog posts, and the majority of comments were based on um, creative decisions or design decisions, ah there was probably a very small number of people who said like, way to go, like, good work, um so I didn’t notice any negative responses
Him: and I’m interested too within all of the um, the irony and the play and the appropriation of other texts, then there’s this kind of, the two things in a sense to me there’s the very clear set of statements, ‘I am not a person in the public mental health system’, and the ones that follow, and then there’s this um, the very, very beautiful photographs, and then at times, you know, the chopped up and whatever, that’s kind of free of irony, free of, you know, just experiencing beauty, so there are these, the statements that are without irony, and then there’s this clear beauty, are they linked, are they?
Me: um, well the pictures of the plant is just a visual thing that I was exploring at the time, um, the, I was exploring this particular plant, ah, it’s in a garden up near where I live, and ah, it just, it’s just such a stunningly beautiful plant and um, I think the main reason I was exploring the theme of how beautiful it was is because um, nature is pretty much would be my main source of spirituality, it’s kind of like a nourishment, source of nourishment, a source of refreshing, rejuvenating, renewal, all that kind of thing, so um, that’s why I would have, that’s why I was working on the plant theme, and then I just, it was kind of more an aesthetic decision to include them in the zine, just for something totally different from the content of the copy, yeah, so um, so more a visual aesthetic decision than um meant to have any further meaning or add further meaning to the text
Him: and do you have an intent to produce more? OK, that would be, ‘cause it was a real, it was such a pleasure to me to read the
Me: oh thanks
Him: and revisit it, and as I said, it just made me laugh out loud, you know
Me: I can remember when I was writing the stories I did the same thing, luckily I was at home, so you know, I wasn’t sitting in public laughing My Head Off.
Him: the postie delivering the bell from Tommy, the crushed bell, you know, and the fear of hearing the postie’s bike
Me: oh yeah well that story was inspired by some mental health professionals who expect that people when they’re mentally ill to be incredibly violent and capable of murder, so that was where the inspiration for that came from
Him: oh well, it was very gentle then. OK.
(p.s. this post was prompted by the Weekly Writing Challenge from the Daily Post.)