Donna J. Wan’s Haunting Photos Of Suicide Destinations





Photographer Donna J. Wan’s ongoing series “Death Wooed Us” is gorgeous, unsettling, and deeply empathetic. “In 2011 after the birth of my daughter I developed a severe case of postpartum depression and considered taking my own life,” she writes in the description of the work, all photos taken in “suicide destinations”—places where people have taken their lives.

“Using research gathered from media reports, I found several locations in the Bay Area and travelled to them. I walked along the paths taken by these people before they ended their lives. Most of these photographs were taken from bridges, including the Golden Gate Bridge, one of the most well-known ‘suicide destinations,’ but also lesser-known beaches and overlooks. I purposely photographed from the perspective of looking up at the sky, down at the water or crags, or straight ahead but far away, thinking that these views might have resembled the ones seen by others moments before dying. Many of my images have a hazy and elusive quality, which I believe reflects the clouded state of mind of the suicidal.”

Suicide is such a sensitive subject. There are many people—probably the majority of people—who cannot imagine losing the will to live. Whether because of religious beliefs, or ties to family and friends, or just the innate need to stay alive, these people believe that they would never end their own lives. Then there are others, who have lived with pain and grief and the loss of hope. Those who, because of sickness of body or brain, struggle through every day. Once you have crossed this line, between life at all costs and death as a merciful end, the world never looks the same to you again. In Wan’s series, her experience is what makes the photos haunting and peaceful. She has looked into the cracks of her own soul, and that has enabled her to walk in the footsteps of those without hope and capture their last sights with kindness. The last view of a suicidal person could be macabre, an intrusion into someone else’s pain. These photos offer beauty, the acknowledgement of despair, and the desire for peace.

“There are some who may think that my photographs romanticize these places of death. I can understand that point of view, although that is not my intention. Death is not beautiful – in fact, jumping from a bridge 200 feet high is a very painful and violent way to die. Yet the sublimity of these places continues to lure people to them. I do not intend for my work to glorify the allure of these places. Instead, I hope that it may offer a glimpse into the minds of those who may have thought that dying by these beautiful places was a peaceful way to end their suffering.”

(via feature shoot)

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Marni Kotak Turns Giving Birth Into Performance Art

The Birth of Baby X, 2012 digital video, color, sound 4 minutes 30 seconds

The Birth of Baby X, 2012 digital video, color, sound 4 minutes 30 seconds

Marni Kotak, “Surviving 6 Karpas (Beth Israel Psych Ward)”, 2014, photographic plaque, 40 x 24 inches (detail)

Marni Kotak, “Surviving 6 Karpas (Beth Israel Psych Ward)”, 2014, photographic plaque, 40 x 24 inches (detail)

All the Meds I Took

All the Meds I Took

Marni Kotak is off her meds. At least, she’s aiming for that. Prescribed a potent mixture of psychotropic medications in 2012 for her port-partum depression, Kotak’s latest work of performance art, “Marni Kotak: Mad Meds,” features her attempt to wean herself off medication.

Kotak’s 2011 work, “The Birth of Baby X,” was the literal progenitor of “Mad Meds,” culminating in the birth of Kotak’s son Ajax in front of an audience in the gallery space. This controversial exhibition was meant to “convey the authentic experience of [her] life as it is being lived, simultaneously engaging with audience members who become active participants in the actual events unfolding,” Kotak says. “The Birth of Baby X” was followed up by “Raising Baby X” (2011-ongoing), “Postpartum Depression” (2012), “Raising Baby X: The First Year” (2012), “Ajax’s First Birthday Party” (2012), “Raising Baby X: Playtime!” (2013), “Raising Baby X: Family Jam Session” (2013), and “Raising Baby X: Little Brother” (2012-ongoing). Is involving her son in her performances from literally the moment of his birth exploitive? What will it be like for Ajax when he’s old enough to realize that his childhood has been a public spectacle in the name of art?

“Mad Meds” does not involve other people in the performance, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not without its own complex issues.

The 6-week durational performance exhibition and installation finds Kotak addressing her personal struggles with her own mind, the US medical system, and the pharmaceutical industry as she attempts to withdraw from psychiatric medicines prescribed as follow-up treatment for post-partum depression more than two and a half years ago. (Source)

Depression can be agonizing; depression after childbirth can be especially isolating in its opposition to the socially acceptable construct of happy new mommy. Of course, Kotak is completely within her rights to wean herself from her medications if she feels that they’re not working correctly, or if the side-effects have become too overwhelming, or if she just wants to. Naming the 10-foot trophy in the work “Med-free and Happy,” though, has implications about psych meds and depression that go far beyond her performance. If Marni Kotak is able to publicly stop taking psychiatric medication as a work of art, that would be a personal act that she has chosen to share, as she did the literal moment of her son’s birth. If Marni Kotak is using her art to suggest that it is some kind of achievement to stop taking meds, the many, many people who are thankful every day that they are functioning and whole and able to live their lives because of the medication they take may have a different point of view.

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Photographs Of Abandoned Dogs Explore Artists Own Crippling Depression


By photographing emotionally troubled dogs suffering from abandonment and aggression, the artist Martin Usborne chronicles his own painful struggle with depression. His recent series “Nice to Meet You” tenderly traces unknowable canine narratives by carefully placing the animals behind surfaces and materials: a wet glass pane, a cloud of smoke, pressed flowers.

In distancing the viewer from each creature, the artist paradoxically allows for a heightened level of intimacy with each dog; behind a haunting waterscape or transparent white shroud, each set of eyes glistens and each pointed nose seems to poke through the barrier, begging for closeness with the viewer.

In distorting space with long exposure times and unevenly textured surfaces, Usborne also blurs the notion of time; the animals appear ghostly, shadowy, and otherworldly. As each image leads us farther into this ethereal and lonesome dreamscape, we bear witness to the profound confidences of these gorgeous creatures, and they stare back, inviting viewers to empathize.

Ultimately, Usborne’s canine subjects recall our own murky and lonesome pasts, mirroring the dark places that we normally keep hidden within ourselves. In juxtaposing everyday statements like “I’m fine” and “I also work at the bank” with the charged photographs, the artist paints a portrait of isolation; he himself often repeated automatic phrases like “Nice to meet you” and “You look great” when in the midst of his depression. These animals, partially hidden by fog and fabric, serve as surrogates for we who hide behind words. If only for a moment, these vulnerable faces of dogs remind us that we are not alone; in lending us their quiet companionship, they become our confidantes. (via Design Boom)