On Inner Desires and Art-making in times of confinement

Type “struggling with my inner demons” in Google, and you’ll be presented with a plethora of online programs on how to feed your demons and books on reaching your enlightened self by facing your inner beast. Today more than ever, living in isolation and apart from our loved ones due to restrictions imposed by COVID-19, we have been forced to become friends with things we’d rather avoid. Technology, flatmates, solitude, supermarket cues, video chats, I-ate-too-much feelings, and boredom are all very natural reactions to living through a crisis. Something fascinating has recently been happening in a lot of media coverage. News outlets are referring to these, let’s call them unruly thoughts, as inner demons. Some state these demons “will always be bigger and scarier than the external reality” [11]; others, like writer and historian Yuval Noah Harari, say they are “more afraid of the inner demons of humanity, hatred and greed and ignorance” [7] than else.

As Jone Hopper describes it [2], isolation can be “a moment of pause that invites us to finally focus on ourselves”. We have more time than we ever needed to look for answers where none seem to exist. Like a beach ball that we’ve been pushing underwater for too long, our inner self has come flying up out of the water and hit us square in the face. So do we push it down again and hope for the best, or do we analyse it?

Reflection and introspection are crucial to the art-making process [4]. Isolation has presented a rich subject for artists throughout history [14]. Making art can be thought of as the capacity to express the daimonic, which often presents itself in times of emergency in a constructive rather than destructive [5]. Nowadays, creatives are the ones expected, more than anyone else, to be able to quickly adapt their ways of working to continue making art. But is it even possible to be creative during such a time?

Serving our demons rather than resisting them contradicts the traditional approach of fighting against whatever attacks us [1]. However, it turns out to be an effective way to awaken your inner demons and transfer their energy toward you. Still and all, why do we allude to satanic forces covertly teasing us from inside to explain unruly thoughts and behaviours that, as Leon Seltzer describes, “all of us are prone to” [12]? Today, an inner demon is a figurative term for a belief, a set of ideas about life based on criticism, self-doubt, and negative thinking patterns. Struggling with inner demons is to be at war with your mind.

Deep down, if we were to attempt to decipher the mysteries surrounding inner demons, looking at religion, spirituality, occultism, and belief in the supernatural would play a vital role in helping us understand. Many of the followers of self-identified prophet Aleister Crowley believe there are “ways of seeing [what is within ourselves] that can be attained by meditation and ritual” [8]. Considering inner demons makes an attractive explanation for many present-day issues and positions them as “part of an epic, indeed cosmic, struggle going back to the beginning of time” [8].

Cross-referencing mythology, pop culture, the supernatural, digital self-hood, and neo medievalism, the works presented in this ZIP exhibition explore fears, desires, and obstacles artists face within themselves in times of crisis and isolation. Just like social isolation has cramped many of us inside the private spaces of our homes, the download of the exhibition file allows the user’s encounter with the works to play out within the intimate stage of the desktop. As usual for all ONE Project exhibitions, the focus is on one “object” of art. In this case, this is the ZIP file containing contributions that range from video art, animation, audiovisual art, painting, and texts. Particular focus is on works that are rooted in the personal-political. Situating these works in the incongruous context of an archive file demonstrates a strange disconnect as the artists’ responses to lusts—inner demons, as it were—are first shrunk and then expanded to reveal themselves in the hands of the user.

July 2020

Bibliography

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