Reintroducing empathy as a lifestyle
Visual Wash: 12 min
Do you feel different after watching "Visual Wash"?
Why empathy is needed
We live in a time period where the World Health Organization places depression and anxiety as the number one threat to human health. Around 264 million people are affected and hereby we regard only the ones officially being diagnosed by a doctor. I believe we need to regard human wellbeing instead of health. I namely see a discrepancy between being regarded as physically healthy and mentally feeling unhappy. Both, mind and body are in relation and are proven to affect each other's state of health.
As a designer I find the taboo resting on mental illness a big issue. I regard empathy as a skill we can learn. It is the key starting point towards a "healthier" society, whereby we are kinder to ourselves and the Other beings we share our planet with. How can we empower human beings to restore the connection with old wisdom readily available for everyone? To start using it as a resource.
My work is aimed at supporting the positive shift of lowering mental health issues through holistically designed interventions in the form of objects, tools, and spaces. I work based upon a method of 3 different forms of "healing": starting with empathy for ourselves by connecting the mind and body, secondly through sharing empathy for others by empowering each other in our unique talent and finally through empathy for non-human organisms, acknowledging their relevancy for the diverse eco-systems we need to foster to be able to survive on this planet.
1. The Body - Mind connection
Our body is the platform for our senses to interact with the outside world. It feeds our brain with information on how to react in certain situations. One of the only mechanisms that we as humans can alter and control is our breathing. The breath is directly connected to our nervous system. The pace that we breath can either slow us down or speed up our energy levels. This is interesting considering that when we are aware on how to use the breath as a tool, we can be more resilience in stressful moments. Through awareness of the situation and its impact on your mental state, calming the body down for it to start to relax.
Medical encounters can leave a deep mark on the psyche of a child. They are often unnecessary frightening and stressful. The main aim is to bring autonomy back to the child by giving them a method of expression. The child receives the cuddle that will give them supported breathing throughout the examination. Rhythmic breathing exercises can have a long-term positive effect on our well-being. It stimulates brain regions that enable us to regulate our emotions. Read more here.
Project "Aiki" - Breathing as a tool for trauma prevention
2. Emotions as a resource of Empowerment
Throughout human evolution, we have learned that we as human species distinguish ourselves from other living species through our ability to reflect and communicate on a large scale. Due to technological developments, most of us live fast-paced lives. Whereas a lot of expectations are placed on the purpose and success of our individual lives. In Western societies, this feeds into individualism. Making the sharing of emotions, one of vulnerability and weakness. Leaving us isolated from the intercommunication we need the most namely the sharing of our struggles. Individuals who are whole beings, meaning they value life beyond their own ego-centrism are able to share without expecting something in return. What if we start to see "being vulnerable" as a strength? Making it a self-intitiated means to inspire the people around you to start doing the same.
Are you a different person than you let others see? This question is at the heart of The Photo Room installation titled "Identity Unveiled". The video installation examines the identity crisis between who you are and what you think society expects of you. To paraphrase the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas: "I become me in the face of the other". Read more here.
Project "The Photo Room" - Communal healing through a shared experience
Project "hylē morphē" - Sensorial public encounters with living materials
3. Being in symbiosis with non-human organisms
We as human species have dominated the world and other species mostly by our unique ability to organize ourselves through communication. We have overlooked the importance of the well-being of other living organisms. The vegetal world is crucial for example in maintaining the correct density and quality of the atmosphere. By having pretended to be the master of nature we started to only value what has a permanent and immutable consistency. Such a gesture has gradually substituted the appearance for the appearance of the living. Meaning that the appearance of nature does not say anything about the quality of life it consists of. This replacement of industrially produced materials instead of the use of biomaterials have caused a lowering value of the vegetal world as our environment. n contrast, the climate change challenge and the current pandemic are reminders that we humans are one with all organisms on this planet and that we are interdependent for our survival on this planet. I believe that these future challenges can only be handled by humans who are whole themselves and able to go beyond their own ego. Valuing and learning from other organisms on this planet and together reconstructing the systems of co-living. How can we plant a seed in the mind of people to start reflecting on their behavior by transforming us humans from being a destroyer towards a preserver?
A designed rug grown out of bacteria and woven into a representation of our current society as a window of our time. The carpet represents a sacred ground that isolates people from earthly life, in a moment of recollection, prayer, and meditation. The work is a public statement for the need of consciousness around the interdependence between organisms and human beings to survive on this planet. Read more here.