Maenads video – what does it mean?

Photo by Colette Pomerleau.

Sometimes we have to celebrate defeats. After all, they’re responsible for who we become – way more than our victories. Maenads is a song about all those nights that are empty of feelings. I used to have plenty of those in my younger years. Nights where I felt trapped in an image I had built for myself and for the people around me; careless, but most certainly not carefree. Troubles were around the corner, waiting for me to give in and give away, becoming emptier from drink to drink and happily reckless for a moment or two. A lotus eater, if you please.

The visuals for the video are a fast-forward to my life in Berlin – rather secluded, away from distractions. “Reformed”, but far from perfect. This isolation-by-choice gave me time to process life events that had shaped me, as well as start healing from traumatic experiences of the past. It wasn’t easy – things happen, life happens, and seclusion isn’t always the solution. That said, I came to terms with my mental health state, faced my demons eye-to-eye, and learned to love my flaws and scars because they’re a big part of me. I started seeing the world clearer and wanted to do something for those things I’m not a fan of – inequality, injustice, lack of education. I now know that change takes time, so I’ve geared myself with patience. Releasing art that champions awareness and coexistence will always be my thing – some people call it activism, I call it breathing.

I wanted to work on a project with birds for a long time. The idealisation of flying – as in “flying away from troubles”, is something I always found interesting… As humans, we have these extreme tendencies – one of dwelling on situations, one of fleeing the scene, when things get too much. In most religions, birds are omens from a god – omens for hope, patience or warning. Then again, as much as we love seeing those birds fly free in the skies, we have this fascination of caging them – to look at them as they sing their beautiful songs…

In the video, the bird symbolises mental illness. My coming to terms with it, but also not letting it overtake my life – as it used to, in the past. For those who don’t know, I’ve been struggling with depression and anxiety for a long time. Mental illness never truly goes away, but learning more about it can help understand what’s going on inside your body and mind and therefore, control it better.

Through my video for Maenads, I wanted to break the stereotype of “mental illness equals a sad life”. Obviously, there are moments where life seems a lot to take in – but that’s for everyone. Let’s take depression, as an example. According to WHO, 300 million people around the world have depression. Some of them might be clinically depressed, while others might have high-functioning depression. That means, that in some cases depression is more obvious, whereas in others it’s almost invisible. Whichever the case, when you start talking about it, you instantly become a sympathy receiver. People start becoming increasingly aware of your illness and treat you like the sad person they think you are. Breaking the stigma is also about challenging these stereotypes. Genuine caring instead of preset sympathies for that “poor thing who’s struggling” can save time (and lives).

Through actions and props (eg. the yellow book about comedy, the play with the water spray), I added a more light-hearted touch on living with mental illness. From my experience, there are days and days and that’s what I wanted to show through my visuals.

The visuals on screen represent the information overload we receive every day. There is a contradiction between the routine fact-check we all do when it comes to news and the constant striving for a perfect life – as seen on TV & social media. This is a theme that I’ve been exploring for a while now (“Millennial Girl”, “Bits&Bytes” – to be released in 2019/2020). I called it Maenads TV, for obvious reasons, but also to reference the constant exposure to all this information, at a maenadic speed. The kaleidoscopic effect serves as an acknowledgment of the general frustration over politics, the economy and the outlandishly rich lifestyle idealisation vs. the increasingly more poverty-stricken strata of our societies. All that’s achieved with the help of my “Greek Maenads” who appeared on the other parts of the Maenads video trilogy.

All this frustration is impacting an already-ill mental health, but also affects our societies, leading to collective mental health problems. For instance, apathy could be an indication of several mental health disorders. Having said that, the whole point of the video is to show that it’s possible to control one’s mental health, rather than living a life controlled by mental illness.

I would like to say that this is a symbolic piece of my artistic output. That means that no, living with mental illness is no fun and games and I most definitely don’t mean to offend or disregard mental health patients. I truly believe that balance can be found between darkness and light and that’s what I strive for, whilst navigating through my own struggles with mental health.