Anxiety is the body’s natural and subconscious response to stress. It is a universal evolutionary adaptation, part of the fight or flight response that has helped humans survive and avoid danger.
Many individuals, like myself, experience this sensation of panic all the time, with no relief. This is defined as chronic anxiety. With this condition, the mind responds to everything with fear as a coping mechanism and protection from what it believes to be danger. Looking back, my chronic anxiety began when I was five, and since then has persisted and increased with age. Every day constant streams of thought circulate through my brain, with no rest or end in sight. Anxiety has always been a part of my life, and it has been something I continually strive to overcome.
Expressing my thoughts and emotions outwardly, either through open communication or through the creation of art, has become a tool I use to cope, and to accept and understand myself on a deeper level. This coping mechanism has become essential for my ability to move past whatever may be causing my distress. It gives me solace. This series, Release[cs1] , attempts to visually depict my ongoing experience of coping with chronic anxiety. I documented a performative piece that spanned an extended period of time, where I used art as a meditative tool to try to relieve the overwhelming thoughts that besiege me. Inspired by Zhang Huan’s work Family Tree, Carolee Schneemann’s performance Up to and Including Her Limits, as well as Stuart Brisley’s performance Moments of Decision/Indecision, I staged a space, a blank canvas where I wrote my anxieties, emotions, and thoughts on the walls until they became completely blackened out by words. The series began with a photograph of the room with clean walls. Once the initial photograph was taken I began the performance, entering the room every day over a period of time, writing whatever came to mind and adding these thoughts and feelings to the walls. I used an automatic timer to photograph myself in the space as documentation of the progression of this process. The piece ended once the walls were completely covered in ink.
This performance is organic and honest. The photographs may be chaotic and tense, but this process of expressing and releasing my thoughts physically onto a surface and depicting them visually acts as a method of therapy for me, forcing me to confront myself, my thoughts, and my emotions, and in turn aiding my own healing.