World is a dangerous place: the anxious experience

James, K 2009, World is a dangerous place: the anxious experience, Masters by Research, Art, RMIT University.

Document type: Thesis
Collection: Theses

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Title World is a dangerous place: the anxious experience
Author(s) James, K
Year 2009
Abstract My project is an enquiry into the nature of anxiety as expressed by both humans and domesticated animals. The result is a body of work that explores the experience of suffering from anxiety using media such as sculpture, object making, video and photography.

Anxiety is a universal phenomenon that constitutes a vital and necessary function for the survival of almost all living creatures. As Sigmund Freud attests, the fundamental significance of anxiety is no less than "a nodal point at which the most various and important questions converge, a riddle whose solution would be bound to throw a flood of light on our whole mental existence."

Functioning at a low level anxiety has a number of benefits such as keeping us alert to anticipated danger; motivating and stimulating activity; enhancing performance; and preparing us for future events. However, anxiety can also take on negative characteristics that don't appear to have any real purpose or benefit. In such instances, the level of anxiety has become excessive or abnormal. For my project, the term 'anxiety' is used to refer to: a state of apprehension and uneasiness; uncertainty regarding future events; and feelings of fear, tension and dread.

Stemming from my personal experience with anxiety and my empathy for the anxious animal my project aims to highlight the universality of anxiety revealing it to be an experience common to human and animal alike. By emphasising the interspecies experience of anxiety I aim to draw parallels between human and animal anxiety. . The occurrence of animal anxiety reminds us that we do not suffer alone as a species.

A common feature of anxiety is its incessant and ruminative quality whereby thoughts, images or actions are repeated over and over. This informs not only the subject matter of my work but also the type of techniques I utilise. These techniques rely upon monotony and repetition such as video recordings of anxious behaviours screened on a loop format as well as more labour intensive methods including hand sewing, spinning, horsehair hitching and knitting. Although such techniques are widely used for many different purposes, in the context of my project, they may be seen as analogous to the relentless, repetitive and obsessive nature of anxiety. The materials I use such as dog hair, horsehair, and sheep fleece are employed for their evocative/provocative qualities. Animal hair and fleece can induce opposing or paradoxical reactions and feelings from people. For some, a sense of comfort, warmth, familiarity and protection may be felt, whilst others have a strong aversion to animal hair and find it unsettli ng, allergy-provoking, dirty, and even anxiety inducing. In this way the content of the project, the choice of media and the methods of making the work itself all continue to reflect the experience of anxiety.

The experience of anxiety is one of personal suffering and disablement. Through exploring the various psychological, physiological and behavioural components of anxiety I aim to share the private world of anxiety with the viewer.
Degree Masters by Research
Institution RMIT University
School, Department or Centre Art
Keyword(s) Anxiety
Domestic animals
Repetitive techniques
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Created: Mon, 29 Nov 2010, 16:09:00 EST by Catalyst Administrator
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