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screen time by dani | interview

In the wake of lockdowns and quarantines, it seems that artists have been forced to rethink and reinvent the way they produce work. With an obnoxious reminder of my screen time glaring at me every morning, I once again choose to ignore it and continue my mindless scrolling through the feed.

I’ve been a fan of Dani’s work for a while now, and a few weeks ago, she posted these incredible photographs from a shoot. What I realised a few moments later was that she produced the whole thing in her room and it put my lazy, unproductive backside to shame (and in perspective). 

It’s nothing less than inspiring and exciting to see an artist take on the challenge of producing eccentric work amid a global pandemic. And so, we caught up with Dani to talk about her work, her time during lockdown and some advice on how to get through it as a creative.

What’s lockdown been like for you? A lot of your work surrounds taking pictures of your mates and given the circumstances that must’ve affected a lot of what you do. How have you adjusted? Have you adjusted?

Boy, it started out hard. Lockdown came at the point in my life where I had just renounced social media and was putting all my effort into real-life experiences and interactions. So when that wasn’t allowed anymore, it felt like the universe was playing a sick, cruel joke on my mental health. With my work as well, I began having doubts about my creativity because yeah, it all started from going out and taking photographs of my friends.

I have a pretty annoying case of “imposter syndrome” - anxiety about my abilities and constant doubts. Still, I’ve been fortunate meeting people who push me but also reassure me that I’m “doing amazing sweetie” (shout out to my boyfriend). I’m also on a DPS (Diploma in Professional Studies) year, and we’re encouraged by our tutors to work, experiment and try stuff out, so I was able to apply that and shift my perspective of lockdown as a time to do just that. I took the time to brush up on my graphic design skills plus other hobbies that had been lacking, and I gave into self-portraiture as well. I always said this before, that I just needed a little bit of time, for the world to stop for a few days, so I could get my shit together, in a funny way it’s like my prayers were answered.

Why is this particular series so special? And what was the idea behind it?

First of all, it’s special because I found out that I had shot that series with my right collarbone snapped in half from a skateboarding accident… So that was cool to tell everyone like “I shot some of my best work in lockdown with my dominant arm bone broken.”

It’s also special because, through experimentation, I managed to capture the exact concept I wanted for the series. I wanted to capture the lockdown mood based off my ongoing anxieties about online interaction, especially now that all social interaction and information about the rest of the world is only available by subjecting myself to the glow of screens, phones, TVs. We have to live our normal lives, inside, via technology. It’s scary to me.

You speak very openly about your mental health and progress on your social media. How do you maintain the balance of continuing to create art but also taking care of yourself? Are you critical of your own work?

This is a hard one because yeah I’m always learning more about my mental health and my creative process linked to it. I recently had an epiphany that a lot of my best work comes after hard times like after a depressive episode or a series of panic attacks. This realisation lead me to research the link between depression/anxiety and creativity, and I won’t go too much into it, but there was a quote saying “Depression forces us to improve – According to evolutionists, Depression is only a natural way for the human race to detect its flaws and concentrate on improving these shortcomings. Our flaws make us angry, and we would do anything to get rid of them.”

It explains my manic behaviour after a major depressive episode. Just wanting to be hyper “normal” and wanting to feel so good I push myself to do everything I perceive as being good/valuable/fun. Obviously, I have to come out of that hole first to be any type of motivated and also creating is a way to distract myself from chronic feelings of emptiness. It makes me think, do I have to be feeling bad to produce emotive, meaningful work? Or do I get frustrated and in bad moods when I feel like I’m not achieving the things I want to be achieving? Whatever the answer is, the more I learn about myself, about my BPD, and about my creative process, the more clear things are for me. When I know my process and how things affect me, I can take control of my “narrative” - I’m learning that it’s all about perspective.

And just in case I didn’t answer, I am highly critical of myself, to a fault. But I’m working on that!

A handy prop you’ve discovered during your time of quarantine?

Pain relief ointments instead of pills! 

You’ve also managed to create your own lil charity shop designing t-shirts which is really impressive. How did that come about?

Yes, thank you! For Charitee/FCT! The idea came at the start of lockdown when I was feeling super down about the state of society and scared for vulnerable groups being forgotten. The Homelessness crisis has always been something I’ve wanted to help with however I could (my charity shops of choice have always been Crisis or Shelter shops); FCT came about because I wanted to sell something for the purpose of donating the profits to Shelter charity, and I shared it with my boyfriend who is as active and eager to improve the state of society as I am. After multiple phone conversations about it and realising the pun potential in the word ‘charity’, FCT was born.

Have you got any advice for artists or creatives struggling during this time?

My boyfriend gave me this advice at the start of this crisis - and again big up to him, he is amazing and lovely, and crazy talented. He told me to see what my favourite creatives were saying about this time, and check out the kind of work they were producing. Then reflect on your own values and interests, what sort of work do you aspire to make, what do you want to do with that work. When you start asking yourself questions like these, your creative energy will hopefully force you to begin to answer the questions, especially if you ask yourself hard/real questions. I find that my existential crises and questions on the state of our society spur up intense emotions in me and that in turn leads to a burst of ideas of things to research about and do work about.

A song/album getting you through the lockdown?

I challenged myself to answer this question as simply as I can without digressing about how inconsistently I listen to music… so a song I’ve been banging out lately is “GHOST TOWN” by Nigerian/American artist WurlD, don’t need to say much about it relating to the lockdown as the title of the song suggests.

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