The theme for the Salon wall in the LondonNewcastle space is State of Mind, Mind of State. While this can cover a variety of things, there is a deeper meaning to the title. An interview with graphic designer Jeff Knowles gets to the origins of the theme.
What was your reaction to the ADF manifesto?
When I read Neville Brody’s manifesto, it made me think about revolution and anarchy. During my life I have suffered from several episodes of severe depression, so my response to the manifesto was very personal. For want of a better word, the “interesting” thing about depression is the disabling effect the brain/mind can have: the mind has the power to control everything. Without the mind, the rest is nothing. Depression imbues life with fear and stress. It isn’t an empowering stress, but one that disables and induces fear in every aspect of life. I know only too well the debilitating effects of the illness.
What interests you about this subject as a graphic designer?
As a graphic designer there are not many platforms to explore issues of mental illness. I tend to think about things in a very organized and logical way, as many graphic designers are taught to do. Ironically, I still think this way in periods of depression. So I wanted to look at this issue of mental illness, especially depression, in the way that I am accustomed to. It’s almost a way to sort it out and try to understand it in a graphic, visual way.
I thought this was an interesting angle to come from, as my anarchy or upheaval comes from inside. Life can be proceeding normally until one-thing strikes, and within a week, you’re in a full-blown depression. I’ve come to see this as a kind of anarchy of the mind.
Tell us more about your piece of work…
“Anarchy of the Mind” is a response to the ADF manifesto, by plotting the onset of depression. The idea is to explore internal, rather than external, forces that influence our minds.
I would like to explore the nature of my depression — the way it can be sneaky, the way it can creep up on you when all seems well. I have likened it to getting a cold: you can feel the moment when you start to get one, the slight sore throat, and in a week’s time you have a full-blown cold. It is the same with depression: the hint that is the unannounced panic attack. In a week it has completely consumed you, and you are unable to do anything.
With depression, there has always been the dilemma of what comes first (chicken and egg; cause and effect; psychology or psychiatry), and consequently, the method of treating it. Having explored both psychological and psychiatric approaches, my experiences seem to err on the side of depression as a medical illness. This is reflected in the piece, which is designed very simply with an near-clinical feel.
“Depression is without doubt the most unpleasant experience known to man”