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The art of a mind in pain

The Baltimore Museum of Art presents, “Delights of an Undirected Mind,” a collection of art pieces through various mediums, all sculpted to convey uncensored psychological distress and power. Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg, the artistic duo responsible, collaborated to create a Surrealistic portrayal of emotional tension.

“Delights of an Undirected Mind” transports the viewer into a dream vision, a world of their own mind’s creation prompted by Djurberg’s and Berg’s assembly of color and light. Each piece speaks both a literal meaning, for all to understand and enjoy, and an underlying subconscious meaning, only for the hurt and the suffering.

These viewers can feel the turmoil in their hearts, in the pits of their stomachs, in their heads. It is a painful truth no one wants to call forward, but pain, unfortunately, is readily remembered. Djurberg and Berg comfort these viewers with a sense of relation in their artwork. No matter what their minds may convince them is falsely true, they are not alone.

This collection of works projects these themes through different forms of art such as sculpture, light and sound. However, the artists’ use of animation was the most memorable and influential element of the entire collection.

Creepy figures with exaggerated facial features sculpted from clay starred in short, stop-motion animated films titled “Delights of an Undirected Mind,” “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Snake with a Mouth-Sewn Shut, or, This is a Celebration.”

Each of these animations served as a visual portrayal of personal conflict and confusion; they seethed feelings of discomfort and uneasiness that transferred to the viewer as intended. Art is meant to reflect one’s emotions and cognition in a way for the viewer to feel it themselves. That is exactly what these animated clips did.

“Snake with a Mouth-Sewn Shut, or, This is a Celebration” shifts between scenes following a baby and a woman who is being eaten by some sort of creature. Both the woman and the baby are in the same setting in a dark room. On the walls, there is a continuous string of written words and phrases that express the emotional distress of the characters.

Many of these phrases share resentment and distrust towards the characters’ mothers, claiming their mothers had neither protected them nor warned them about possible psychological distress and pain: “Mother, how could you trick me like that / How could you let me wait, for God.” These claims do not necessarily blame the mother figures; rather they come from a place of confusion and vulnerability. The mother did not trust or validate her daughter’s feelings of hopelessness, ultimately leading to more emotional turmoil.

This animated film can harvest many different interpretations. One perspective may see that the baby and the woman in the film are actually the same characters shown at different ages. The purity of the baby presents the woman’s vulnerability and submission to unconditional trust in her youth. She trusted her mother to protect her from the world’s greatest evils. Now, as a grown woman, she suffers from the unmanageable growth of her unexpected psychological distress.

Another interpretation explores the theme of postpartum depression. The woman in the animation could be the mother of the baby. In which case, the words on the wall could present the communication between mother and child, the child pleading for attention and protection the mother does not feel mentally fit to provide. The mother’s guilt consumes her, fearing that her own psychological pain is negatively and permanently affecting her innocent child.

The animation finishes with the words, “This is a celebration.” This utterly optimistic statement deeply contrasts with the entire short film which shined a light on dark, typically hidden thoughts. This phrase could be read with a hint of sarcasm, referring to those who “comfort” sufferers by assuring pain is merely a measure of endurance and a test of strength. In other words, sufferers are typically told that their turmoil is a normal reflection of life, and life, we are told, should be celebrated regardless of its difficulty.

Djurberg and Berg gave their subconsciousness and unrelenting thoughts complete reign over this collection. Their undirected minds created a beautiful depiction of a sometimes evil world that one’s mind can become immersed in. “Delights of an Undirected Mind” proves that although the mind can create petrifying cognitions, it can also produce art and muse of a world greater than reality.