Art. Do you know what it is? Or what it means to you? Or where it comes from? I would like to introduce you to Sven. And what art means to him.
“Imagine your worst nightmare comes alive, when reality is caught up by your imagination (without you knowing) and everything you feel, is unbearably real. Every fear I felt was real. There is no way out and the only way to keep up with this new reality is looking for solutions to stay alive. To survive.” (Sven)
Sven introduces himself as ‘Sven from unik-id’, a conceptual artist. A good looking, well dressed man that talks with a soft tone of voice. Calm, very aware of whom he is, and how he relates to other people and the environment. And always with a subtle sense of humor. ‘Sharp intellect’ comes to my mind when talking to Sven, happily married to Christelle and proud dad to 2 children.
There is seemingly nothing indicating that this man has been ill, and that he, still today, is struggling with the traces of his past. Sven survived 2 psychoses and had to rebuild his identity, through constantly balancing between vulnerability and defensibility, both physically and mentally. Over the years he managed to control the insanity. All of his (art) works and performances are the result of literally shaping the insanity. “Actually this year, I celebrate my 20th illness anniversary”.
Art is therapy
“When your whole identity is taken over by your imagination, it becomes very terrifying and overwhelming.” For Sven, creative therapy was the only way to have a conversation with himself about what was happening. It challenged him to literally shape his emotions, thoughts and images. “Exploring, creating and transforming the images in my head into the present, is how I forgot about my imaginary world. It made me realize that I was able to go back to a reality that is real. Realizing that I’ve been spending the previous 3 years of my life in an imaginary world, was inhumanly heavy to carry.” Creative therapy and meeting Christelle (his wife) during his inclusion in the psychiatric institution helped him to reshape his identity. Being able to perform like any one else, was a proof that he existed, that he could still be somebody and mean something to the outside world. Ever since that moment, Sven creates.
A new identity that needs to be created after a period of psychosis is like a smashed vase: you can pick up the fragments and put them back together again, but the cracks will remain visible. (Ingewikkeld, 2016)
Simple things are often very special to me (Sven)
Concretism refers to the disability to comprehend a metaphor and therefore the tendency to interpret everything very literally. This type of expression often characterizes Sven’s humor. But it becomes hard reality when he’s not feeling well : something small or meaningless becomes symbolic or it turns into a sign that no one else understands. In order to justify oneself, he invents a story that explains the relationship connecting the dots… That’s why he built a nest next to his house, which represents ‘mother nature’, where Sven feels safe. This nature will provide him and his family with new energy. In his garden, he can recharge. The water purifies etc. The metaphor has become a 3D reality in Sven’s garden. That’s how his life became a personal piece of art. (From the book ‘Ingewikkeld’, 2016)
Sven managed to get back control of his life, thoughts and actions through creation. He is a master in making associations, connecting the dots and seeing things from another angle. What started as a very personal creation process, turned into a way of life. He became a master in creating stories for others, through others, whereby his main source of inspiration lies in the identities of others and the environment they live in. He tries to read and understand one’s unique code in order to create a new idea-entity. Hence “unik-id” (www.unik-id.be).
Shaping and structuring things into a space by means of material that doesn’t belong to you, pretty much represents my definition of art.
Ingewikkeld / complicated
Sven’s full story is portrayed in the book ‘Ingewikkeld, overleven met een psychische aandoening’ by Geerdt Magiels (2016) (translation : Complicated, how to survive with a mental disorder). The title refers to the complexity of the disease on the one hand, and on the other also to a personal episode in Sven’s personal life where he wrapped himself with a bandage, preventing himself to fall apart.
LECHAPERONunlimited was asked to present his personal art works through our platform. You can order them exclusively here. If you would like to receive more information, please drop us a mail via Vicky@lechaperonunlimited.com or call at 0032 473 95 18 29.
The book ‘Ingewikkeld’ and the story of Sven have got a lot of media attention.
You can read it here:
Special thanks to Maarten Hellemans for taking the portrait picture (©Maarten Hellemans for fools with dreams project)