Talking about Music, Art, and Bipolarity on RadioCardiff Well Waves

Thank you very much RadioCardiff Well Waves for inviting me on the show a little while ago to speak about my art exhibition ‘Bipolarity’ at The Gate Art Gallery in Cardiff. It was great to be able to share some of my experiences of hallucinations and delusions in ongoing depressive states and to talk about tackling misconceptions.

It was also wonderful to get to choose two songs to play during the show. I had to go for songs from the two bands whose music has made the world of difference to me time and time again, The National and The Dillinger Escape Plan. It was difficult to choose which individual tracks to go for, but in the end I went for the following: ‘Geese of Beverly Road’ by The National and ‘Nothing’s Funny’ by DEP.

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The National and DEP are two of the bands I listen to the most when I draw, when I’m trying to conceptually work through my experiences in my artwork. The way their music helps me confront things is in many ways why creating the art is possible, so it was really cool to get to talk about them alongside the pieces of the exhibition.

Music by The National has become a place where I can confront my experiences. I have a tricky time actually feeling emotional responses to experiences much of the time, and I’ve realised how much I warp emotion attached to things and try to control it in weird ways. Music by The National is like stepping into a different space, where I can pull the wounds open but stitch them back together properly.

‘We won’t be disappointed
We’ll fight like girls for our place at the table
Our room on the floor
We’ll set off the geese of Beverly Road’

‘Geese of Beverly Road’ has this sense of wonder. It has this feeling of freedom, but also this security in identity and choices and impulses that I just long for. I sometimes think I spend so much time trying to monitor my mind for signs of being unwell that I’m scrutinising every little part of what I do, and I lose my sense of self in the process. This also tangles in feelings of shame around stigma, and a constant low buzz of worry about the way my identity is shaped outside of my control. But this song makes me feel hopeful, and a little bit careless in the best kind of way.

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Music by The Dillinger Escape Plan takes me from being overwhelmed to a feeling of calm. There’s so much going on in DEP songs with the incredible stylistic changes and varying time signatures that come with mathcore, even mood changes in their songs, that it’s a kind of wonderful chaos. But it’s one that is completely controlled – music by DEP is the most tremendous relief when I feel like I can’t come up for air.

‘Now tie me down and take me home
I’m not afraid to go’

‘Nothing’s Funny’ is a great example of all of these things I think. Alongside stylistic changes there is a sense of circularity. A change in the style of vocals by the same voice (the wonderful voice of Greg Puciato), feels like an entanglement of voices from the same source, fighting against each other for space. Within this, there’s a feeling of cycles of change in both perspective and perception. This feels so much for me like the circular volatility in my head of thoughts fighting and twisting and snagging on each other. Listening to this sense of chaos put together so wonderfully gives me an incredible sense of peace.

‘Eventually the jokes aren’t free and
Nothing’s ever fun and
Nothing’s funny

But now I see that the joke’s on me and
Nothing’s ever fun and
Nothing’s funny’

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The radio show has also been uploaded online – you can listen to it through this link if you fancy: https://www.mixcloud.com/…/well-waves-jen-ashton-episode-4…/

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