Get to know: Artist Olivia Domingos, self-care and social tools

Get to know: Artist Olivia Domingos, self-care and social tools

Living in a city can be tough – the constant rushing around sometimes tipping into anxiety. What if, whilst you were staring at the back of someone's head on the bus, you were asked 'Are You Okay?'. Would that help? Would it remind you to take a little more time to practice self-care? These are just some questions artist Olivia Domingos is asking in her new work, and Not So Popular's Jade French caught up to explore this and some of her other work too...

Could you introduce yourself and tell us a little about what you do?

I’m Olivia Domingos, an artist based in South London. I make illustrations, objects and internet things (with my boyfriend Tom). On the side I sometimes put on art shows / installations and do some photography too.

What’s the ‘Are You Okay’ project, and what do you aim to achieve?
Are You Okay? is a social tool to communicate to those who may need a little compassion. I worry a lot about the wellbeing of others but am forever frustrated that I’m not doing enough to help. The idea to place the question on the back of a cap came from walking around London and endlessly looking at the back of someones head as it’s so busy. I thought it was a really good way to ask a discreet but direct question to a stranger. Unfortunately not everyone has the benefit of family or friends to check they’re doing okay, or they do but aren’t sharing their problems. And so I want to help those people who aren’t being asked enough if they’re okay.

Have you seen people engaging in the way you hoped? 
It’s difficult to tell to be honest as it’s more of a question for people to answer internally but I hope it’s helped someone out. 

What interests you about mental health issues, and approaching them through art?
Each year 1 in 4 people in the UK will experience a mental health problem. That’s a lot of people and there is still stigma around the issue which is incredibly unhelpful for those who might need a bit of help. Approaching the issue through art breaks down a little of the barrier and makes room for humour and empathy, hopefully making it more accessible. This cap is not only for those dealing with mental health issues though, it’s for anyone who is suffering in any capacity whether that’s illness, work related stress, relationship troubles etc.

What has the most interesting response been to this project?
Right now the project is still in it’s early stages, so I’ve not had a huge response yet. I can only hope that someone has seen a cap being worn and felt a sense of support and understanding. 

Could you tell us a bit about the ‘Relax Yourself’ project?
Relax Yourself is an installation I made recently as part of a show I co-curated in Croydon. It focuses on the absurdity of the celebrity status and the solace we seek in being voyeurs. In Relax Yourself we see Kim Kardashian post sex tape and pre Kanye; trying to establish herself as a global being, the work-out video being a physical representation of the social labour she’s undergoing. 

Do you see 'escapism' through celeb culture as a modern malaise or illness?
I think escapism through celeb culture is only natural when we’re constantly bombarded with unattainable goals and standards of living from the media. So I maybe wouldn’t call it an illness, but definitely malaise of some sort derived from modern media consumption.

How do you correlate the labour of your art-making against the labour of Kim’s celebrity construction? Are there any parallels? 
We’re both (all) striving for something, so I think there are definitely parallels to be drawn. Though maybe my end goal is not quite as clear as hers. 

Celebrity seems to be a repeated theme (in Delusion, Desires and Adoration) - what interests you about this?
My work all stems from thoughts around a fundamental human need for adoration. It’s something we seek and will go to extreme lengths to gain. The celebrity as a status we seek is the perfect example of this. The rise of reality television and the introduction of social media has made it incredibly easy for someone to gain fame. I’m interested because it plays on the vulnerabilities in everyone and the inherent desires to be successful, to be known and to be adored. 

And finally, are there any connections between celebrity and mental health issues – could ‘Are You Ok’ work within a celebrity world too, or does it have to be anonymous / street based?
Yeah I definitely think it could work within a celebrity world, we’re all human. The anonymity is a starting point to encourage people to sympathise with the wellbeing of others and for people to think about themselves, without the interaction being confrontational.

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