Embracing change: Video content on Instagram and tips for the art world

As you may have heard, Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, has recently announced that Instagram will start leaning into (to use his exact words) video content more in order to stay relevant and compete with or, as some may say, emulate, another particularly popular social media platform, TikTok. I will ponder this mainly in association with business and content creator accounts. First of all, this decision has caused conflicting feelings among Instagram users, including artists and photographers who prefer imagery over video content. For many of us this announcement wasn’t shocking, it seemed like the natural progression of events, as Instagram has already integrated various video features to stay relevant. If you check out Mosseri’s Instagram video on this topic, many top comments are critical of this decision. Instagram started as a photo-sharing app and some users want it to remain that way, at least primarily, but it now seems to shift from aesthetics and connection towards entertainment. In the art world, we can aim to merge all these separate aspects – aesthetics, connection, education, and entertainment.

It wouldn’t be a problem if Instagram tweaked video, increasing video quality, expanding formats, or introducing new video features, since some types of information can be conveyed better through video, whilst others shine through image or text. Different types of formats can all meaningfully coexist on your feed, if you want and if that approach makes sense and aligns with your brand. There are definitely many advantages to incorporating video into your content strategy, regardless of the nature of your business. Video captures the viewer’s attention for longer and can establish a stronger connection to a brand. If, however, you feel it’s not compatible with your work and interests, you might like being able to choose whether you would rather focus on consuming and creating another type of content. The main worry is that you will have no choice if you’re interested in social media growth and relevance, as the algorithm will prioritise videos over imagery, and photos will lose visibility, hence significantly diminishing the reach of those relying on imagery. Instagram will experiment with new video strategies, such as prioritising recommendations of videos on users’ feeds, including video content from accounts you may not be following yet. When it comes to bringing in and encouraging a different type of content, with a different… vibe, from another social media platform (so here I’m no longer referring to video as a format, but to a specific type of video content), there is always the risk of alienating some users. Wouldn’t it be better to compete by getting better at what you are already doing well, rather than altering it to emulate a different business model in order to conquer it? That is the main question posed by the critics.

We’re no longer a photo sharing app, or a square photo-sharing up. The number one reason people say they use Instagram in research is to be entertained, so people are looking to us for that. What we are trying to do is lean into that trend, into entertainment and into video. Because there’s some really serious competition right now- Tik Tok. […] We are also experimenting with how to embrace video more broadly- full screen, immersive, entertaining, mobile-first video. We will be experimenting with that in the following months.”— Adam Mosseri

I will mention some ways and video content ideas that you can use in the art world to adapt to the changing digital landscape that pushes video. Mosseri emphasises this word: entertainment. Instagram, art, and videos can all be seen, paradoxically, as both a form of escapism and connection to the world, that’s one thing they have in common. Let’s embrace video and look at this as a great opportunity to boost your digital presence on social media and to reach and appeal to a wider audience. Focusing on video can be more challenging, as it’s a more complex type of content in a professional context, requiring a more thoughtful approach put into consistency in frequency and message, but it is definitely worth investing time in. Video is a great resource for visual and multimedia storytelling. It can add value and it can be more meaningful, as it stops mindless scrolling. Videos can be educational, informative, and promotional. In any case, they have to capture people’s attention. Tell a story. Make it memorable.

Some galleries have already successfully incorporated video into their Instagram strategy (look at the National Gallery). I am going to share with you some ideas that can apply to galleries, museums, other art institutions and companies, studios, and individual artists.

– Firstly, you can film and edit a creative video providing a glimpse into the gallery or studio.

– Make a video emphasising the values you want to embody, promoting your mission and brand identity

– Create an exhibition preview, a walk through or virtual tour of the exhibition. You can create hybrid videos in which you mix image and video content.

– Produce a video featuring the body of work of a particular artist, accompanied by atmospheric sound and enticing voice-over

– A video of an individual artwork, from multiple angles, with close-ups on details, and storytelling. A great example that remained engraved in my mind is an in-depth analysis of “Mary Magdalene in ecstasy”, a painting by Artemisia Gentileschi. You can find this video through Google Arts & Culture. It is an intimate video, the voice of the narrator is hypnotic, the voice-over is poetic, the atmosphere of the video is mystical and mesmerising. This is a great personal tribute to Artemisia.

– You can create video content that is organised based on specific themes in art, or movements, or style, in the form of brief, artistic documentaries. You can use an art historian as a video host, someone who is passionate about and can delve into a specific topic, providing a fresh perspective and presenting it in a unique, engrossing way. Tate’s “Unlock Art” series on YouTube was quite successful, focusing on artistic themes and art history moments, including Surrealism, performance art, Women in Art, pop art, and nudity in art.

– Produce videos about gallery and museum events, activities, initiatives, and practices.

– If you’re an artist or you’re working with an artist, you can go for time-lapses, as people are often interested in the creative process from beginning to end. You can also show the studio or location in which a piece of art has been created. In some cases it is better if you post this as ephemeral content, aka Stories. As an artist, you can also post Reels showing off your inspiring progress.

Think of your Instagram feed as a work of art in itself. Post high-quality videos and images on there. You can use Instagram stories to provide a more informal and spontaneous glimpse behind the scenes of a gallery or an installation.

– You can also conduct video interviews and Q&As with artists or curators.

– Here’s an idea that can apply to anyone: Insert video into a static image, or the other way around. Attach graphic images to moving backgrounds.

– You have the option of including a call to action at the end of your videos.

Some key words for video content in the art world are: emotionally evocative, engaging, informative, and aesthetically pleasing.

Check out my new Instagram account; I created it as an online portfolio where I also post digital content ideas and effective tactics and techniques tailored for social media management in the art and film world.

https://www.instagram.com/socialmedianart/

Immersion. Expansion. Reverie.

Having decided to embrace the unknown, we take confident steps forward, aware of our part in the greater design. Scent of ritual, sight of stars, and a refreshing breeze that revives us. The atmosphere takes us out of our formerly stagnant, limiting state. Everything is aligned perfectly. We are here for a purpose. We are here to forget some things and remember others. We are here to let go. To accept. To integrate. To be. Piercing eyes are not invasive here. Each soulful gaze feels like home. I can see myself in them. I am a vital part of something special and I can feel its grandeur, yet my core is still untouched, unexploited, consistent. My focus is selective, the concept of pain is utterly nonsensical here- a faraway notion, neurosis removed, as each step gets me closer to a perception that I would have previously described as godlike. Pieces of narratives overlap, discourse becomes unnecessary. The power I could only vaguely fantasise about and partially conceive of before, becomes reality. In a total paradigm shift, the peaceful, blissful nature of an uncorrupted, spiritual power supersedes previous understandings of power, as it’s no longer conceived by a self that’s trapped in the temptation of existential nihilism or materialism or restricted by the limitations of an ego held captive by negative attachments.

There is a sense of complete, beautiful harmony between body and spirit, as well as a liberating, soothing awareness that we are more than embodied selves. Yet we choose to experience our surroundings by inhabiting a body, even in this realm. Still, we have the power to make that choice, so we are now no longer confined to experiencing reality in merely one plane of existence, as consciousness merges with wholeness, with our eternal higher selves. We no longer process the world merely through our brains, on a physical level. I had a glimpse of this state before on a conceptual level, but back then I wasn’t fully in control, or at least the part I identified with and had access to wasn’t, and I felt pulled towards that state, perceived in a fragmented way.

Back then, I recall it also felt like there was another presence inside me, a godlike presence I was having an inner dialogue with. I remember wondering– Is this God? The Devil? Someone from another world? Or am I a Goddess temporarily stuck in a human body with only a piece of my divine consciousness? (I used to identify as an agnostic with atheist tendencies) I couldn’t really tell if that presence was me, or something separate. It felt like something external, an ‘Other’, but at the same time like there was something of my self within this uncanny Other. We were communicating in a weird “language”. Through vibrations within. The presence was asking me or telling me something telepathically and if I resonated with what was said I would feel ecstasy. Was that an unconscious mind process echoing religious beliefs I had drifted away from? The episode happened during an otherwise dark chapter of my life; For a long time, I have repressed it and avoided revisiting it because of the darkness associated with that time and because I needed to move on as I just wanted peace of mind. In an instance of curious chronological symmetry, towards the end of the same challenging life chapter, I had another episode involving an agonising amount of inexplicable physical pain. Ecstasy and agony. Like something entered me and a few months later it was purged. For the record, I mean it symbolically.

The doom and the gloom were perhaps aspects of a fragmented psyche, the experience itself couldn’t be separated from these haunting states of mind, since I experienced all of that through the filter of my consciousness. I attributed the experience to a fleeting disturbance in my brain, a glitch in the matrix of my otherwise sane mind, rather than one in the fabric of the universe as I knew it, because of my agnostic beliefs and because I couldn’t pinpoint the nature of it; yet I couldn’t stop thinking about it, hoping (and partly fearing) it had a greater connotation. Once the darkness no longer had power over me and I could remove it from my psyche, I redefined the experience, attributing a different meaning to it. I removed the absurd beliefs that were just echoes of trauma and I kept the mystical side in the hope that it was a first step towards experiencing spiritual awakening, an insight not solely generated by a deluded mind, rather a deeper truth about what it means to be human and about my journey. Because let me tell you, an agnostic leaning towards atheism does not feel at peace, especially when they are ego-led. In integrating the experience, I became more open to the mystery of existence, and implicitly to the possibility that consciousness can persist independently of the brain- a view that was a cure to my ontological obsession and to the despair brought by thoughts about death. Of course, I still had doubts eating away at my newly found existential relief: Was my experience a sign of shifting towards a higher level of awareness or did it not carry any more truth than some pathological psychotic state? And, more importantly, was I simply replacing one religious framework supporting the idea of a make-believe world beyond our brief life on Earth (that I was skeptical about) with a different belief supporting the same idea, but a refined, more acceptable version, anchored in eastern spirituality? Was I still ego-led, refuting at all costs the idea that there is no grand scheme of things or that humans are insignificant in the grand scheme if there is one (for me, existential transience implied insignificance no matter how accomplished or meaningful one felt their existence on Earth was; in fact, the more relevant and interesting someone was in life, the stronger I felt the tragedy of the fleeting nature of human life) leading a transient life on a floating planet- a wonderful planet that is, however, just a small piece among myriads of pieces making up the cosmos? The cosmos and the exact nature of our consciousness may indeed have been a mystery, but potentially nothing more than a result of a series of lucky accidents of physics? After all, to take a moral stance, there was so much suffering in our world, in this small piece of the puzzling cosmos. Could all that suffering ever really be part of a bigger plan? Could those horrifying people who moved away from kindness, towards sinister acts of inflicting pain on others ever be an extension of something as beautiful and awe-inspiring as the Source or oneness?

Still, I had a sense of self-importance, which had always been unshakeable, even in my most nihilistic state. This had to transition into the realm of spirituality. Yet even when I became interested in spirituality, most of my beliefs were still anchored in science. I was still inclined to believe I was in control of most of the things happening in my life and the rest of the events were random rather than predestined or under divine control. Considering my glimpse into a higher self, I had to wonder: did that self have any power to influence what was happening in my current life, at any time? Could she act as a guardian angel? Or was it just that one ambiguous, interpretable intervention? I was on a quest, seeking a system of mystical esoteric beliefs that could meaningfully co-exist with science and make sense to me. At the same time, seeking to experience something extraordinary, “otherworldly” that didn’t “make sense” or only made sense from a spiritual perspective.

[…] To be continued

A simple introspective game

There is a nice, simple, & fun psychology game you can play with someone you’re just getting to know. You can do this with potential friends or romantic partners. It’s pretty old and well-known, so you might have heard this before, whether it was from Teal Swan or a psychology course, but here’s your reminder.

Ask them:

  1. What is your favourite colour? And tell me three reasons why.
  2. What is your favourite animal? And why? Describe them using three adjectives.
  3. What is your favourite body or form of water? Again, list three qualities behind your choice.

Answer these questions for yourself now too, before you read further into this. Try not to use superficial, unimaginative reasons.

Like other unconscious associations, each answer reveals other aspects about themselves:

  1. How you describe your favourite colour reveals how you view yourself.
  2. The qualities you attribute to your favourite animal represent what your ideal romantic partner is like. Another version says this actually represents how others view you.
  3. The last question refers to how you perceive your sexuality or your attitude towards sex and/or love.

Here are my genuine answers:

  1. My initial thought is “black”, but that’s technically not a colour and also, it’s more of an aesthetic preference regarding fashion style and hair. In this context I associate black with the words dark, elegant, and mysterious. My other answer is blue / teal. I associate blue with freedom, serenity, and depth. As far as the implications are concerned, I’m not so sure about ‘serene’. I have a fluid personality, and serenity only applies sometimes, so it’s not a fixed defining characteristic. Because I always oscillate between black and blue when someone asks this question in any context, perhaps this also hints at my dislike for limitations to a particular way of being.
  2. Dogs, wolves, snow leopards, cats, or polar bears? But I also like deer! I can’t pick one.
    Tough to choose between cats and dogs when it comes to domestic animals, but I’d say my favourites are dogs. Words that come to mind are: cute, friendly, affectionate, and loyal.
    I have loved polar bears ever since I was little, probably ever since I read a Romanian story, “Fram, the polar bear”; I love polar bears because they are cute and peaceful (when they’re not bothered or hunting), and I guess also because I associate them with my childhood (hence a purer perception of the world). It’s fascinating and calming to watch documentaries about polar bears; I like their whole vibe and that they live in the middle of an icy nowhere.
    I also admire snow leopards a lot, because they’re beautiful, agile and strong, elusive, and solitary, living their best life in the mountains. Nicknamed “Ghosts of the mountains”, they are crepuscular, like me. Despite their wild, predatorial nature, they don’t generally attack humans, even when they’re feeding. They can be found thriving at the highest altitudes.
    I love deer because they’re graceful, peaceful, and they have depth and gentleness in their eyes.
    Anyway, since I can’t pick, I’m gonna say I appreciate all these traits. Realistically speaking, taking into account the other version of this question, I would say that if this question actually shows how others view me rather than what I want in a partner, then going for a feline would probably be the most accurate. You can guess the adjectives. My spirit animal is definitely a feline. A cat morphing into a snow leopard at will.
  3. My favourite body of water would be small streams/creeks/rivers that you can find in the woods. So relaxing and refreshing, elevating, ever flowing. I also like lakes that you can find in certain caves, the ones with transparent crystalline blue water. Because they are enigmatic, pristine, and hidden. I love waterfalls, but I can’t find the right words to fully describe why. Maybe I like their impetuousness and dreaminess. I love the sea and its unpredictability; I especially like being in it when it’s windy or after a storm when the waves are tumultuous. Not going to attempt to interpret all these qualities in relation to the subjects of sex and love; I suppose all of this could mean my sexuality is an enigma even for me or that I have a changing attitude towards sex and/or love.

The New World

With each brush stroke, she renders her exquisite features in an exceptional manner that only her unnatural talent can achieve, seemingly managing to capture both her celestial beauty and intoxicating essence. Willow’s hypnotic gaze and entrancing expressiveness always inspired and fascinated the artist. Their special painting sessions suspend time; paradoxically, although this is an outdated activity borrowed from the Old World, in the New World it’s one of the aspects which sends them in an almost nirvanic state. During such moments of transcendence, their connection is so intense that Luna forgets everything about her existential crisis and the experimental nature of their simulated environment. For a split second, she thinks she sees the trace of a wrinkle on her model’s face. She blinks and it’s gone. She smiles in relief, despite acknowledging her mind has been playing small uncanny tricks on her lately. This often used to happen in the Old World, so it’s almost nostalgic. She looks at Willow and wonders what it’s like to be created in the New World, with no recollection of other times and with restrictions in experiencing implanted memories. She can’t imagine existing without the previous versions of herself and her own memories. Perhaps she would be more at peace, but she would lose herself entirely. Luna is one of the few inhabitants of the New World who has a personal history spanning over such different chapters in human advancement and ontological posthumanism. When she reminisces about the Old World, there are flashbacks of her spending most of her days daydreaming about immortality. Unlike most of the people around her who were preoccupied with mundane things which distracted their attention from the fact that the end vibrated within every human being, for her it was a consuming obsession. She felt that everyone around her was in a state of delusion and denial; in her case, even in moments of human happiness and fulfilment, there was always the underlying thought of the transience of everything. She was depressed over any sign of ageing. Situations that made other people feel nothing but happiness, such as extended family meetings, made her initially happy but often depressed because of the fragility of life. She felt pretty alienated in her concerns, as others around her held beliefs in ethereal notions of the spirit. Although at that point, the world had gone through the first shift, thus being populated by enhanced biological brains and bodies that significantly slowed down the process of ageing and magnified original human capabilities, it was still ephemeral. Years later, after the Whole Brain Emulation process, she was over the moon. At first. She awakened, after all, still feeling like herself- an enhanced version of herself, of course, but the essence was there. She had been extremely worried that the uploading process would go terribly wrong and she would end up in extreme pain or simply erased. Her joy after finding out her WBE was successful was amplified beyond human levels. As promised, her senses, cognitive abilities, talent, and pleasure were enhanced. Later on, with her artistic skills and advanced knowledge of neuroscience and AGI research, she designed Willow’s physical appearance and mental configuration. They explored the wonders of the New World together. However, a secret kept haunting her. Luna concealed an important aspect regarding the creation of Willow […]

Characters’ psychology

Both inspired by and afraid of her ineffable power to rise again and again, ever stronger, and pierce the essence of everything, he doesn’t know what he feels. She is wonderful. She is terrifying. She gives the impression that she is slightly aware of it, but not in a conceited way. In a playful way. In a way that makes you see the world as wonderful and terrifying. She is wild. She can’t be tamed. She has a rich, specific belief system, and yet she never wastes an opportunity to explore and gain new insights. It’s a rare occurrence for her to consistently dream about another person, but when she does, it can get pretty intense. And it must mean the other person is wonderful too. And yet she doesn’t want another person to become her world. Her world is thrilling, mostly safe but occasionally dangerous, fluctuating between periods of unpredictability and order. She is not necessarily a thrill-seeker, but a huntress of good feelings and of the sublime, the marvellous, the ethereal, with a relentless desire to feel alive. She likes being in control and having freedom. Her resplendent mind transcends boundaries. Her defining characteristics are creativity and a natural inclination towards divergent thinking. As we know, there are both advantages and disadvantages to this, just like everything else. Whilst brainstorming, coming up with a myriad of ideas and generating stimulating thoughts is highly desirable, her tendencies also make it difficult to have a structure in life, to focus on one thing at a time. A successful project requires you to eventually switch to convergent thinking, to stick to a strategy. Her inner life is a film with a non-linear narrative. He is different, in this sense, there is a promising duality between them. Since they play in different films, there is no way to tell if their narratives can harmoniously intertwine. Time will tell.

Not I

“Not I”, Samuel Beckett, 1972.

The character from “Not I”, Mouth, is a fragmentary woman whose neurotic speech is rapid, incoherent, and disruptive. She tells us about her loveless, emotionless past, reminiscing about how she led a dull uneventful life until a significant moment in April. This is one of the few moments in the play when there seems to be a glimmer of hope for her, a way to define her identity. If we think of T. S. Eliott’s “The Waste Land”, April is a month of regeneration- “breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire.” Mouth had lived her entire life in a wintry state of silence, anhedonia, and inertia and this special, obscure moment in April generated her uncharacteristic discourse. There are many possible interpretations for the play- Absurdists tend to only create the flame to encourage us to find our own way in the darkness. The spectator can speculate on her state as being a bleak conception of the afterlife- She seems to be in a purgatorial state, awaiting her judgment. The character- referred to as Mouth- can also be seen as an actress with an identity crisis. Some elements are reminiscent of Ingmar Bergman’s film, Persona (1966), which also deals with bleakness, neurosis, and death.

The writer of the Theatre of the Absurd is usually someone entrapped in their own inner world, trying to express existential anxieties in a congruent form. The plays move away from mirroring society personas toward portraying the nonsensical nature of human existence. Whilst existentialists approach the same theme in a philosophical, logical, and complex way, absurdists believe that the devaluation of language is essential to depict the absurdity of life. Words are insufficient and sometimes unnecessary, which is one of the reasons why Beckett often preferred silence to conversation, in his interactions with James Joyce in Paris: “They engaged in conversations which consisted often in silence directed towards each other, both suffused with sadness, Beckett mostly for the world, Joyce mostly for himself.” The two artists share the same existential anguish and that Baudelairean view of the modern world as an age of the ephemeral and the contingent.

Her Rebirth

Haunted by Ophelia’s phantom,
enraptured by vernal murmurs,
she succumbs to dreaminess
lost in the stream
of consciousness
carried away by Woolf’s whispers
and echoes of myth from
a scent of white Narcissus-
fluid nostalgia in full bloom-
she remembers her touch
before the plunge;
the sacred memory shatters
underwater-
her pale skin resurfaces-
she is beaming;
her alter ego withers
underwater
Nature witnesses
an act of self-love.

An allegory

Let your mind paint a rainy cityscape. A girl dressed in black, with a mask and noisy heels steps on the sidewalk. Her tears merge with the raindrops. Each tear encapsulates an entire mini-universe, lingering on her cheeks, like undetectable tokens of fluid vulnerability. A stranger passes her by, closely. His slightly curious, slightly worried gaze briefly meets hers. That’s when she remembers she’s in a public space: Maybe the distress in her eyes was visible, after all. His face doesn’t show pity, which is fortunate, for she hates pity – she’s always been too proud for it. But maybe she misinterpreted his facial expression and it wasn’t really concern. Maybe he misinterpreted her expression as something else too. He reminds her of someone – someone kind, sweet, wise, and very dear to her. Someone who knew how to unleash her vulnerable and dreamy side simply by being himself. The rare realness of this person was always rewarded with the privilege of meeting all the facets of her personality.

What her expression conveyed was grief. All-consuming grief, manifested as an affliction of the mind and the body. The inner chaos-intense, the body-tense, during the painful procession. Towards the funeral of the distilled dreams of being. Still alive are the hopes to resurrect the dreams the next day. Another dream, of inner peace, is born. She is wondering when it will materialise. Meanwhile, sweet echoes fill the mind as background music, sung by the Light Beings, ‘Talent. Creativity. Intelligence. Beauty. Resilience. Strength. Kindness’ This is not your typical funeral song. This is one of those days when the melodic discourse is played like a mantra to assuage the mind, to overpower the inner wailing from the funeral rite, to self-induce good vibes, in order to help her keep putting one foot in front of the other foot instead of collapsing. Like an incantation, to banish other toxic thoughts. It’s one of those days when other aspects resonate too strongly, sucking the power out of the good ones, and releasing dark energy. These other forces are not as clear. The noise they express themselves in is a sort of gibberish, a chaotic, harmful nonsense, inducing a heaviness of the heart.

There are rooms she doesn’t unlock in her mind, because she doesn’t want to let the poison out. She wants to stay pure. Untainted. One room contains dusty effigies of blacklisted figures. They’re not distinctive or intelligible, they’re merged into each other, shape-shifting embodiments of damaging thoughts. They are all locked away together in a claustrophobic space, drenched in darkness. Poison drips from their mouth as they breathe in the poisonous atmosphere like zombies. Meanwhile, The Light Beings roam in their perfumed, elegantly decorated chambers inside the mind, as companions and guardians. The Light Beings are personified thoughts, but also real-life people including her parents, close friends, and her therapist. When she dissociates, it’s probably so as to stay away from the poisonous atmosphere when the forbidden door malfunctions. That poison rarely affects anyone else, besides her self, it is confined within her being.

Soulmates

Do you believe in soulmates?

I believe there are people with whom you can share a strong, profound, mutually fulfilling, loving bond (not exclusively of a romantic nature), and that this type of connection has the potential to enhance the lives of those involved by enriching their perspectives in life, as well as helping them feel inner peace and become better versions of their authentic selves. This requires mutual transparency, vulnerability, and, implicitly, trust. You can explore the depths of your souls (or minds, if you prefer) and find delight and substantial meaning in your explorations. I believe in serendipity. I acknowledge the importance and influence of brain chemistry and mental configuration in experiencing soul connections, the ontological subjectivity that requires us to design and give meaning to everything, to every encounter, every thought about others, every experience. I believe that when it comes to profound connections, this design really fluctuates from person to person, because of both nature and nurture (literature, philosophy, exposure, upbringing, family models, attachment theory), but that we can all find relatable ways to describe these intimate experiences, although language is ultimately limiting. I believe in passion. And I believe that sometimes passion can be a fleeting thing, and it can also be associated or confused with obsession (limerence) or infatuation.

However, I’m not fatalistic, I don’t really believe in destiny; I don’t believe or agree with the view that you are incomplete and need to seek your other spiritual half – even though some people function better and grow within a (healthy) relationship. Self-development and awareness can be achieved outside a conventional romantic formula, and outside the parameters of romance altogether (through art, spirituality, hobbies, your career path, etc). I would also deem a mentor, an academic tutor, a friend, or a family member as my soulmates, depending on how well we connect and how inspired or close to my authentic self I feel when I’m around them. I also don’t believe strong, meaningful bonds need to persist throughout time or be lifelong in order to be valid, impactful, or life-changing. What I do believe is that each human being ultimately creates their own meaning and narrative in life, and for many people, the concept of soulmates makes a lot of sense in the way they construct their world, as they’re more likely to reach their potential that way; and poetic, dreamy souls may attribute otherworldly or cosmic connotations to this connection. There is always the other side of the coin- some people tend to ‘lose themselves’ in a relationship, in which case it’s better to nurture your soul first in other ways. Personally, for the majority of my life, I have found myself on a paradox-resembling spectrum, between a dominant rational view on this subject & a poetic one, with a tinge of romance and magical realism and sprinkles of “je ne sais quoi”. Ultimately, in my case, intellect tends to rule over my feelings, and even my feelings seem to go through the filter of my intellect first. What I aspire towards is love in a wide sense, as a state of being and seeing and relating to the world. It would be amazing if love surpassed fear as the driving force in the world, if people were not maneuvered by their shadows and emotional baggage. The first step is acknowledging this aspect. And then, the harder part, is re-structuring the mind in your favour, to form beneficial patterns. To get back to the topic of romance, whenever I think about or try to describe my thoughts vis-à-vis romantic connections, my discourse comes across as ambiguous, even contradictory, and that’s because of that area of “je ne sais quoi”- I find this hard to describe. It’s one of those things where I tend to know it when I see it or live it; where a new experience might shape a different answer, or my perspective might shift when I enter a different chapter of my life in which this aspect will be re-contextualised.

Belladonna of Sadness (1973)

Belladonna of Sadness (1973), dir. Eiichi Yamamoto, is an unsettling hallucinatory Japanese animated film made up of Expressionistic and Symbolist moving paintings, with a variety of artistic influences. The captivating story of Jeanne unfolds through a succession of stunningly ethereal and luridly nightmarish tableaux featuring symbolic yet disturbing depictions of rape, violence, suffering, decomposition, and witch trials. The visceral, expressionistic paintings of sexual violence convey the emotions behind the unsettling experience of rape with transfixing intensity. Matching the trope of the witch, Jeanne is a formerly pure, now sexually awakened, corrupted young woman who acquires magical powers through a pact with the devil. She uses her powers to heal the village people infected with the plague, then hosts surreal orgy rituals in the wilderness and challenges the oppressive forces of the patriarchal state. Threatened by her influence, the rulers try to make a pact with her “to find a path to lead the people to happiness” in exchange for the secret of her cure for the plague, but Jeanne is unsatisfied with their offers, demanding instead to rule the entire world – a desire which is severely punished. This haunting cinematic tale represents a metaphoric portrayal of women’s liberation and universal liberation. Besides the Jeanne d’Arc historical reference, there is also a historical connection with the women’s liberation movement in Japan from 1970.