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MELANCHOLY BLOG

WRITER MELISSA BRODER





”I tend to dam up my own ocean of sadness and that causes anxiety. I don't know why I remain so afraid of my feelings. I always fear that the sadness is going to drown me. But when I surrender to it, I float." - Melissa Broder

Please introduce yourself and tell us what you do.
I’m a writer. I write all kinds of things: poetry (four collections including Last Sext), essays (the So Sad Today book), novels (The Pisces, which comes out in May 2018, and two others I’m working on now) and some secret TV and film projects.

What causes you to feel melancholic?
Being alive, unrequited love, seeing a stranger’s physical beauty in the street, memory, a man eating soup alone at a diner, the way another person pronounces the word “milk,” hormones, the way human beings treat one another as though we are not all one race, the passing of time, envy, this snack pack my Dad bought for me once, neurochemistry, comparing my insides to other people’s outsides, being part of the problem, missing my Grandmom, Eve.

What does melancholy mean to you personally?
I tend to dam up my own ocean of sadness and that causes anxiety. I don’t know why I remain so afraid of my feelings. I always fear that the sadness is going to drown me. But when I finally surrender to it, I float.

How do your melancholic feelings impact you and your work?
Writing is a way to safely open the dam and let some of the feelings through. It’s a way to control the narrative, when we can’t control the narrative in life. Or, it’s a way to embrace that loss of control – when the work just flows out of you – and say, “Hey, it feels good to be a vessel for words, maybe I can just be a vessel for life, too.”

How do you use this melancholic state to your advantage?
I write to alleviate discomfort. And I’m often uncomfortable.

In what ways has melancholy inspired or affected your work?
I’ve used my obsessive and compulsive tendencies to my advantage in being a prolific creator. I’m never not writing something. It’s just what I do. If I feel a feeling I’m just like “let’s alchemize this.” So the anxiety provides the velocity, impulse, and motivation for my work – but the melancholy provides the humanity, the softer heart.

How do people from your country experience melancholy?
We eat and buy shit.

Do you have any particular favourite songs to listen to when feeling melancholic?
I’ve always found the J Dilla album “Donuts” haunting, because he made it when he was very sick and passed away just three days after it was released. There is a bittersweetness in it, and one song title in particular, “Last Donut of the Night,” sort of sums up the brevity of joy. “Wawa by the Ocean” by Mary Lattimore, “God” by Kendrick Lamar, “On the Level” by Mac DeMarco, “Butterfly Effect” by Travis Scott and “Another Weekend” by Ariel Pink are some songs that came out this year that I find beautiful. “St. Ides Heaven” and “Rose Parade” by Elliot Smith, “Hey Moon” by John Maus, “The Desperate Kingdom of Love” by PJ Harvey and “I Don’t Blame You” by Cat Power are old favorites.
The truth is I tend to mostly avoid melancholic music, because I already have a lot of melancholy inside me. Like, I crave the opposite and feel good when I’m driving around listening to radio jams on Power 106, an LA rap station. If I want to really go in, like to access some peace underneath a heavy feeling, I’ll listen to an ambient playlist I made called “Angels.” It’s got Aphex Twin, Tycho, Jon Hopkins, Stars of the Lid…

Which books have caused a sense of melancholy within you?
So many… Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, The Lost Daughter by Elena Ferrante, Death in Venice by Thomas Mann, A Sport and a Pastime by James Salter, The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick, Turkish Delight by Jan Wolkers

And finally movies, are there any which make you feel particularly melancholic?
I’d have to say The Piano. But again, like music, I’m not drawn toward melancholic movies, because I’ve already got a lot of that inside me. The movies I watch over and over again are, like, “Harold and Kumar” and “Groundhog Day.”



Illustration by Pelle Sjöden

POET GRETA BELLAMACINA





"I think it is the most powerful emotion, it is when you are truly inside yourself, and you can let the world dream. " - Greta Bellamacina
Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you do.
I am a poet and an actor/filmmaker. Last year I released my new poetry collection “Perishing Tame” with New River Press. I am currently in the process of making my first fiction feature movie “Hurt By Paradise” as well as playing the lead in Jacyln Bethany’s new film “The Last Birthday” alongside Anna Popplewell.

What can make you feel melancholic?
Mainly the weather and being in the car looking out the window, falling asleep and waking up in new places. Also the beginnings of things, the ending of things, the closing down of things, radio stations, school gates, weddings, Hampstead Heath, The Heath Cafe, The 24 Bus Stop in Camden Town facing the tube …. photographs reveals so much about time and your place in it- I take a lot of pictures for this reason.

What are your thoughts on melancholy?
I think it is the most powerful emotion, it is when you are truly inside yourself, and you can let the world dream. It is all of the broken up memories pulling at one another at the same time, desperately trying to understand its place, like a museum of heartache.

What results does melancholy have on you and your work?
Everything, it all stems from that place. As a child my mother would say I was very melancholic. I would spend a lot of time thinking about life and death, the stars and space and wondering what was going to happen to the rest of all the future. I still feel as confused and broken as I did as a child, mesmerised by the beauty of the sky and the trees.

How do you use this melancholic state to your advantage?
It puts you in a vulnerable place which is not alway easy but often leads to honest work. I take a lot of pleasure in taking people to that place, it makes people think. For instance last year when I was making my documentary “The Safehouse: A Decline of Ideas”- I used a lot of found footage, which always carries a nostalgia, to make the film feel like a home video, or something you might have already watched before. I think that helps to make the audience feel sightly more involved and connected to the film.

In what ways has melancholy inspired or altered your work?
I think it focuses me to be more emotional. To make people feel that same emotion.

How do people from your country experience melancholy?
Mostly by the weather and the changing of seasons and the old red buses.

Favorite songs for when you are melancholic ?
Sharon Von Etten - Every time The Sun Comes Up, Jeff Buckley - Lover, you Should’ve Come Over… and absolutely everything by John Lennon.

Favorite books that make you feel melancholic?
The White Hotel by D.H Thomas, A Season in Hell by Arthur Rimbaud and Coltash by Robert Montgomery.

Favorite melancholic movies?
Days of Heaven by Terrance Malick, Frances Ha by Noah Baumbach and Melancholia by Lars Von Trier.

Favorite art/artist that captures melancholy ?
Robert Montgomery- “The people you love become ghosts inside of you and like this you keep them alive.”


* Greta is represented by Viva Model Management.

ARTIST CAMILLA ENGSTRÖM





"Without that melancholy tapping me on my shoulder, I don't think I would push myself so hard to live the kind of life that I aspire to live." - Camilla Engström



Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Camilla Engstrom and I'm an artist.

What are your thoughts on melancholy?
I think my default state is more melancholic than happy, but ultimately I find it distracting. I used to romanticize melancholy when I was younger – leaning into the feeling and letting it define me. Now I find myself identifying ways to combat this tendency and doing those things more regularly.

What does it do to you, what happens when you feel down or blue?
I try to rest as much as possible. Go for a long walk, meditate, spend a lot of time with myself, visit a new restaurant or look at art. Whatever I need to feel good again.

In what way has melancholy inspired or affected your work?
I think my search for happiness has made me take what I do artistically and professionally very serious. I have to be creative or I feel a deep unhappiness. Without that melancholy tapping me on my shoulder, I don't think I would push myself so hard to live the kind of life that I aspire to live.

What place would you say that melancholy has in your country?
Living in NYC, I think people are overworked, underpaid, stressed out and depressed here. Unfortunately, this lifestyle often dictates that we don't really have the time or patience to talk about depression.

Do you think creativity would be better if people accepted that they feel blue from time to time?
I think it would make people not only more productive, but also healthier, if they let themselves feel blue. It's important to surrender and accept your true feelings, but it's also crucial to have the tools to change your situation once you've identified the problem.

PSYCHOLOGIST SAMUEL WEST

"Happy content people do not innovate. They have no need to improve things or change the world." - Samuel West
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m a clinical psychologist with a PhD in organizational psychology. My work focus on helping organizations create a culture that promotes innovation.

What are your thoughts on melancholy?
Historically melancholy was more accepted. People were allowed to have their ups and downs. Today we try to medicate any feelings that we don’t like. Feel down - just take a pill.

What happens in the human mind when we are feeling blue?
We disengage from life and turn our attention inwards. We no longer feel engaged in the various activities of life that usually give us pleasure and meaning. It is also a trademark of melancholy that we ruminate by getting caught up in negative cognitive loops. Life gets filtered through a negative filter.

What connections can be found between creativity and melancholy?
Most research shows that positive emotions boost creativity, however there is also evidens that many great artist and writers were know to do their best work during melancholic periods. Happy content people do not innovate. They have no need to improve things or change the world.

What place would you say that melancholy has in your country?
Haha - being melancholic is status quo in these dark arctic regions. It is dark and cold and miserable weather here in Sweden, even in the summer. I come from Iceland where being melancholic is part of the national identity. At the same time people today seem to be more afraid of feeling down - it would be much better if they could just accept that a healthy emotional life includes both happiness and sadness.

Do you think creativity would be better if people accepted that they feel blue from time to time?
Absolutely. Creativity is enhanced when we experience a wide range of stimuli and emotions. Including those on the dark side of the mind.

ARTIST JON KOKO

"Thats a great contradiction in many artist life I suppose, you depend on the blue moments to reach a higher level of artistry" - Jon Koko
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Jon Koko and I am an artist based in Malmö, Sweden. Currently Im working on a new collection of work that includes oil paintings and illustrations and some paper collages.

What are your thoughts on melancholy?
I think it depends on which condition you have in your own mind at a certain time, because for me it can change shape and form a lot. Sometimes it can be so extremely tough and painful, but I can look at it as a process of spiritual cleansing which is important to experience to reach a higher purpose in life.

What does it do to you, what happens when you feel down or blue?
When its really strong I can barely move because it holds me in a grip of a big anaconda. Im almost paralyzed at those times. When Im ”comfortably blue” or ”regulary down” I will often spend time with myself and listen to calm and soothing music all day long, drink tea and reflect on things. I will also get a wave of inspiration and ideas for artwork which I normally in a more positive state of mind dont get. Thats a great contradiction in many artist life I suppose, you depend on the blue moments to reach a higher level of artisry.

In what way has melancholy inspired or affected your work?
Since I think the experience of melancholy is an important way of getting a bigger picture of life, it may also transform you to a more sensitive person. I think its really important to be sensitive to create certain art, so for that reason I think it has helped me a lot to develop my style.

What place would you say that melancholy has in your country?
I think its still very surpressed. Its well known that extrovert energy still rules the world and it is still the ideal way to be in Sweden.

Do you think creativity would be better if people accepted that they feel blue from time to time?
I'm not sure really if it would be better for everyone to help their creativity. Every states of mind has its own source of creativity. Happiness is related to passion and bright colors, depression is related to pale and dark colors and passivity. But every single feeling one have in life is still necessary in its own way to become a greater human being. The sad thing is that people have been told its wrong to be blue, which makes people feel guilty because of something that actually is very natural.

ROSA PARK OF CEREAL MAGAZINE



"For me, melancholy is a reflective feeling. When I’m melancholic I take the time to think about those things that I don’t think about on a superficial level, delving into more deep and meaningful emotions and thoughts." - Rosa Park



Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Rosa, and I’m the co-founder and editor in chief of Cereal Magazine. I started the magazine four years ago together with my partner Rich, who is Cereal’s Creative Director. As we are both very passionate about travelling in particular, we decided to give it a go and see if we could do our own magazine together. The goal was to create a design conscious travel magazine for our peers.

What are your thoughts on melancholy?
I think that the by the book definition of melancholy has a slightly negative connotation. I would say that in the English language the word ‘Melancholy’ describes a pervasive sadness that you can’t get rid of, but if I interpret it on a more personal level, I would say that melancholy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s just an emotion in a very diverse range of emotions that we all go through on a day to day basis. No one is actually happy every single day, it’s not possible. And in that sense, I’m somebody who really embraces how I feel – if you’re sad then you’re sad, and so on and so forth. You just have to roll with it. For me, melancholy is a reflective feeling. When I’m melancholic I take the time to think about those things that I don’t think about on a superficial level, delving into more deep and meaningful emotions and thoughts. So yes, there is a great sense of reflection that I associate with melancholy.

In what way has melancholy inspired or affected your work?
Melancholy comes in varying degrees. I can always find it within myself to work when feeling melancholy, but only really when I do creative work, which differs a lot from the business-oriented work I do as a publisher. I do, however, think that a lot of creatives can harness their emotions to create beautiful things, and in that capacity, I can always channel my emotions, whether it’s melancholy or otherwise into the creative work that I do. But as you are using such a different part of you brain, it doesn’t work the same with the business side of things.

What place would you say that melancholy has in your country?
I think all western cultures are pretty accepting of melancholy, whereas East Asian cultures are not necessarily geared that way. In the west, you are encouraged to embrace your emotions. In this part of the world, you are allowed to embrace your emotions and talk about it openly without being judged, but at the same time, the ultimate goal is to be happy. So if you aren’t happy, you can talk about it and learn how to be happier. That’s the western mindset in a nutshell, in my opinion. Whereas in Asian cultures, it’s not the social norm to talk about being melancholic to everyone, and this can be considered socially awkward, and your happiness in life is not the end goal or objective. Your personal happiness isn’t a number one priority – it’s more a duty-bound kind of society. As for me, it’s important to be melancholic at times. You wouldn’t even understand what happiness is if you didn’t have sadness to counter it. Because the one cannot exist without the other. For me any emotion that exists is just something that we should embrace so you can channel it into something productive.

Do you think creativity would be better if people accepted that they feel blue from time to time?
Motivation is so very individual, so it’s impossible for me to say with certainty. But what I will say is that historically a lot of famous creative people are quite depressive, most of my favorite writers killed themselves and the same goes for a lot of painters I admire. It’s a very big stereotype and generalization, but generally speaking many famous creators and icons felt intense waves of melancholy. Some may argue that you need to feel that much to create exceptionally beautiful work, but I obviously don’t condone killing yourself. There is a balance; you have to feel things more than the average person to create something that can then trigger emotion in the viewer. If you are a creator who wishes to inspire the people who see your art, yes, then you should probably feel ten times what other people feel. So in that sense you should embrace the melancholy, to help produce work that can deeply move people. But I’m always on the fence; I get that as an artist you have to feel intensely, not always good things. But I also know that many of the artists and writers I love ended up killing themselves, and I would of course never promote or support that.

PETITE MELLER

"For me a good song comes from melancholic feeling but also enjoyment of releasing pain away"
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Petite Meller, a French singer-songwriter who produces "Jazzy Pop". I live in London but recording most of my songs in Stockholm with Jocke Åhlund from "The Teddy Bears".

What are your thoughts on melancholy?
As I study philosophy, Melancholy is a big topic for many philosophers like Hegel and Nietzsche. Melancholic state of mind is crucial for art in retire from everything, reflecting about life and the meaning of existence. For me a good song comes from melancholic feeling but also enjoyment of releasing pain away, in Freud terms: "Jouissance". When a music shout out the pain but also comforts and cheer up at same time, that's where it wins hearts.

What does it do to you, what happens when you feel down or blue?
My song "The Flute" is about this melancholic moment when I feel lost or lonely: "Where can I go, Who can I be, looking at my day and I just long to see" "The Flute". We shot the video in Mongolia, and the lil girl who plays the flute had a really sad face, but when we played her my song she suddenly smiled and danced, and that's the idea behind it, For me it's only the sounds of the music, in this case of a flute, that sends me far away and helps me release my sorrow, leads me into a joyful place beyond, a new reality of laughing and dancing free.

What place would you say that melancholy has in your country?
French Writers like Baudelaire and Sartre are dealing with the fact that Life is absurd! We touch this planet only for a brief moment and the disappear. The only mark we can leave here is by creating something for others. That's how we can touch infinity.  I try to create realities through my music videos, "Baby Love" in Kenya, "Milk Bath" in a pink lake in Senegal , "The Flute" in Mongolia, they're all l'il realities which do exist and are not just imagined. I invite people join in, and dance with me. Everyone can dream and create his own reality. That's why I called my album "Lil Empire".

Do you think creativity would be better if people accepted that they feel blue from time to time?
I think you can easily accept your blues all the time but the harder and beauty part in life is to create something that will take you beyond it, step you out of pain, shout it loud dance to survive.

CLAESSON KOIVISTO RUNE ARCHITECTS

"Melancholy can be a pleasant downer. But only for a certain time. Like with a cold bath the reward comes when you get out of it." - Mårten Claesson


OLA RUNE

Who are you and what do you do?
I am an architect and designer running our own studio Claesson Koivisto Rune Architects together with Mårten Claesson and Eero Koivisto.

What are your thoughts on melancholy?
For me melancholia is a peaceful state of mind. I often listen to music with a blue note tone when I am alone and it gives me both the energy and strength I need.

What does it do to you, what happens when you feel down or blue?
It is helpful to reflect my thoughts and balance my normal optimistic state of mind.

In what way has melancholy inspired or affected your work?
I think all states of mind is helpful when being creative, and melancholy is one of these. It does not survive by itself as it needs both neutral and positive states of mind to balance. Many great ideas derive from the transition between melancholy and optimism.

What place would you say that melancholy has in your country?
It is a natural existence in Sweden and we do not think it is negative.

Do you think creativity would be better if people accepted that they feel blue from time to time?
I think when you are working with very personal feelings and thoughts you need to give all feelings place in creativity. This is of course most visible in poetry, music and film, but are present also in architecture. It deserves the same status as other states of mind.



MÅRTEN CLAESSON

Who are you and what do you do?
I am an architect and a product designer.

What are your thoughts on melancholy?
Melancholy to me is an emotion related to introspection. A fundamental emotion. But not the only one.

What does it do to you, what happens when you feel down or blue?
Melancholy can be a pleasant downer. But only for a certain time. Like with a cold bath the reward comes when you get out of it.

In what way has melancholy inspired or affected your work?
Melancholy to me is a kind of backward force. It gives me a sense of direction of where I want to go, which fundamentally is forward. Melancholy can trigger the lust to work for the satisfaction of accomplishment.

What place would you say that melancholy has in your country?
The passing of seasons is a stark reminder of the passing of time which is really melancholic when you think of it. We have a lot of changing of seasons in Sweden.

Do you think creativity would be better if people accepted that they feel blue from time to time?
I do think that people like me, who have creativity as a profession, generally has accepted the swing of emotions as one of their creative fuels.



EERO KOIVISTO

Who are you and what do you do?
I’m an architect who sometimes also designs objects, mainly for the different projects that Claesson Koivisto Rune do.

What are your thoughts on melancholy?
Being of Finnish origin, melancholy is a strong part of my cultural upbringing. In it’s art, music, architecture, design, litterature, and theater. In all kinds of artistic expression melancholy has created the works that defines a genre (actually regardless of origin) I can’t really think of any kind of important artistic work that has had it’s origin in happiness? To name a few examples strongly inspired by melancholy: The art of Mark Rothko, the architecture of Taj Mahal, and the music of Claude Debussy.

What does it do to you, what happens when you feel down or blue?
In my opinion feeling blue and feeling down can be two different things. Melancholy can be part of your feeling, even though you’re not feeling down. I connect melancholy with great beauty in most kinds of art-related works.

In what way has melancholy inspired or affected your work?
I don’t really like ”happy” work. Even with artists that are famous for it, I prefer their more thoughtful oeuvre.

What place would you say that melancholy has in your country?
In our part of the world - the Nordic countries - we have lots of nature and space. So there’s lot of room for introspection. Which in turn gives room to a certain melancholy. Which sometimes creates important work.

Do you think creativity would be better if people accepted that they feel blue from time to time?
It IS better. Happiness doesn’t really create great work of any cultural importance.

ANNEÈ OLOFSSON

"Melancholy is the base and core in my creativity, it’s been inside of me as long as I can remember."

Anneè Olofsson
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Anneè Olofsson. I’m a Swedish artist currently living in Stockholm. I lived and worked in NYC from 2001-2005. I work with photography, video and sculpture. I’m represented at MoMA, NYC, Moderna Museet in Stockholm and others.

What are your thoughts on melancholy?
Melancholy is the base and core in my creativity, it’s been inside of me as long as I can remember. But it is strange, people that meet me for the first time could not even imagine this side of me, the outside doesn’t really match the inside, but I think this is common. It is like a mask one wears to hide the darkness.

If you google it, Melancholy is a form of deep depression that is a part of the group "physical illness that effects your mood". So I assume my melancholy is a light version, or the way I myself define melancholy.

For Marcilio Ficino(1433-1499) melancholy was the highest range of intellectual life, freed from all medical limitations. Melancholy has throughout the time been connected with sadness and depression, but despite of this melancholy has been seen as something desirable, something that affects the elite and creates creative expressions for artists.

I remember living in NYC, I moved there on September 1st, 2001. I was given the schoolarships of schoolarships: one year at ISCP including money, flat and studio… Life just couldn’t turn out better. I also had a great gallery in NYC at the time. But as we all know 9/11 came and a lot changed, well everything changed.

To have a melancholic mind is a help at times like that… It kind of calms you down, the inner darkness meets the outside, and in a strange way life goes on. NYC was crippled and changed for good, but with a big desire to recover fast, and so it did. After 4 years I felt that I missed being bored and blue the way I could feel back home.

I needed that melancholy fuel (title of a Blue for Two song) that I no longer could find in NYC, and I knew I could regain in Sweden. So in the fall of 2005 I returned home to refuel.

What does it do to you, what happens when you feel down or blue?
I have always been interested in the darker matters/sides of life since I was very young. I remember the first vinyl I bought as a teenager, Cortex' “Spinal Injury”. A record that has followed me my entire life, many of the songs on that album shaped me into the person I am today, not in a negative way, the other way around, I found creativity in it.

I think that to feel down is very different from feeling blue. Two different sides of the coin. To feel down is more towards depression with sometimes a negative outcome, an unhealthy state of mind, while feeling blue is something that can produce more positive energy. Its simple, down is negative and blue is positive. Since my mind is constantly toward the blueish, what comes out comes out.

In what way has melancholy inspired or affected your work?
It’s not an inspiration, it’s a constant state of mind and way of thinking. It’s here to stay and my works will follow my mind and heart.

What place would you say that melancholy has in your country?
We don’t embrace it as something that can be fruitful and used as positive fuel. I think many fear it as only an illness. The Swedish site for medical information defines melancholy as follows: “Melancholy is the most severe form of depression. You feel depressed and the feeling cannot be averted or affected by outer stimulus. Everything is painful and you feel a total apathy towards the world around you, lacking any sense of engagement, even with your loved ones. The sense of unease and anxiety is strong. The anxiety can verge on mortal fear and be very painful."

Maybe some embrace melancholy as something to be very fruitful in their own creation, while others get lost in it and create an illness, just some thoughts.

It’s a balance and it depends very much who you are as a person how to be able to use it or not.

Do you think creativity would be better if people accepted that they feel blue from time to time?

Yes absolutely, maybe not in every blue moment there will be an immediate positive outcome, but the mind of darkness will chew on something and eventually something very interesting can come out.