Overcoming fear together with art
Fear is universal, and in this time of a global pandemic, it connects us all. So how do you tackle it? Fight, flight, or maybe, as artist Che Xinwei suggests, reflect on it through art?
Che, a Bachelor of Fine Arts graduate from the Rhode Island School of Design, has started a collaborative art project that invites the public to share and explore their fears in the company of others. Her hope – that we all “feel a little less alone with our fears.”
The project, Mapping Fear, exists primarily as a web portal where participants are asked to reflect on their fears and to express their anxiety in writing and through drawings. They are then invited to share their responses on the website.
Che says: “If we never look at our fears, we can’t learn anything from it. I think art can help us first see and acknowledge our own fears without feeling overwhelmed, and then maybe, we can discover something about ourselves, since what we fear is deeply connected to what we truly want and desire.”
The artist is no stranger to exploring fear through art. Afraid of losing her memory, Che would make sculptures of places and objects that reminded her of key moments in her life.
Her interest in the fallibility and malleability of memory also led her to start the art project, Library for Shadows, last year. She invited people to share an object that is important to them, and their memories of the item. Each sharing session was documented with an audio recording and a tracing of the shadow of the object.
With Mapping Fear, participants are asked to share their writings and drawings, but no minimum artistic skill is required of them. Che stresses that the project is not about making or meeting definitions of “good art,” but about creating a space for people to engage with art meaningfully.
Indeed, the submissions for Mapping Fear have offered such honest and intimate observations about fear, that Che was moved to take the project further and partner the National Care Hotline and the Institute of Mental Health to host workshops for small groups of Mapping Fear participants.
She says: “If we are all afraid of something, maybe there’s something we can do together to bring about small changes.”