On Inner Desires and Art-making in times of confinement

Francesco Imola

Type “struggling with my inner demons” in Google and you'll be presented with a plethora of online programs on how to feed your demons and books on reaching your enlightened self by facing your inner beast. Today more than ever, living in isolation and apart from our loved ones due to restrictions imposed by COVID-19, we have been forced to become friends with things we'd rather avoid. Technology, flatmates, solitude, supermarket cues, video chats, I-ate-too-much feelings, and boredom are all very natural reactions to living through a crisis. Something fascinating has recently been happening in a lot of media coverage. News outlets are referring to these, let’s call them unruly thoughts, as inner demons. Some state these demons “will always be bigger and scarier than the external reality” [11]; others, like writer and historian Yuval Noah Harari, say they are “more afraid of the inner demons of humanity, hatred and greed and ignorance” [7] than else.

As Jone Hopper describes it [2], isolation can be "a moment of pause that invites us to finally focus on ourselves". We're having more time than we ever needed to look for answers where none seem to exist. Our inner self, like a beach ball that we've been pushing underwater for too long, has come flying up out of the water and hit us square in the face. So do we push it down again and hope for the best or we analyze it?

Reflection and introspection are crucial to the artmaking process [4]. Isolation has presented a generally rich subject for artists throughout history [14]. Making art can be thought of as the capacity to express the daimonic, which often presents itself in times of emergency, in a way that is constructive rather than destructive [5]. Nowadays, creatives are the ones expected, more than anyone else, to be able to quickly adapt their ways of working to continue making art. But is it even possible to be creative during such a time?

Serving our demons rather than resisting them contradicts the traditional approach of fighting against whatever attacks us [1]. However, it turns out to be a very effective way to awake your inner demons and transfer their energy toward you. Still and all, why do we allude to satanic forces covertly teasing us from inside to explain unruly thoughts and behaviours that, as Leon Seltzer describes, “allof us are prone to” [12]? Today, an inner demon is used as a figurative term for a belief, a set of ideas about life based on criticism, self-doubt, and negative thinking patterns. Struggling with inner demons is to be at war with your own mind.

Deep down, if we were to attempt to decipher the mysteries surrounding inner demons, looking at religion, spirituality, occultism, and belief in the supernatural would play a vital role in helping us understand. Many of the followers of self-identified prophet Aleister Crowley believe there are “ways of seeing [what is within ourselves] that can be attained by meditation and ritual” [8]. Believing in inner demons makes a wonderful explanation for many present-day issues and positions them as “part of an epic, indeed cosmic, struggle going back to the beginning of time” [8].

Cross-referencing mythology, pop culture, the supernatural, digital self-hood, and neo medievalism, the works presented in this ZIP exhibition explore fears, desires, and obstacles artists face within themselves in times of crisis and isolation. Just like social isolation has cramped many of us inside the private spaces of our homes, the download of the exhibition file allows the user’s encounter with the works to play out within the private stage of the desktop. As usual for all ONE Project exhibitions, the focus is on one "object" of art. In this case, this is the ZIP file containing contributions that range from video art, animation, audiovisual art, painting, and texts. Particular focus is on works that are rooted in the personal-political. Situating these works in the incongruous context of an archive file demonstrates a strange disconnect as the artists responses to lusts—inner demons, as it were—are first shrunk and then expanded to reveal themselves in the hands of the user.


1. Allione, Lama Tsultrim. 2020. "How To Feed Your Demons". Lion's Roar. https://www.lionsroar.com/how-to-practice-feeding-your-demons/.
2. Artsper Magazine. 2020. "Three Artist’S Visualisations Of Lockdown". Artsper Magazine. https://blog.artsper.com/en/lifestyle/artists-visualisations-of-lockdown/.
3. Davies, Lucy. 2020. "Artist Tips For Beginners: Learn To Make Art In Lockdown". The Telegraph. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/art/artists/learn-make-art-self-isolation-lockdown-tips-artists-beginners/.
4. Dessent, Blaire. 2015. "Martin Lord’S Intricate Drawings Picture Inner Demons And Introspective Thoughts". Artsy. https://www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-martin-lord-s-intricate-drawings-picture-inner-demons-and-introspective-thoughts.
5. Diamond, Stephen A. 2020. The Psychology of Creativity: Redeeming Our Inner Demons Douglas E Interview.
6. Greiner, Becky. 2020. "Mindfulness Techniques For Managing Coronavirus Anxiety At Home And Work". Optum - Live And Work Well. https://www.liveandworkwell.com/content/dam/laww/documents/spotlights/Coronavirus_Anxiety.PDF. 
7. Harari, Yuval Noah. 2020. Every crisis is also an opportunityThe UNESCO Courier Interview.

8. Kaveney, Roz. 2010. "What Are Demons, Really? | Roz Kaveney". The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2010/jun/29/religion-exorcism-christianity-occultism.
10. Laing, Olivia. 2020. "Feeling Overwhelmed? How Art Can Help In An Emergency By Olivia Laing". The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/mar/21/feeling-overwhelmed-how-art-can-help-in-an-emergency-by-olivia-laing.
11. Roth, Merav. 2020. "Psychoanalyzing The Coronavirus: This Is What Happens To Our Mind Under A Mortal Threat | Opinion". Haaretz.Com. https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-this-is-what-happens-to-your-mind-during-the-coronavirus-crisis-1.8699813.
12. Seltzer, Leon F. 2015. "Enough About “Inner Demons” Already!". Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/evolution-the-self/201506/enough-about-inner-demons-already.
13. Tara Mandala. 2020. "Feeding Your Demons Online Program". Tara Mandala. https://www.taramandala.org/programs/feeding-your-demons/training-tracks-and-paths-for-certification/feeding-your-demons-online-program/#what.
14. "The Artworks That Perfectly Capture Isolation". 2020. ELEPHANT. https://elephant.art/artworks-perfectly-capture-isolation-23032020/. 
15.Tyson, Keith. 2020. Artist tips for beginners: Learn to make art in lockdown Lucy Davies Interview

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