Johan Deckmann is an artist and psychotherapist with a private practice in Copenhagen. He repurposes vintage hardback books and fashions new titles for them. His titles are often twisted directives that brilliantly mine the grammar and tone of self-help that all of us internalize:
They are funny. They are also more than gags. Deckmann’s use of satire points to the danger of turning away from the specific and complex — and helps us laugh at the human tendency to overgeneralize, simplify, tidy up ourselves like a messy room. They also acknowledge the difficulty in suffering and in articulating suffering to oneself or another.
We were curious about the connection between Johan Deckmann’s book objects and his work as a psychotherapist. We wrote to him. He wrote back:
I want my works to be like mirrors. When you look at them you might not like what you see but like a mirror, you now get the awareness and the chance to change something. People often respond That’s me! That’s what I do to myself! Why do I do that? I think that’s a kind of medicine in a gallery. I think that making art helps me to be more defined as a psychotherapist. In one way, I distill my thoughts in my works and it makes me very sure of my view on things.
Of course my practice as a psychotherapist has an impact on my work. Though I never use specific cases, I’m very honored to witness the inner life of many beautiful people. However, most of my inspiration comes from my fantasy, from how I experience the world around me.
I was a very anxious child. I had a mother with asthma and an absent father. But I guess that the uncertainty of my childhood somehow stimulated my ability to imagine. Often with the help of humor. This might be the reason why my work has both existentialism and humor in it. My psychological practice keeps me aware, it never lets me forget personal responsibility and that has a great influence on my art. I meet many people who suffer from a circumstance that they themselves have created but they choose not to take action. I think it’s tragicomic that underneath our frustration and self-slavery lies this beautiful opportunity.
This beautiful opportunity: how refreshing to think of the therapeutic process in this way, and to look at Deckmann’s work as an invitation to see ourselves from another angle, and laugh.
Johan Deckmann on Instagram (all images above are details of photographs courtesy of the artist via Instagram)
More of Johan Deckmann’s work in The Guardian