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Beautiful Distress was founded on the concept that there is a great deal of mental suffering, that not enough people are aware of this and that not enough is done to stop it.

The Foundation uses art in an attempt to open up the world of psychiatry and battle the stigma attached to it.

Why art? Beautiful Distress believes that art is pre-eminently capable of articulating and depicting the human condition

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‘I am living the hospital’ - Coco Young

Maarten Van Overeem

by Coco Young

Coco Young is the current Beautiful Distress Artist in Residence in Kings County Hospital, Brooklyn. She is, after Annaleen Louwes, Aldo van den Broek and Christiaan Bastiaans, the fourth artist taking up a residency in the hospital and the first American. 

Here she shares a few of her impressions and thoughts with the Beautiful Distress audience. A short Q & A.

Coco, why did you agree to take up this residency?

‘I decided to take up the challenge of this residency because my work is very much affected by the environments and situations that I find myself in. In order to talk about something with my work, I need to fully integrate myself in it, I need to live it. When I was younger I wanted to be a detective. My practice has an investigative side, I usually do a lot of research and immerse myself in a subject, almost like method acting. I’m sure you can imagine that being at Kings County has affected me heavily, and my experience of it is coming out through my work.’

What sort of art do you make?

‘My background is in photography, but in the past three years I have been working with video and sculpture. My work can take different identities depending on my subject. In the past, I've used cement, copper but also feathers and digital PDF documents. I adapt my medium to what I think will successfully communicate my message depending on the situation.’

What is the biggest challenge for you during this residency?

‘The biggest challenge here at Kings County has been to not take advantage of the access that I have. As soon as I got here, I made the decision to not make work 'about' any of the patients, or about the hospital directly. Instead, I'm living it, I spend time with the patients, eat lunch with them, play basketball with them, listen to music they share with me... I walk around the hallways with no direct 'artwork' in mind. I then go to the studio and make work about the feelings that I have. I don't want to pretend to understand what it is like to be a patient here because I don't and I never will.’

How has the experience been for you, thus far?

 ‘At Kings County I have been faced with a population which has dealt with some of the most difficult situations I have ever heard of. This has affected me very much as a person and as an artist. These empathetic and painful experiences are what I am communicating with the work I am making here. While I have been at Kings County, I have been thinking a lot about how our current socio-political climate affects the mental wellness of individuals, including my own.’

Short bio:
Coco Young is a Franco-American artist based in New York City. She graduated from Columbia University in 2015 where she studied Art History. In October, she will be presenting her first solo exhibition at Interstate Projects in Brooklyn.