Reflections on the future of Little Pharma
Little Pharma began as an anthology-style zine compiling the visual and written creative work of artists grappling with mental illness in their lives and in their work. It was a simple mission that resonated and created dedicated space to expressions of experiences that are so often stigmatized and cast to the periphery. While stereotypes and mythologies about the intrinsic relationship between “creative genius” and mental illness abound, honest attention to mental illness is something of a penumbra in the art world. Mental illness is ever-present in artists’ own experiences of creative life, a fact that inevitably impacts the artistic production of so many, and yet mental illness exists at a shadowy remove from topics of frank discussion in the art world, acknowledged but unilluminated.
In our own experiences as editors pulling together the second issue of the project, we ran into our own demons. Demons that threatened to fully sap our energy and extinguish our ability to complete production and distribution of the issue. We went on an informal break that became an unannounced, prolonged hiatus. It was a necessary reprieve in a period of struggle, but one we agonized over, seemingly unable to grant ourselves permission to take the time we knew we needed. We felt the familiar guilt and shame that so many artists feel when they just can’t deliver on creative projects, when those same projects are so deeply tied up in their waning sense of self-worth.
The truth is that despite our better knowledge—that the cult of productivity is a trap for artists for artists with mental illness; that every artist needs to care for themselves as a central part of their creative practice; that slowing down and even pausing creative work is often the imperative course of action—we struggled to practice what we preach. As editors, we felt bad that we could not deliver, even while we established Little Pharma with the intention to embrace an ethic of care (and self-care) for artists who work through and with mental illness not only in content, but also in how we work and collaborate.
In moments of greater clarity, we know that our community is supportive and understanding of these needs, and that this ethos is in large part what brings our community together. For that, we are immensely grateful and humbled by your patience, and we are proud to present issue no. 2.
Emerging from this hiatus, restored and able, we began to revisit what Little Pharma could be; how it might further illuminate experiences of living and working with mental illness. If we could not ourselves embrace our own ethic of care in the production process, it became clear that artists need more reinforcement and encouragement in this realm.
With this need in mind, we are opening up Little Pharma as a broadened space organized around topics, issues, and the needs of artists living and working with mental illness. In addition to presenting creative projects informed by mental illness, we intend to distribute and share knowledge and resources that encourage new paradigms for artists living and working with mental illness. We are only just beginning to imagine what this might mean and how this will manifest, but it has become clear that Little Pharma’s generative potential exists outside of more conventional and institutional publication methods and timelines. We invite our community to work with us in this next endeavor, to address our own collective needs in the moment, and at our own pace, to empower ourselves to reach for our most meaningful aspirations.
We thank you, as ever, for your support as we steadily take these next next steps together.
Arno and Nona