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During his residency at The Fifth Season Aram Tanis started working on a new project that deals with the theme obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).


Because Tanis grew up with a mother who suffers from this disorder; he knows how intrusive OCD can be for the person who has it but also for their surroundings. For Parallel Lives Tanis interviewed people who have OCD and incorporated their experiences and daily struggles into newly written texts.


In meticulous and poetic words Tanis captures thoughts and actions and creates an image of an in itself communicating inner world. The isolation and the absence caused by this disorder are gradually becoming more oppressive. The text, which is partly fiction and partly observation, takes the reader back and forth between different realities. It represents the complex feelings of how someone can experience him or herself as an outsider.


For Parallel Lives Tanis also made pictures on the grounds of the mental health institution where the residency is located and combined them with images from his archive. The sober black-and-white photos show objects as true living creatures, as things to talk to, as things that invade you and feed the fear. These are suggestive images that create a disturbing atmosphere: restless and frightening.


As a witness and person concerned, Tanis plays with the perspective of the child and the parent, giving the text a universal meaning. It's about many of us, and shows the impact of mental illness in a broader social context. It expresses the child's powerlessness and the desire to escape the determinative and oppressive reality.


Parallel Lives is a personal testimony; confronting and at the same time a story of acceptance.

Schermafbeelding 2017-09-04 om 12.48.24

Parallel Lives

Het Vijfde Seizoen

Edition 100

Parallel Lives has been exhibited at Het Vijfde Seizoen (Den Dolder / NL), Nieuw Dakota (Amsterdam / NL) and CBK (Amsterdam / NL).

PARALLEL LIVES   Aram Tanis      


"Writing fiction means examining the suffering of people and, usually, later, discovering any meaning in that suffering. Writing down memories means examining how people let you suffer and, usually, much later, discovering what it was causing them to suffer and make you suffer to. In other words, writing about memories means, even requires, compassion with both the victim and the perpetrator, compassion, if you do not have it at the start of your project, you will have it at the time you're done."


While I was working on this new work I had to think of this quote I read several years ago. For Parallel Lives I interviewed people who have an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, including my mother. While interviewing them, I got a better understanding of their thinking and realize how all consuming this disease was and continues to be.


Working on Parallel Lives put things in a new perspective, including my own experiences, and gave new meaning to old memories. This project is personal, about creating more understanding for the person who has a mental illness and for the people surrounding them.

An obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a chronic and long-lasting disorder in which a person has uncontrollable, reoccurring thoughts (obsessions) and behaviours (compulsions) that he or she feels the urge to repeat over and over. This disorder can interfere with all aspects of life, such as work, school and personal relationships.


Obsessions are persistent, uncontrollable thoughts that are intrusive, unwanted and disturbing. They cause anxiety that significantly interferes with normal life.


Individuals who have OCD feel compelled to perform repetitive actions called compulsions, or rituals, in an attempt to relieve the distress caused by the obsessions. Compulsions are frequently overt – something we can see. However, they may also be carried out mentally, such as mental praying or counting. And although we can’t observe them, mental rituals can be every bit as debilitating as those we can see.