According to a recent study, the U.S. market for self-improvement is $9.9 billion. Despite that, many therapists think that self-help books are useless. Gregg Williams, for example, says that change is hard, improvements happen unevenly, involve many steps and take a lot of time. Nothing even remotely close to what the self-help reads are preaching. Luckily, Johan Deckmann has something that’s way better. By day, Deckmann analyzes the human behavior; by night, he writes down his observations as titles for fictional self-help publications. Using books found in antique shops as a canvas, the practicing psychotherapist transforms their boring covers into witty jokes. Even though most of his pieces balance between the hilarious and the poignant, their faded color and worn texture take the readers on an emotional journey of self-reflection and soul-searching.
“My work is a portrait of human failure and self-sabotage,” Deckmann told Bored Panda. “But my underlying motive is to mirror my audience and motivate change. I think my work resonates with people because many people in the western world are raised to believe that they are victims of their surroundings. I show through my works that they are not.”
Johan explained that his psychological practice has great influence on his art. It not only serves as a tremendous inspiration for the content of his works but also as a constant reminder of personal responsibility. “I meet many people who suffer from a circumstance that they themselves have created but they choose not to take action,” he added. “I think it’s tragicomic that underneath our frustration and self-slavery lies this beautiful opportunity.”
Titles like “How to gain instant success by lowering your standards” can resonate with anyone, but instead of remaining sinister, the work is made humorous by using the same language that you might find on a cookbook. “How to build a wall so high that nobody will ever get to know you” might be fitting for people working in an office, and, perhaps: “How to keep doing the same old mistakes and expect a different result” could be considered the most universally human of all one-liners.
2018 is a busy year for Deckmann. His works are traveling from one gallery to another; from New York City and San Fransisco to Amsterdam. “Humour is a pretty convenient companion, given humankind’s condition,” he concluded. “I think gratitude, appreciation of being here and a portion of self-irony are the main keys to a happy life.”