Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Brains of the Operation.

I myself created an installation piece to be exhibited in the Out of Sight exhibition entitled, simply, 'The Brain'. I had wanted to make it for quite some time, and the car park gave me a good opportunity to make it tangible and place it within a public platform. Its placement in the carpark seemed perfect to me, as my interpretation of the underground space was of it as the recesses of the mind of the upper levels, if we were to compare them to consciousness. It was dusty, dated and hidden away, and matched perfectly with my intentions for the work.

When studying psychology at college, an analogy of the brain as a computer was used all the time, to explain basic principles of how it was structured & how complex it was; hardware, software, electrical signals and the like...
But, after learning more; about memory and the unconscious, and drawing on my own relationship with my brain, a different profile of the nerve centre emerged - one of a more personal and manual place. It seemed way more analogue in form than this digitised comparison. The brain forgets things; not everything we 'save' onto it is still there when we go to retrieve it. It can trick us, and implant something that we only think was there; neuron paths can get overlapped.

I imagined instead the brain as a person in an office, with each thought and each process as a hard copy rather than a computer 'file'; a piece of paper, meaning 'human error' in the process of filing could account for our brain's mix ups. The brain is the communicator of the body, and I imagined it as a dated hub, with in-trays and out-trays of signals to deal with from the different organs, as if they were people too.

I created this analogy as a physical environment in order to let people enter it, with things to pick up and investigate. With me sitting at a typewriter acting as the recorder of 'brain activity' for a couple of hours each day, the work also had a strong element of immediacy. I surrounded the desk with everything that my brain knew. I made a list of everyone I could ever remember meeting, made a world map from memory, and packed my troubles in an old kit bag. The continuous reel of paper generated throughout the exhibition recording my thoughts and what I could see resulted in a stream of paper documentation about the exhibition, its visitors and to some extent reflections on my own life during that period.

The piece worked best when I was absent however, leaving behind the evidence of someone being there (complete with cups from the coffees I'd chugged to keep me going) and documentation of the past for visitors to read. People seemed to enjoy rooting around in someone else's head, like voyeurs of its owner rather than it as an art piece. The non-gallery setting also encouraged this interaction I think; there was no barrior of prestige or 'do not touch' feeling created as so often in a white cube environment.

A couple of visitors even became part of the record of the work by typing on the typewriter themselves with what they witnessed and what they thought of it, which makes for interesting reading.

Now all I have to do it work out how to get the filing cabinets out of the car park.

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