Here is a selection of texts about Alison Gill’s work and an interview with the artist

Interview with Alison Gill

The Yield of Pleasure – Interview with Alison Gill on her new work presented at Sabine Watchers Fine Arts, Belgium, 2013

This interview was also published in /Seconds – Edition 13 (The Subjectile: collapse, betrayal and subterfuge)
1 December 2012, London

RP: The Yield of Pleasure is a quote from Freud ins’t it? Something about imagination of writers?

AG: Yes. It’s taken from his Essay on Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming which is in his complete works (Vol 9, I think). I studied at the Tavistock Center in London last year and got deeply into his writings and those of Bion and Melanie Klien.

RP: And so is your new work a Yield of Pleasure?

AG: Not exactly! In the essay Freud talks about how writers draw out and liberate the fantasies of their readers. This is something I hope my work does: gives people a space to bring their own thoughts and insights to the work. To start an imaginative journey. This is represented in each of the works: the knots, the legend trip motif, the topological surfaces. It’s a gateway and a space for day dreaming.

RP: There are a lot of mathematical knots in the show. Have you always been interested in mathematics.

AG: Yes, there are over 100 knots. Each made up of tiny circles (un-knots in mathematics). I think mathematics can be very beautiful, although I didn’t find it so in school. My previous work involved mathematical progressions such as the Fibonacci series. In my work I keep returning to mathematics and topology/geometry in particular. I think our ideas about surfaces, space, geometry have changed so much in the last century and for a sculptor these changes are very exciting.

RP: Your work “The Magick Door (Kissing Gate)” uses cut up inner tubes. Why have you used these in your work?

AG: A couple of years ago when I was travelling in Vietnam I saw inner tubes hanging from a tree on a street. Not sure why they were there. Possibly they belonged to a bike shop or for recycling or something else. Anyway they looked beautiful. They were waiting for transformation. Transformed anyway from the commonplace where they were in a group. I also like them because they are circles, with an inside and an outside and they refer to energy and making a journey and something left behind. In addition early descriptions of how to construct a Klein bottle talk about pushing a tube through a hole into the fourth dimension. It is easy to make a Klein bottle with inner tubes. I can show you if you like [laughs].

RP: Did you bring the tubes from Vietnam, then?

AG: No! they are from a local bike shop, near my studio.

RP: Can you explain what you mean by “Voyage and Return”?

AG: My favourite stories are all based on the voyage and return template. It’s a narrative device in which the Legend Trip fits but also other things like the Klein bottle and doors that revolve. There is a point of entry for all of them. Something is risked and something happens (hopefully magical), an experience anyway and then you are brought back/return, changed in some way, hopefully for the better.

RP: Is it a fetish object?

AG: What the Magick Door you mean? No. That’s an association that has been mentioned before but this wasn’t in mind when it was being created. Other associations are of a cloak or a Japanese temple gong. Neither of which I was conscious of in making the piece though I can see why people make these associations and I really like that.

RP: There is a lot of drawing in your new work. Not just in the “Knots of Increasing Complexity”, but your “Voyage and Return” Series. Are they telling a story about you? Something you experienced?

AG: No. Its anti-autobiographical in a way. It’s a crash/juxtaposition of imagery which hopefully makes viewers develop their own narrative to explain the events. So there is no “one” story. Rather there are many stories – as many stories as viewers. What I’m providing is a space for those stories to grow and a point of departure, which, is slightly off the map.

RP: You use stairs frequently in your work. What do they symbolise?

AG: Stairs, stairways and corridors all feature quite heavily in my work. They all give access to other spaces/places. There is something about transcendence. Stairs typically symbolise ascension and communication between different levels (or dimensions). They can represent physical connections but also spiritual ones. You can also go up and down (obviously) so there is also descent and communication with lower levels. Steps also feature heavily in rituals and are suggestive of a dynamic space. I like all those ideas and hence use them often.

RP: I can see you have made use of spirographs in your work. They were a very popular toy when I was a child. Where did you get them?

AG: A few of the spirographs were made by a colleague of mine although I also used some pre-made ones. Although spirographs can often represent perfection, it was important that in my drawings there were mistakes. These are not mandalas.

RP: Are they your fingers? (In Kissing Gate)

AG: No, they were cast in bronze from the hands of a girl who had particularly long and bony fingers.

RP: “Beyond the Other Side” is a Klein bottle that has been opened up to show the internal structure. It’s made of porcelain I believe, with some unusual patterns?

AG: The patterns were achieved partly from impressing lace into the surface of the porcelain, then into a rather complicated plaster mould and also partly from the process of cracking which naturally occurs around the joins. The porcelain is a very fragile substance. I was on a voyage in making them, since this was my first time using the material and I wasn’t sure how they would turn out. However, I very much like the effect, which is in keeping with the drawings – there is a rough, hand-made quality about them.

RP: You say there are no mandalas, but there are lots of circles, can you explain?

AG: Yes there are lots of circles in my new work. As with stairways and steps this is a common theme in the things I make. Circles are symbols of perfection, of journeys being completed. Voyage and return. The Magick Door itself revolves in a circle but you may notice also traces out the phases of the moon as it does so. Hence the door in motion evokes the symbolism of the moon but in a subtle way. This is key to my work. The associations must be there but be subtle enough for the viewer to conceive them themselves. Circles are also beautiful.

RP: Did you do the welding metalwork?

AG: The metal work was done in an old forge in Buckinghamshire. It’s actually the same forge where Henry Moore had armatures made for his sculptures. The drawings he gave to the blacksmith of the time all went on the fire! A friend Richard did the work; we used my drawing and worked directly with the materials. I was there during the construction to change small details.

RP: Although very complicated, the drawings are also minimal in a way: often it’s just pencil and a bit of colour? Why?

AG: Pencil and paper is the most direct way of capturing ideas. It’s rudimentary and provisional. In a way it’s like the inner tubes. The purpose of the drawings is to carry the symbols. Hence once they have taken on their suggestive power they are finished and don’t require further refinement. This is why they have the dirty/unfinished quality.

RP: Some of the work is a bit dark. Are you trying to frighten people?

AG: In legend trips there must be an element of risk. The chance of losing something. Of being hurt or being transformed in ways which we may not like. With this risk comes a reward – ascent to a higher plane, overcoming a debilitating fear. So the fear is part of it. I also associate this with initiatory rites of passage and movement towards new stages in life.

RP: Thank you. Good luck with your next show.

AG: Thank you.

R. Prophette, December 2012. 

Ian Shipsey

Ian Shipsey (2013)

Seeing a New World – A visit to the studio of Alison Gill

This text was published in the catalogue: Alison Gill – To See a World, presented  by Art@CMS CMS, LHC, CERN, Geneva
Ian Shipsey – Professor of Experimental Physics at Oxford University and former CMS (CERN) Collaboration Chair.

Alison’s studio was warm and cosy, a home, but intimate, more like entering a bedroom than a kitchen. The contrast was stark. To get here Daniela, my wife, and I had come through a shivering gray London; the city under a vast sky of the same color. Damp, cold and late, we sheltered from the torrential rain in a black London cab. The cabbie knew Occupation Road, although not the studio. We arrived just in time for the rain to stop.

Occupation Road sounds like rebellion. It is a short gritty street in an area of Victorian brick warehouses and old metal. The buildings on one side of the street are gone, opening onto wasteland, railroad tracks and a highway, an edgy post-industrial landscape. At the third try, behind shiny new corrugated steel, we found Occupation Studios and Alison smiling at the door. She took us into the old brick building and up a narrow skew wooden staircase to a first floor room: the studio. A bright warm space perhaps 20 ft by 20 ft. High angled ceilings like an attic room with dusty white walls. The space was crammed with works in progress: the sculptures, and tools: a drill, hammers, string, and fine dust everywhere, and a tiny old sink with a tap.

First tea and biscuits, creating a useful space and time in which to overcome the self-conscious awkwardness I was feeling. This was not the first time I have been in an artist’s studio, but the first time I formally had a connection to the art. The first pieces you see as you enter the room and the first I looked at after tea was Stranger than Paradise. These sculptures use the force of magnetism at it most striking. Magnetism is mysterious, magical and inspirational to every generation of physicists. It has drawn many of us to science. Once we learn how magnetism works it is no less magical and inspirational. The magic derives from its remarkable power, so powerful that the atoms in a tiny magnet can call more strongly on a nearby paper clip causing it to levitate, than all the atoms in the world can call on that same paper clip to cause it to fall to the ground.

When I saw the primitive coarse shapes in Stranger than Paradise in their precise geometric frames some levitating, defying gravity, thanks to magnets, I saw my daughter too, small, in her class at school, she was in the audience and I was giving a talk about science. It was a magic show I often gave, with some spectacular tricks involving liquid nitrogen and digital microscopes, and I brought a real particle physics detector with me as well, but it was the levitating paper clip that brought some of the most inquisitive frowns and smiles and captured the imagination. The levitating forms here in the studio made me smile too.

Detector (Kissing Gate) with its thirteen point mystic rose pattern reminded me at first of the spirograph patterns I liked to construct on paper as a child. But then when I thought of this sculpture being taken to CERN and sitting alongside CMS I imagined it as device to detect another universe parallel to ours. Take a large image of a spiral galaxy viewed from outside. Make it into a jigsaw. Take four fifths of the jigsaw pieces and substitute them for pieces of the same shape but colored black. Now assemble the jigsaw. Just one fifth of it is stars, light and matter familiar to us, the remainder is dark and mysterious. I have used this image many times in public lectures to talk about dark matter. It’s not how we think dark mater is distributed in galaxies but it is an arresting image of a another world interspersed with our own, co-existing but so far orthogonal and untouchable and hence unknown. The plane of the circle of kissing gate orthogonal to the floor of ordinary matter it rests upon symbolizes contact with that orthogonal world that we may enter through the kissing gate itself. The gate closes again all by itself due to the judiciously placed magnets, suggesting that once the orthogonal world has been entered one may not be able to return to our own.

The Space Matter Problem (50 x 40 x 20) is entirely different to the other pieces: there are no magnets. I am immediately drawn to a cast of a small pull behind suitcase, damaged and covered in an intense indigo coloured layer and mica dust. A familiar sight to most particle physicists it recalls the constant travel back and forth between our university homes and the great international laboratories where we make and photograph collisions in the hope, and sometimes fact, of discovery. We make that journey inexorably drawn by the science but often at the price of missing a daughter’s football game or the birthday of a friend. We make that journey too often, and with too many artefacts of our lives, clothes, laptops, iPads, droids, chargers, power cords and logbooks crammed into that tiny space to bursting point, a wardrobe and office, on wheels. A suitcase crammed too full to squeeze into it the duty free bottle of perfume I have often bought on the return flight as a gift and apology to a family member for a missed family event.

A cast of that perfume bottle, or rather one just like it, appears at the opposite end of this sculpture. Between these two, the damaged suitcase and the bottle of perfume, are their shapes each transformed three times and fused. The perfume bottle transforms into the suitcase and vice versa. All five reside at different points on a spatial grid. My professional life and my family life, and my shuttling between them with a pull-behind suitcase seem to be captured here. That’s my first reaction.

Then I find myself wondering about the Blake stanza and the connection to this work. Blake was one of the greatest poets, artists and social activists in history. His influence today on popular culture is immense. That famous quatrain is one piece of a 132-line poem Auguries of Innocence, and is best understood by reading all of it. The poem warns of the dreadful consequences for society when there is wanton mistreatment of people and nature. But that opening quatrain captures the oneness of nature, how the beauty of nature and the universe is often in the small everyday details. Those details are found in the collisions we study at the LHC and in the smile of my wife and my child. I turn to Alison. We smile. We go outside into cold gray London but this time we don’t shiver as we walk to the nearest tube station.

Paul Carey-Kent

Paul Carey-Kent (2013)

Alison Gill – To See a World

Paul Carey-Kent, freelance writer-curator. This text was published in the catalogue: Alison Gill – To See a World, presented  by Art@CMS CMS, LHC, CERN, Geneva

To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower, Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour.

William Blake
  Something unusual is taking place at the Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS) detector at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Where there would normally be physicists and engineers at work there is an artist. Why? Because big science is beautiful and art is a central language that can articulate this.

An exhibition on this site is bound to raise the question of the differences between science and art. Alison Gill is a good choice in that context: she trained as sculptor, teacher, has studied psychoanalysis, and has taken a keen interest in scientific and mathematical matters – as illustrated by the drawings of knots which she is showing alongside her sculptural installation.

The way Gill operates bears comparison with the position taken by the American philosopher Willard Van Orman Quine (1908-2000). He came to prominence by opposing the well-established distinction between analytic and synthetic truths. Previous orthodoxy held that the former, such as ‘2 +2 = 4’, are true by virtue of the meaning of their words and terms, and remain true come what may; whereas the latter, such as ‘snow is white’, require the evidence of extra-linguistic facts in the world.  This might be seen as paralleling the contrast between the logical investigations of a physicist and the artist’s more instinctive pursuit of meaning. Quine held a holistic view under which the truth of a particular statement depends on its position in the surrounding discourse of statements, and in which statements might be located on a continuous field. Imagine that field as a circle, with the external world surrounding it: synthetic statements would be towards the edge, readily affected by observation of the external world; whereas analytic statements would be found towards the middle – it’s not that they can’t be changed, but that a great deal needs to happen to produce an effect so far from the periphery. To illustrate how that might work, Quine himself suggested that as a result of all the developments in physics in the 20th century, there’s a plausible case for replacing classical logic by quantum logic.

So, in Quine’s view, there aren’t the sharp divisions we might expect between types of knowledge; and he claimed that it’s the whole field of knowledge, not just single statements in isolation, which are to be verified. All scientific statements are interconnected, and we should judge the truth of the explanatory system to which they give rise. Contemporary art operates similarly, in that almost anything can be presented within the framework of art, and the effect and meaning of any one work often depends on its place in the whole nexus of art’s history and current practice.

It makes sense, then, that Gill’s work brings together interests in topology, the physical sciences, psychoanalysis, folklore and, of course, art; yet does not treat those as different in kind, but as points of equal interest on a continuum. That makes it appropriate to suggest an affinity with Blake, who was writing at a time when poetry, philosophy and science felt like part of one large project of enquiry.  The discipline of sculpture suits this approach, given that, as Gill herself says, ‘it is dealing with matter and its absence, material both seen and unseen’; and that leads her into what she calls ‘the dimension of not knowing’.

So how does the work which Gill has made for CMS at CERN fit in with this? In the six sculptures which make up Stranger Than Paradise, magnetised objects hang in steel frames with dimensions taken from Giacometti’s early Surrealist works. They operate in abstract terms, but also reference scientific modelling, and in doing so they alternate between micro and macro levels. Just what are those cratered balls with blind alleys, tunnels and holes? Atomic particles? Planets? Or people in relationships? Gill points to the potential narrative of those relations through the sub-titles of these pieces, all of which incorporate a fairy tale which can also be read as linking to one of the six particles which are quarks in the Standard Model: Sleeping Beauty (Beauty/Bottom); Rumpelstiltskin (Strange); Tom Thumb (Down); Rapunzel (Truth/Top); Frog Prince (Charm) and Magic Bean (Up).

The science of Stranger Than Paradise is too simple to deceive. Everyone understands magnetic force. Yet a residual air of mystery does remain whenever bodies act without visible cause. And if the objects do stand in for people, they put me in mind of how behaviour can appear to come from nowhere, even the extremes which are seen in those early Giacometti sculptures. Our speculation as to causes will be rooted in psychology rather than science. That might set us wondering, though, whether the former might eventually be reduced to the latter through an ultimate understanding of the chemistry and physics of the brain, just as the sculpture’s interactions can be explained by magnetic and gravitational laws.

What are the shapes, by the way? Gill explains that they all began from either the sphere or a Russian doll, and that, too, provides an appropriate combination of contrasts: they start from either perfect rationalism, for which read science or maths; or from a sequential concatenation of myth, from art or religion.

Detector (Kissing Gate) also uses the invisible force of magnetism, but to rather different effect – to influence the opening, closing and turning of a sculptural circle which becomes a portal. Here again the art and non-art references come together. This is a gate, a potential point of entry to alternative experiences, including, perhaps, the magnetic attractions of romance. It also looks like a bicycle wheel removed from its context, which summons Duchamp’s first readymade. The sculptural placement of string across a hole brings Barbara Hepworth to mind. But its pattern takes us back to Gill’s interest in topology: it’s a ‘Mystic Rose’ produced by linking equidistant points around a circle to each other.

The Space Matter Problem (50 x 40 x 20) completes Gill’s set of CERN pieces. It takes off from cast forms of some banality: a carry-on suitcase designed to fit the stated maximum measurements allowed by airlines, and a star-shaped perfume bottle. Those are subjected to changes in the manner of a scientific experiment in form: the plaster casts are folded, fragmented, have holes cut into them and have been thrown down stairs. They’re covered in chemical indigo – the colour traditionally used for night skies in illuminated manuscripts – and peppered with starry traces of mica. The multi-form results are arranged according to scale on tables which are actually the art-meets-maths-meets-academia surface of blackboards with chalk grids.

There’s a fiercer energy implied here than in the magnetic pieces, and the damaged suitcase may suggest that an on-plane explosion has occurred. But that’s not out of place: there is an obvious violence to the Hadron Collider’s extravagant electromagnetic enforcements. And the evolution of the atom bomb will always lurk behind such experiments. Gill’s own thesis on Giacometti’s Surrealist work was called ‘The Poetics of Destruction’, and a quotation from that picks up on the connection between destruction and desire, another holistic aspect of reality: ‘Giacometti sought to understand reality and to survive it. He worked in the hope of grasping the whole of his vision. This was his desire. Bataille viewed ‘destruction of what is there before the subject’ as the premise for ‘the enactment of desire’. He wrote ‘ Art since it is constantly art, proceeds in this by successive destructions. Thus in so far as it liberates instincts, these are sadistic.’

Alison Gill shows us that, whether or not you can ‘hold infinity in the palm of your hand’, you can pause in the course of momentous scientific investigations to take in another perspective on the haunting unity of what surrounds us. 

Notes: The title relates to William Blake’s visionary poem about paradoxes between man and nature. The stanza typifies the evolving perspective offered by CERN through its opening up of the sub-atomic world. The CMS is the heaviest of one of a series of detectors at the LHC experiment. It is a particle detector that is designed to see a wide range of particles and fundamental phenomena produced in high-energy collisions in the LHC. Like a cylindrical onion, different layers of detectors measure the different particles, and use this key data to build up a picture of events at the heart of the collision. It helped to discover the Higgs Boson particle and is seeking to discover the explanation for the dark matter in the Universe.

The art collaboration at CMS involves artists and scientist working with an ‘Creative Partner’. Alison Gill is delighted to be working with Ian Shipsey, the CMS Collaboration Board Chair 2013.

Magnets feature heavily in the new work by Gill as they do in the LHC experiment, which uses the magnets to accelerate and bend the particles towards their high intensity collisions around the collider tunnel. Alison Gill uses them as a sculptural force in her work in juxtaposition with forces of gravity.

A ‘kissing gate’ is a feature of British countryside paths, allowing people but not livestock passage through the boundary to other fields. The name arises from the sound metal-on-metal as the gate passes the gate-post. Although purely functional it has become infused with the ritual whereby if two or more people try to pass through the gate they can only do so if a kiss is passed between them. Gill has previously worked to give symbolic significance to seemingly ordinary features of the landscape for example in her piece ‘Wellfont’.

Fiona Bradley

PFiona Bradley (2000)

Extract from Dream Machines Catalogue, selected by Susan HillerHayward Gallery National Touring Exhibition 2000

Alison Gill’s Time Capsule is a group of chrome mushrooms, arranged in a fairy ring. Life-size, the mushrooms have been cast from real mushrooms, their shiny chrome surface lending them an air of other-worldliness at odds with their direct connection to objects in the real world but in keeping with supposedly magical properties of mushrooms. Fairy rings, springing up overnight as if from nowhere, are associated with a wealth of folklore. The mushrooms encircle a charmed space, one from which children may be spirited away, and adults loose themselves. In the gallery, the tiny scale of the sculpted mushrooms, and their defiant defence of their magical inner circle creates an uncanny, imaginary space, perhaps the wondrous yet overwhelming space of childhood fantasy. The artist’s interest in altered states of mind and the power of imagination is evident in this work, in which she skilfully transforms material into models of things which are themselves vehicles of transformation and veneration.

Lisa Panting

Lisa Panting (1999)

Extract from a text for the Jerwood Gallery publication (1999) Exhibition: Jacqueline Donachie / Alison Gill, Jerwood Gallery, London curated by Stephen Hepworth

That Alison Gill has always been curious about altered states of mind, the fantastical, and the imagination, is apparent on the first viewing of her work. Her visual language and method of making completely serve this enquiry. There is an inherent quality to the works on view, a hand made but intricate level of production which is in some way reminiscent of prop-making, where props assist in the creation of the story. Unlike props, though, they function more as complex stages in their own right, and rather than completing a scene or narrative these works totally initiate the experience to which you become bound. Unlike the delusion intrinsic in prop-making there is an impression of exposure as the materiality of the works deliberately reveals itself. “Sensations, feelings, insights, fancies – all these are private and, except through symbols and at second hand, incommunicable. We can pool information about experiences, but never the experiences themselves. From family to nation, every human group is a society of island universes.” So comments Aldous Huxley in The Doors of Perception, first published in 1963. This text based on the experience of taking mescaline, had great influence on the popular imagination. During this era drug culture had a major impact on the general perception of, and desire for, altered states of mind. It was as if the body could now achieve some kind of actual spatial transference. Visual culture as a whole absorbed these tenets and changed the landscape of language forever. Transporter 1999 by Gill is a five-metre high golden staircase that operates as part of this discourse, acting as a route to another plane of consciousness. The doubtful nature of this possibility is manifest in the structure itself, as the complexity of its engineering would seem to undermine this quest. Its construction was achieved by laser- cutting each layer, then meticulously gluing these pieces together, resulting in a seemingly solid object of cardboard. The nature of ascent into dreamscape, and the impossibility of an actual journey up those stairs, leaves a mental image of a body dashed to the floor; a vision of the toppling structure, the disappearance underfoot, a collapse, the incongruity of the weight of a body on this heavenly gateway. The work grapples with the metaphysical and the infinite, and journeys into the realm of the symbolic where we can exist momentarily before being plummeted back into a world of empirical experience. There is an inherent romanticism in this sensibility, the desire for which seems almost anachronistic in this cynical age. As contemporary experience has increasingly related the use of our imaginary faculty to the back burner, it becomes almost a shock to encounter an artist working so immediately within this trope.

Spatial relationships experienced at an early age are impressions that are brought with you into adulthood. These impressions serve to ground perception in later life, which can, when reencountered, in some way induce a sense of the uncanny. The sense of being overwhelmed by spatial relations and childhood fantasy are devices used by Gill in her second sculpture, Amplifier 1997. Larger than life, eleven papier mache magic mushrooms, in differing proportions, are clustered together to form a troop. The psilocybe semilanceata has hallucinogenic properties when consumed. Each is carefully reproduced, the hue and spores exact, lightly glazed to affect the dewy mist-ridden atmosphere of the forest. The fragility of these things induces a hallucinatory haze, where their conceptual whereabouts conflict with the nature of fabrication. The materiality is in a sense completely ordinary, it is paper, transformed paper, paper meshed together and moulded and carved. Historically, this material has always been a source for complex object making, and especially object making of the most imaginary kind, speaking of deviation, of transformation into a paper dream. These fungi also happen to be called Liberty Cap, recognising the power of naming, and opening up further possibilities for the imagination. That there are endless potential narratives then seems the point of visual culture. That is its role as arbiter, jammed between these worlds of our inner consciousness, imagination, and the domain we inhabit.

In The Storyteller, Walter Benjamin writes “…one can go on to ask oneself whether the relationship of the storyteller to his material, human life, is not in itself a craftsman’s relationship, whether it is not his very task to fashion the raw material of experience, his own and that of others, in a solid, useful, and unique way.” Perhaps not solid, nor unique, but it is one of the ways in which contemporary art works at its best, that is, as a set of prompts that allow the freedom to create individual and collective narrative.

Simon Bill

Simon Bill  (1996)

Alison Gill, Sabine Wachters, Brussels, (gallery text, 1996)

The body of images and themes in Alison Gill’s work stands at the interface of two worlds the everyday world of practical concerns and consensual beliefs meets with the world of unaccountable experiences and arcane technologies. In the current cultural climate this latter domain seems to be making inroads into the former, creeping into ordinary consciousness through cracks and fissures in the late 20th century mindscape. This eruption of the uncanny into the quotidian is emblematised and explored in Gill’s sculptural and photographic oeuvre. Those creepy looking dummies used in First Aid demonstrations; a fairly straightforward seeming photographic process through which it is possible to produce inexplicable images; the insane glee in the facial expression of ventriloquistis dummies. What this work is tracing is the dissolution of the strict distinctions between subjective, immaterial, quasi- mystical experience and consensual, social experience. The things that used to happen in our heads, and tended to stay put in our heads, are somehow being projected into the culture at large.


With a combined receiver and transmitter it can be difficult to tell whether the message we are hearing originates within the Transceiver itself or from elsewhere. When someone claims to be a medium relaying messages from the otherside, or from God, we are likely to suspect that it is they themselves who are the author of he messages, particularly since such allegedly otherworldly messages are often either trivial or trite. An oracle or medium can rarely tell us anything more profound about existence beyond the veil than that it is very nice there. God’s vicar his vicarious presence on earth can tell us what we have heard before, that God loves us, but not what we have never heard and could never imagine. Ventriloquism works because the animated figure, its mouth movements synchronized with the words we are hearing, is so obviously not the thing that is actually talking. Ventriloquist’s dummies resemble human beings but cannot, with their glassy eyes and clacking mouthparts, be mistaken for one. We can wonder at the illusion because it so obviously is an illusion. In Transceiver the archetypal plug ugly ventriloquist’s dummy is presented as some kind of oracle or prophet, an enthusiast (i.e. one who is filled with the spirit of God); which has the advantage, for those of us waiting to hear the voice of God, of being immune from suspicious of charlatanism. Because dummies cannot speak we know that when they appear to appear to speak the words are coming from elsewhere, and since there is no sign of a ventriloquist here, we know that when the Transceiver begins to speak (or when we hear it speak, since it already appears to be in mid-oration) it’s voice will indeed be the voice of God. The problem is that Transceiver is completely silent.

Kinetic Attractor (The Kiss)

Representations of the kiss are surprisingly rare in art considering the immense significance attached to it throughout history, in virtually every culture. Perhaps this is because it is so difficult to represent iconically, as a single, whole, thing. A portrait is obviously a single thing. A still-life, a group of objects is a single thing. A landscape is a single thing. A nude is a single thing. A kiss is always two things attempting to become one. The two examples of The Kiss in art history that spring most readily to mind Rodin and Munch are, famously, attempts to blend two figures into one. At the center of The Kiss there is always an infinitesimal but unbridgeable gap. There has to be, logically, because only two things can make a kiss. If a single thing could kiss itself it would still not really be a kiss. In Kinetic Attractor two truncated CPR dummies, (the things used in First Aid courses to demonstrate the Kiss-of-life) are sucking face. The fact that the purpose of these dummies is to represent the passive recipient of life giving oxygen already presents their relation with an insurmountable obstacle they are both takers. Given the lack of genitals the kiss is there only means of interaction. If we assume that there is some air in there they can exchange it, lung to lung, especially since their mouths have been altered to resemble a leechis sucker, an organic air lock. But then they are doomed to exchange the same 1.2 litres of air continually. They are only dummies, incapable of absorbing oxygen from the air, so this wheezing give and take has the potential to go on forever. It could be seen as the perfect kiss, the perfect relationship, since neither partner can come off worse. (We could choose to ignore the fact that they cannot benefit from their partnership either). They are held in a kind of active stasis. The femaleis face in this particular model of cardiopulmonary resuscitation dummy is taken from the death mask of a beautiful and mysterious women whose uninjured corpse was discovered floating in the Seine a hundred years ago. The mask, with itis inscrutable, possibly beatific expression, became a test of draughtsmanship in the academies, with artists trying to capture her indefinable expression, neither grin nor grimace. Was she in heaven or was she in hell?

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A series of Kirlian photographs made at different times of the day, and with the subject in varying physical and psychological conditions. These could be described as pictures of the artists hands, but in what sense they can be said to be pictures of something is open to debate since there is no established theory about what this type of photography is actually recording. The means of making these images was discovered, accidentally, in 1939 by Seymon Kirlian, an electrical engineer. The subject is placed in direct contact with a sheet of photographic paper on top of an electrical apparatus. The resultant image has been called the Kirlian Aura, a corona of light emanating from the objects silhouette. These Auras vary from subject to subject n we each have our own unique aura and also vary with changes in the physical health and psychological condition of a particular individual. Some people believe these images to be records of the astral aura that psychics claim to be able to see surrounding our bodies, a manifestation on the astral plane of our psychic states. They believe they can read this aura, discerning from it’s size, shape and colour the condition of its owner. A more mundane theory points out that these must be records of some kind of electrical activity and that moisture, sweat, will inevitably affect this electro magnetic activity on the skins surface, hence the differing images in accordance with the subjects psychological condition. Psychic healers believe the image is of the mental condition itself, whilst others believe the record is only of the conditions trace, or physical symptom. Looking at these pictures it is easy to imagine that the artists hands are exuding some kind of magical power. Either that or she has very sweaty hands.