From 17-22nd July I exhibited with the Keeley Street Collective (keeleystreetcollective.com) at the Espacio Gallery in Shoreditch.
The show provided an insight into the culmination of two years of personal exploration from 26 artists.
My exhibited works consisted of two immersive multi-media installations created with the intention of invoking an altered state of consciousness ("ASC") in the viewer.
Both works combined repetitive ethereal visuals with binaural beats (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4428073/) to entrain the viewer into a trance like state where the sense of self-dissolves and the mind is captivated in the act of sensory experience.
These works draw reference from meditation, club culture and performance art.
"Black Moth Dreams", Multi Media Installation
The title of this piece is taken from the name of a electronic composition written and produced by Simple Machine (soundcloud.com/simple_machine). The artist was suffering from insomnia when track was developed giving it a hypnogogic/hypnopopic quality, i.e. it sits in a place somewhere between sleep and conscious awareness. This track forms the basis for the final audio and is integral in creating a trance like state in the viewer.
Presented in a mirror box, supported by a wooden plinth, the viewer is required to stoop over to view the work and once accompanied with the sound, finds themselves in an immersive environment.
"Phasing", Multi-Media Installation
In 1965, the American Minimalist composer Steve Reich (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Steve_Reich) started experimenting with looping techniques using tapes and accidentally discovered "phasing" as a technique of composition. The technique involves a repetitive phrase being played by two instruments at slightly different tempi.
The two instruments gradually shift out of unison, creating first a slight echo as one instrument plays a little behind the other, then a doubling with each note heard twice, then a complex ringing effect, and eventually coming back through doubling and echo into unison.
My work references the work of Steve Reich, a forefather of electronic music, by using phasing as a video composition technique. The video was displayed as part of a mixed media installation, binaural beats audio and hanging reflective objects were used to create a constantly changing and layered audio visual experience designed to invoke an heightened state of consciousness.
As with any art project, there is never an "end" and I see multiple ways to take the work further or refine the experience. The most exciting prospect is the possibility in working at a larger scale and being able to create an environment which is more conducive to invoking an ASC.
ASCs sit on a scale of arousal which can be measured by the frequency of brain wave activity. Low frequencies are associated with dreaming or hypnosis whilst high frequencies are associated with trance or psychedelic experience.
I can see my work expanding outside of the traditional gallery space into a whole host of different environments and audiences. The work has a neurological basis which could be presented to the scientific community and in the case of low arousal, could be used as mental therapy. High arousal works would sit well in a festival or club environment.
For low arousal ASCs I think comfort is an important factor and viewers should be able to sit down. This would allow muscle tension to be released and if a state of deep relaxation is then entered this could invoke a feeling of weightlessness. The body feels weightless when shear is zero, i.e. the force of the body on the surface are equal and opposite. Hammocks, bean bags, rocking chairs and lazy boys could all by useful in this regard.
At the other end of the spectrum high arousal ASCs are associated with sensory overload. Repetitive drum beats, quickening tempos, flashing lights and dynamic visuals can be combined to dramatic effect. This has already been mastered by super-clubs around the world through the use of strobe lighting, lasers and AV displays. I will need to consider how such experiences can be reproduced on a much smaller scale and budget.
Electroencephalography (EEG) is an electrophysiological monitoring method to record electrical activity of the brain. This technology is currently being used to operate robots and is also available to consumers as a "wearable" to help with meditation. This technology could be integrated into an audio-visual soundscape which responds to the brain activity of the viewer creating a completely personalised experience. Currently out of reach but something to aspire to!