Every Thought There Ever Was
New Large Scale Work (Under Development)
Seers’ 'Every Thought There Ever Was' will be exhibited in long-run slots that coincide with major arts festivals in Manchester and Edinburgh as part of a three-way curatorial collaboration between Film and Video Umbrella, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester and Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, and collaborations with Universities of Manchester, Edinburgh and Sussex.
'Every Thought There Ever Was' will be a moving-image installation that explores the phenomenon of consciousness, evoking the miraculous complexity of this mysterious feature of our existence, whilst also suggesting its mutability, its uncertainty and fragmentary qualities. It will be staged in a constructed space over three moving projection screens. These circular screens will take on aspects of normal and hallucinatory conscious experience; they will be robotically controlled, tilting to receive and reject imagery, patterns and colours. The structure and nature of the imagery will be related to brain functioning rather than the tradition of filmmaking. Although consciousness may seem to be a unified field often it seems that the reality may be quite different. The coming together and breaking apart of conscious perceptions of the world and the self is a recurring motif for Seers' artwork. The piece will reflect these shifting, fluctuating natures of our perceptions of reality.
The work will draw on a wellspring of philosophical ideas and contemporary scientific findings. A particular focus will be on current and historical perceptions/representations of schizophrenia, in literature, philosophy and science. The light that neuroscientific study might shine on the elusive, variable nature of consciousness in general is an important element of the research for the work.
Seers will be searching for a form of editing sound, image, light and environment that relates to the analysis of schizophrenia – in which potentially the hierarchy of attention becomes fragmented and excessively differentiated rather than integrated, so narrative no longer forms a unifying function.
The work draws on a number of collaborations. At the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science, Professor Anil Seth examines the effect of exposure to virtual reality on our sense of self, our perception of our body and our experience of subjective 'reality'. Other work at the Sackler Centre is focused on unraveling the biological basis of consciousness itself.
Elsewhere, the hallucinatory conviction that a body is in a place when in fact it is not has been used in an ameliorative way by Professor Julian Leff. Leff creates avatars that represent 'the persecutors' in the minds of schizophrenia sufferers and uses this as a means of treatment. The patient has absolute belief that the avatar is real and present.
The capacity of even the healthy mind to take as real filmic/digital images raises questions about the power of virtual reality. How do we process and interpret what is spatially and temporally real and does this significantly differ from our register of the digital? How does this affect our actions, perceptions and beliefs? Is everything equivalent in perception, given that real space/time is always overlaid with imagined images from our own past experiences?
With an ambition to create effective collaborations Seers’ will work alongside Seth and his researchers at the Sackler Centre, where she will explore situations in which a viewer will (mis)take a visual image. Seth's ongoing work with postdoctoral research fellow Keisuke Suzuki, manipulating experiences of bodily and worldly 'reality' within an ostensibly Cartesian space of 3D computer generated virtual environments demonstrates how the relationship between self and surroundings can be surprisingly fraught with slippages and blind spots - an observation that strikes a chord with Seers' aesthetic, with its accent on audience immersion, and its regular plays with disjunction, disorientation and illusion. Seers' interest in doubles, distorted mirror images and phantom projections of the self also finds an echo in Seth's planned investigations into psychiatric patients' responses to these virtual scenarios. Seers is keen to discover more on this through their continuing exchanges, and to continue contact with Professor Chris Frith, a pioneer in schizophrenia research, and someone who contributed to Seers' earlier project 'Human Camera', (2007). Seers is attracted to Frith's early ideas that the schizophrenic condition is an issue at the level of 'meta-representation' (i.e. in the conceptual modelling of reality, such as the awareness of the self being conscious of itself). The experimental study of such meta-cognitive processes in schizophrenia is still in its infancy, but it builds on a growing body of work suggesting that individuals with schizophrenia show a specific overweighting of current sensory data with respect to their prior perceptual hypotheses, which might underlie perceptual hallucinations and their evolution into delusions as the condition develops. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19050712)
Feeding into this process also will be a series of parallel researches Seers intends to undertake with Jon Oberlander, Head of the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh. The problems of embodiment and consciousness are also essential concerns for robotics. Professor Oberlander, with Reader in Infomatics Subramanian Ramamoorthy - will help inform the robot intelligence behind the screens, which also has a conceptual resonance. The fact that the screens move and appear to react to one another and for the audience, will invite a degree of anthropomorphism: that the screens are, in a sense, 'alive', and with 'a mind of their own'. Like other examples of intelligent robotics, they may have been programmed to be aware of each other's presence and movement. How much of such 'awareness' in a machine is required before it can be considered 'conscious'?
Collaborations with Manchester University are under development, with the desire to work with a number of different research groups working with psychosis and hearing voices.