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More notes on thoughts leading up to Every Thought There Ever Was

Schizophrenia as a subject, a subject that is defined by its form and a form that is defined by its subject.

Statistics for mental health problems are on the rise and it is still unknown what impact technologies can have or are having on our mental stability. Although there are concerns for the impact of long hours absorbed in front of screens, these technologies also are proving to have some positive impacts on well-being and are being used as a means of effective treatment for elements of mental illness. But can we treat a problem with one of it's potential causes (technology)?

Schizophrenia has become a means in clinical and neuro-scientific study of understanding the extent to which the human brain can mistake hallucination as absolute reality. Defined by some as an organic brain disease schizophrenia reveals the possible slippage in representation and translation of information in brain functioning. Influenced by the work of an eminent psychologist working with avatars to cure schizophrenia, neuroscientists exploring activity in non-normative brains, an interest in philosophical and literary references to schizophrenia and on a personal level, working with a talented art student who was later diagnosed with schizophrenia, I want to continue and expand these collaborations and interests to create a series of works that are aligned with new discoveries about concsciousness. These collaborations should represent a meaningful attempt to move away from tropes of cinema/video art and sculpture (which have ultimately evolved with a specific philosophy of time and space and concept of self). I intend to find new neurologically based language that exposes the nature of perception, its integration and disintegration in this new era of technologies. This technological period has been defined as the age of the neuro image and the epoc of the technical image.
This being a brain-centered era our understanding of memory (autobiographical and historical) has become one of ‘a process’ and this relates to notions of neural networks and synapses – re-entry, place neurons and mirror neurons, ideas that all influence our preconceptions and imagined experience of perception. Pisters speaks of a digital baroque, my understanding of this is in terms of both the excess of digitally enhanced films but also the idea of the complexity of brain functioning that are still only partially addressed in the unresolved mathematical problems of Information Theory (which underpins contemporary neuro-scientific findings).

Recently having spent three weeks resident in the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science with Anil Seth and his team I revisited their work with the Oculus Rift VR headset to research questions of the effect of subjectivity through an augmented reality as defined in neuroscience.
Does this device alter brain functioning significantly from straight forward visual perception? Oculus Rift is still an emergent technology with 2016 seeing it being rolled out to the consumer market. These clearly constructed animated worlds still bring with them the resultant phenomenal bodily responses to the movement in space that the VR draws out. The physical signals are as convincing as any other every day embodied ‘real’ experience. Particularly at the early stages of the use of the headset the viewer can experience a problem with motin sickness and also a strong dichotomy between the real and virtual - something akin to ‘out of body experiences’ or lucid dreaming. One enters ones virtual body and floats through space as the perceptual floor falls away – it feels real even if at times it does not look it.  There is also something akin to hallucination experience of the VR headset. As one looks away from an object and it slips into periphery of vision, on a return glance back to the same object one finds it subtly changed, one doubts if it has or if memory is mistaken – unsure one looks away and back again then finds it entirely removed. These shifts in perception feel uneasy, uncanny and also trouble the viewers sense of agency – are things changing because ‘I’ have misread them or simply triggered because ‘I’ look away – am ‘I’ the trigger for change? The sense of the world as a construct hovers around the experience but who is constructing this world? A belief that the brain is producing the world is a common idea in neuroscience but Paul Fletcher (a neuroscientist at Cambridge University who is working with gamers to produce a high spec Playstation Game that address’s hallucination and mental illness) refers to how ‘the brain is simply a model of the world and is never more or less than this.’  I experienced the VR work Paul has been developing and found myself clinging to my chair and screaming on a virtual fairground ride and even when I had my eyes closed through terror my stomach continued lurching!