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Every Thought There Ever Was

Jamie Sutcliffe
Source publication: 
Art Monthly
Press date: 
October 2018


I have published this review in spite of feeling it has missed the essence of the work. Without wanting to seem churlish - but being it, I have tried to answer the points of the reviewer.

 Sutcliffe's reference of "a litany of somewhat clichéd abject metaphors for states of distraction...

I would say that to make the screens fly on robots–carrying the image of flies, gives the signifier another agency; a new meaning. But I am unsure what fly Sutcliffe refers to - there is also an hermaphrodite green, part human, part fly avatar.

I am drawn to archetypes as being the stuff of dreams and the unconscious, one could mistake a cliché for an archetype (re. 'past times' as 'pastimes' (McLuhan)). But these two states are potentially interchangeable, any cliché can be rescued by becoming an archetype and any archetype can fall into cliché? I do not agree that I failed in this transition. One could say that most reported paranoid hallucinations have a number of common tropes (clichés) that are excessive in affect. Yet the power of their subjectivity elevates them from being hackneyed. Ideas such as television or radio addressing us directly are common and archetypal, one could call them clichéd -  until you hear a genuine encounter of this from first person narratives, so heavy with the weight of this surveillance that to call them clichéd is not relevant.  It is not the content of fly, radio mast or maggot in itself that carries the burden of representation but it is the subjective evocation that shapes it. Feeling + signifier may not in any case be linked tightly - it may be the maggot that cleans the wound and brings relief, the iridescence of the fly's wing that has spectacular beauty. But here the screen produces them - the robot produces them - screen and projection are one.

In this work ETTEW there is an abundance of incessant imagery that fractures and glitches. However the imagery in the work is not solely from my own seemingly inadequate 'hackneyed mind' but is generated by my working method, which is not based on an individualised response as such but takes the 'content' from the pot of all that arises in the subject, what is pervasive collectively.

"Seers' is deeply reverent to her subject as is attested by her wall mounted research library" Sutcliffe

I am not sure what 'reverence' means here - but it seems to imply that I am ignorant to the truth of what I am doing by an act of blind faith (not analytical). I would strongly contest this.The information Sutcliffe refers to was sourced from the public  library which  the gallery is housed in and was not selected by me.  This offering of books is more a gallery policy than a requirement of mine, although I thought it may be an interesting addition.

But I couldn't shake the feeling that the title of the work prioritised an artistic fascination with the metaphorical potential of the altered realities and perceptual peculiarities of psychosis, rather than engaging some of the broader more challenging problems it provoked, for example in the material configuration of the work itself : slick animation and hyper fetishised robotics. Principally what was needed was a fuller acknowledgement of its own complicity within the ubiquitous distribution of images that cultivates schizoid subjects.

The work often refers to its own complicity. It is riddled with this throughout. Perhaps a single viewing is not enough for the density of what is presented. What seems cathartic in the work turns bad and then is recovered. There is no stability from the schizoid robots.

In terms of the title being romanized - there are some minds that have presented an inability to forget - this is a medical fact. The title draws on the potential capacity of a brain inspired by a famous mathematician who explained to me that the numbers were so great in terms of neural activity that they were evading calculation. neuroscience science is struggling to create the mathematics required. I do not consider the overload of sensory information (that is consistently brought up through out the work) as a romanticised idea but an idea that has been posited to me by various researchers (psychologists, neuroscientists) but more commonly by diagnosed schizophrenics who experienced this sense of unmanageable onslaught. A dissolution of hierarchies or shift in hierarchies is part of this. It simply is not the case that the 'ubiquitous distribution of images' cultivates schizoid subjects (as stated by Sutcliffe). The condition (schizophrenia) is identified with a wiring of the brain that differs significantly from what is designated as normative. Schizophrenia  is not psychologically shaped by image distribution in any sense as iterated by Sutcliffe - but is innate.

In terms of the form I have used for the work Sutcliffe defines this as replicating the problem I seem to want to address - with "slickness and fetishisation". My references are Bergson, Deleuze,Guattari and Massaumi, alongside neuroscience. The relationship between human and machine is something that the work critiques within itself.

Daily in ordinary life I despair of the robots and automated systems, why not use a human voice? It was an interesting proposition to acquire these small robots and make their function part of the mechanism of my own image production,;the machines for cinema do not differ from these small scale technical robots. All that the image can do can not be zeroed by discourses on capitalism.

The use of digital imagery does not come from a desire to be slick  but arose from the Avatar therapy. It reflects my impulse to rethink the avatar as cathartic rather than as a narcissistic extension of selfhood. It is the possibility of the schizophrenic to take hallucination as real that defines avatar therapy. The complete assimilation of the avatar as an inner demon - through technology  brings into question the power if these virtual images over any mind. What are virtual images in general to consciousness. I expect you to question the voices in the work. They shift and oscillate.

Bergson wrote that the mind that has nothing to do with the camera. Deleuze challenged that and gave us the possibility of changing consciousness with cinema (French new Wave). Sutcliffe's idea that the systems I have used (robotics and animation) are shaped by normative drives hence zeroing them out -  is excessively reductive. It takes no account of how the works signification of the robots constantly shifts throughout the work in their subjective implications, from demon to saviour, from surveillance device to dream, from hallucination to the every day. they are not screens they are agents in the work.

Sutcliffe's text offers a social political criticism of the work (the problem of using robots or animation at all) - seemingly shaped by the politics of  Evan Calder Williams, but taking on the capitalist critique of this author Sutcliffe does not take into account ETTEW representations of a genderless hive mind (a unified consciousness found in animals and insects)  presented in the narrative and the dissolution of language as outlined in the piece, and how this will contribute to a completely reconfigured future world - not shaped by identity politics and capitalism. The robots themselves speak of their utter redundancy for the future. That an organic system is needed for evolution is misunderstood by Sutcliffe. But this is another argument that perhaps seems self evident that I will not expand on here.

The closing comments in the review on shard theatre are oddly unclear. ETTEW consciously calls on fragmentation of consciousness, the plethora of composite images  and all that is outlined in what Sutcliffe calls a brilliant phrase (Shard Cinema). The list proposes a set of premises that constitutes ETTEW as if it has never considered.

The list JS gives describes the work and ends with an idea that the work need to become what it already is?

In addition I would  like to offer this testimony from the gallery. Admittedly Sutcliffe's motivations for putting things in the world are significantly different from my own.

Gallery Statement:

I wanted to let you know that we have had such a high number of positive responses from people who have been to see the exhibition, particularly from people who have schizophrenia or who have a friend or relative who have schizophrenia. They’ve been particularly affected by the work, saying they found it to be honest and accurate, and the relatives have appreciated an insight into how much their loved ones are trying to process. It has also had an enormous impact on a great number of young people who don’t usually engage with the gallery, they went in because they were excited to experience something different but came out with a more serious line of questions and were more thoughtful and empathetic for people with mental health conditions. Being on the front desk and discussing your work with each of the visitors that have engaged with it has been extremely moving and I wanted to share a little of that with you and to thank you for producing such an affecting piece of work that has helped create a positive community experience for so many of us around on such a sensitive subject.