About the Mind

Hamilton

Shaun Gladwell: Endoscopic Vanitas (2009-2011): Installation view at Campbelltown Arts Centre (2010). Human skull, endoscopes, electronics, fog screen, lighting, sound. Electronics and fabrication: Leigh Russell. Images courtesy the McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton.Shaun Gladwell: Endoscopic Vanitas (2009-2011): Installation view at Campbelltown Arts Centre (2010). Human skull, endoscopes, electronics, fog screen, lighting, sound. Electronics and fabrication: Leigh Russell. Images courtesy the McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton.

By Krystina Mierins

About the Mind
McMaster Museum of Art
January 24 – March 30, 2013

About the Mind requires contemplation and time as neither the works nor the curatorial thesis are easily accessible, a challenge appropriate in the context of a university art gallery. The show, curated by Ihor Holubizky, explores illusions of the (un)knowable through the work of Mischa Kuball, Wyn Geleynse, Paulette Phillips and Shaun Gladwell.

The genesis of this exhibition was Kuball’s Platon’s Mirror (2011), which was inspired by Plato’s cave allegory in which he distinguishes between the reality of the tangible world and the (true) reality of ideas. This complex philosophical concept is investigated in a film installation in a side gallery that becomes a space analogous to Plato’s cave. The video is projected through a foil-like surface that disrupts the images but still allows light to flicker and dance across the walls and floor. In Plato’s cave, reality was limited to its representation in shadows. In Kuball’s cave, viewers are free to assess the projection, light and shadow, and the mediating curtain, but are no closer to defining reality.

As viewers exit the “cave” into the bright light of the main space, they encounter a large photograph leaning against its crate on the opposite side of the gallery. The image, printed on metal, captures the three-dimensional appearance of the reflective curtain; the mediator of the reality of the film projection has moved beyond the limits of the cave. The two-dimensional simulacrum requires continued re-assessment of representation, illusion and the construction of reality.

Paulette Phillips: The Directed Lie (2012 - ongoing): Video installation. 230 portraits, 23-hour video with sound, seven books, desk, computer, speakers.Paulette Phillips: The Directed Lie (2012 - ongoing): Video installation. 230 portraits, 23-hour video with sound, seven books, desk, computer, speakers.Geleynse invites viewers into an impossible space. Untitled (2012) features a previously made model of a gallery, in which a new video work is shown. The use of headphones requires that an audience of one commit to an immersive experience as the mind projects the viewer into the miniature gallery to consume the film. The artist disrupts spatial expectations forcing re-evaluation of the boundary between the actual and the imagined.

Phillips’ The Directed Lie (2009 – ongoing) exposes the hazy nature of seemingly categorical polygraph tests in videos of subjects who display a range of emotions and uncertainties that belie the reliability of the simple yes/no answers. Artists are asked provocative questions about the existence of bad art, their success, and whether they are ever jealous of the accomplishments of fellow artists. Although Phillips does not reveal the results of the polygraphs, the subjects’ reactions may be as effective as the machine for uncovering the accuracy of answers.

Gladwell’s Endoscopic Vanitas (2009 – 2011) exposes new perspectives of the (un)familiar as the viewer can observe real-time close-up footage of the interior of a human skull. The organic bone contrasts the machinations that turn, film and display it. The television screen that facilitates our observation of the skull is stripped of its designed frame, further distancing this experience from a commonplace interaction with the ubiquitous television set. The rarely seen concave surface is laid bare in a technically complex work, and yet nothing new is revealed in our understanding of the mind’s myriad complexities beyond our grasp.

Cognition of reality is now almost entirely defined by external factors. About the Mind provokes reconsideration of this limited perspective, and points to a multitude of potential interpretations.