Defining Consciousness, Pitching my Wares & Erotic Vegetables. All in a day's work. #1
So, not once, twice but third time lucky I trek back to the Wellcome Collection, determined to get to grips with States of Mind without having to dart through an obstacle course of artefacts and ludicrous amounts of people like a race to the finish line. At last I get to feed my brain a little and chill the hell out. I have an hour until my meeting in the Reading Room, so I park in front of each display letting the people around me filter away.
As I meander through ‘States of Mind- Tracing the Edges of consciousness’, I am confronted by thematic sub-sections. Science & Soul, Sleep & Awake, Language & Memory, Being & Not Being, do as the title suggests; trace only the edges of the notions surrounding consciousness and the meaning and context of the individual artefacts.
What ties the whole together is a dark unsettling feeling of just what we don’t know. Artworks are placed next to scientific artefacts as an example of how we seek to define and solve these problems according to cultural interpretation. This arrangement undermines their very meaning and context. Evidence from scientific experiments remain un-interpreted and the unusual mix of centuries, cultures and disciplines that are so crucial to Wellcome Collection’s identity seem haphazard and inconsistent.
Rapidly propelled through attempts to define consciousness or the soul make William Blake’s ‘The Soul hovering over the Body reluctantly parting with life’ feel like a childish metaphor for a complex notion that is followed by notes on scientific theories.
Instead of demonstrating each enquiry, its themes are often represented through token objects whose relationships to the viewer are tenuous. Why show the cover of a Kandinsky book when you can explore the expressionism and the experience its effects through an artwork?
Represented rather than unpacked, ‘States of Mind is “an iconography of neuroscience”, picked up from one of the labels, this sums up the entire exhibition. I am made increasingly aware of the questions this exhibition proposes and leaves unanswered. It is an unsettling display of knowledge that heightens our lack of it.
Nipping next door, Medicine Man’s cosy and beautiful polished wood interior provides the comfort I need to prepare for the next trauma of the day. I am pitching an idea for the Reading Room’s open programme. A re-working of ‘How Do You Take It?' my little immersive theatre piece and a relocation of site- to the Reading Room itself. Fingers crosseddddddd!!!!!
Read all about this, Medicine Man and Saatchi in the next couple of posts to follow!!