How do you write about a show like Group Therapy, how do you convert the experienced of this multi-layered, complex collection of works. Without controlling or predetermining the virgin viewers perceptions.
Also as the exhibition (or expedition) is the exploration of the juncture between mental health and contemporary technologies. Can I make it through without a hackneyed and redundant statements like: ‘people be crazy’ or ‘who’s the truly insane?’
What is my experience of this subject? It mostly comes from my favourite authors, Philip K Dick. Who famously went through a major psychotic transformation or breakdown, which gave us the book VALIS. I think the point I’m trying to make is that within my nominal mind is the idea of mental breakdown as a transforming experience, one of potential and change.
This feels like a fantasy. Often mental distress is accompanied by fear and isolation. My small experience of this came through the experience of anxiety attacks. Perhaps a very common form of mental distress. Though many people have similar experience, as far as you’re aware you’re the only one to feel this way.
How can you express any experience of mental activity? If you could then at least you could begin to understand what’s happening to you and therefore others can understand. Which seems to be the mission of Jennifer Kanary Nikolov(a)’s Labyrinth Psychotica. An attempt to recreate the conditions of psychosis in a psychical experience.
Once in that maze, grabbing and reaching for the curtains which define the maze. Textures change, alter I keep my hand up feeling the materials as they pass my hand. This becomes at once worrying and yet comforting. As you field of vision becomes a grey palette what you’re walking into become less defined. The fabric walls increasingly become your world, they ground you.
The sensation is that you might be falling but your falling in the right direction. They might be huge gaps that are going to swallow you, but they’re your gaps, your path.
Though at first that path seems short as I get stuck going back and forth from the start to the first hallucination post. This posts of bright LED lights throw up images when you quickly dart your eyes back and forth. In do so an image of Marilyn Monroe floats in front of me. I think of Ballard I think of The Atrocity Exhibition.
Eventually I find a path through bleeping LED lights, number displays flashing its importance. The numbers are relevant somehow. Voices are heard and compete with the knowledge that the only person nearby is the friendly invigilator.
Is this then the essence of mental distress, of psychosis? The ghost experience, of things that are there but not. It’s like the solidification of imagination, these things; feelings exist for me they are part of my world. When these experiences don’t manifest themselves within the world or culture around you that seems to be a problem.
After an encounter with a demanding set of headphones. I find myself stumbling out of the maze, pretty sure of what’s happened but not. Dressed in a lab coat (did I mention you get to wear a lab coat? You do!) The impression of being involved in an experiment is great. The sensations felt while in the Labyrinth Psychotica do leave you with the imprint of the conditions of psychosis and having that can act as a started point to better explain, to lay persons like me, what that term actual means. Therefore you can better understand the person.
Initially I thought I would write more widely about the Group Therapy exhibition. Rather than focus one piece, for me the Labyrinth Psychotica distils some of the themes of this exhibition. From the use of technology to deepen the understanding the individual experience, to how the whole exhibition serves as a ‘maze’ which requires exploration and investigation.
On leaving and after foundling the pillows in the MadLove Asylum I feel the need to return and carry on exploring. Also, somehow, the outside feels different now…