This solo show by Marcos Lutyens investigates the interactions that smart phones have on our unconscious processes, including pull notifications. These alerts are notifications requested by user applications that interact with our conscious stream of thought, and more particularly our mood and our inner being.
The idea of the psyche being ‘pulled’ may remind us of Franz Mesmer’s work in the 18th Century that explored the idea of ‘animal magnetism’ and the ‘magnetic fluid’ that was purportedly channeled through the body. Revisiting this idea literally as well as metaphorically, the process behind the work on display includes research into magnetotactic bacteria (MAGBATS), suggestions of magnetic attraction through group and individual hypnosis and 2 dimensional work using metallic and magnetic paints that respond parametrically to pull notifications.
The work in the show includes:
‘Magballet’, the ‘unconscious’ part of our bodies does not just include the area of the mind that Jung and Freud theorized over, but extends to other systems within our bodies called the ‘microbiome’, which is the ecological community of symbiotic, as well as pathogenic microorganisms that inhabit our body space. In this case, we extend the microbiome to include magnetically active bacteria (MAGBATS) and examine the effect that pull notifications have on them over time. The pull notifications, in this case, are generated through a specially programmed app that polls Twitter for the use of a selected series of words. The pull notifications then act on the MAGBATS and influence their behavior, and in turn by implication, affect our behavior as humans.
This exploration of the dynamics between human consciousness, biological consciousness and networked entities is inspired in part by the work of Donna Haraway. who proposed extended relationships across species and other systems based on affinity rather than identity .
“Magballet’ involves the stimulation of magnetotactic bacteria found at Badwater Basin in Death Valley, which also happens to be the lowest on-land location below sea level in the western hemisphere. Two smart-phones hooked up to twitter polled the messaging service about the frequency of the use of words: ‘reproduce’, ‘explore’, ‘recruited’ and ‘transformed’. Whenever these words were used by Twitter users they would be ‘pulled’ by a specially designed app and fed into the bacteria as electromagnetic stimulation.
‘In touch’, a recording of a street-based performance (as part of the musee Georges Pompidou Hors de Pistes series which takes place on May 9 3-6pm), involving the psychological pull that magnetic suggestion has on particpants. Filmed from above, it seems that the individuals who are in a deep hypnotic state are gradually drawn to certain metal elements in their surroundings and appear to behave somewhat like the MAGBATS responding to pull notifications.
Each participant is accompanied by a companion who holds a yellow umbrella above the trance subject. The time-lapse film from above shows how each trance participant oves across the Piazza.
This shift of consciousness may remind us that humans have the ability to sense space in terms of cardinal directions rather than egocentric coordinates. The Guugu Yimithirr speaking Australian aboriginal group is a good example of this type of orientating sense, in which the expression of left, right, front and back is substituted by east, west, north and south.
‘Pull levitation’, a hypnosis induction for visitors to the gallery will give a sense of how the electronic pull of smart phones and magnetotactic orientation shifts our minds and bodies. The induction is situated under a shelter of yellow umbrellas from the ‘in touch’ performance.
‘Cycles’, a series of two dimensional works record the cadence of the pull notifications of the Twitter App: as each pull is added to the rotating surface, turning with time as a rotating clock, a series of networks and associations is formed responding to the sequence that bombards the cell phone, and by extension ourselves. Of interest to Lutyens is the relationship between the primal drives of unicellular organisms and those of humans. Underlying this investigation is a quest to find out more about how the bacterial colonies we carry influence our consciousness, moods and emotions, as another facet of what could be termed the unconscious.