Narcissus Trance is a new mixed media exhibition taking place in London over the period June 26 – August 8.
The show, presented in association with the Tricycle, launches on June 25 at the E:vent Gallery in East London, with live performances from New York’s Rose Kallal and Karl O’Connor (AKA Regis, subject of a recent FACT feature) – collaborating with Mick Harris, AKA Scorn.
Curators Shama Khanna and Paul Purgas explain the concept behind Narcissus Trance:
The exhibition explores McLuhan’s premise that the technological dynamics of the present are concealed from human perception via an innate protective mechanism he defined as the Narcissus Trance. A process that anaesthetises the nervous system in order to allow technological media to merge with the mind. During the advent of consumer electronics, McLuhan warned that the new dawning age of instantaneity would produce an accelerated phase of transition that would lead ultimately to ‘pain and identity loss’ in humanity as the nervous system struggled to compensate for an ever increasing rate of change. He believed the only hope for the future given this predicament was to break the feedback loop imposed by the trance, and instead access technological media through a state of active conscious awareness. Within his ambition he proposed artists to be the instigators of this mass shift in perception.
Reading McLuhan forty years later, when human DNA is now being shorthanded as ‘software’ and the internet is deemed as important as electricity, his warning still rings clear. Although many of the artist practices put forward by the exhibition make use of technology on a habitual basis, their work is a result of processes that short circuit the defined functionality of its purpose as a simple tool. It is logical that several of the artists adopt the hypnotic formalisms of the trance itself, almost folding the mechanism back on itself, using the media to push the viewer further inside as if the only way out might be through. In a world where creative impulses have been eroded by the convenience of our relationship with endless appliances and applications, the artists return to atavistic and heightened perceptual currencies to affect a ‘tuning out’ of this self-fulfilling loop.
The exhibition is the first part of an artist research platform that will also include a second exhibition at Bristol’s Spike Island in January 2011. In addition to O’Connor and Harris, participating artists include Wade Guyton, International Necronautical Society, Sayshun Jay, Rose Kallal & Mark Beasley, Takeshi Murata, Turner Prize-nominated Mark Titchner, Sara VanDerBeek, Ben Washington and Joe Watling.
The critical outcomes of the project will be released as a limited edition publication with a specially commissioned text from Wire and FACT contributor Mark Fisher, and a 7″ vinyl record featuring exclusive music from Karl O’Connor & Mick Harris. We’ve got two copies of the 7″ to give away to FACT readers – if you’d like to be entered into the draw to win one, simply e-mail your name and the words ‘Narcissus Trance’ to email@example.com.