Louise K Wilson
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Possessed | 1995

Visual and textual materials were collected following my participation in several physiological and psychological research studies in various laboratories. This 'data' was then reconfigured (edited, manipulated and collaged) for the participatory video installation Possessed (1995) which gave form to the 'disturbing experience of separation between consciousness and the body, the sense of oneself as simultaneously both conscious subject and inanimate object, both sensate body and mere data' (Duncan 2000, 147). The discrete boundaries of these studies were purposefully entangled. 

A 'faux' laboratory theatre was staged in an art gallery - incorporating MRI/PET imagery collected from both a study I had participated in ('Study by positron emission tomography of the modulation of thalamo-cortical systems during the sleep-waking cycle in humans') and from the archive at the Montreal Neurological Institute (namely, pain perception and visual awareness). Viewers were invited to recline on a burgundy psychoanalyst's couch, raised up on theatre staging - while placing their face just beneath a suspended television monitor showing a looped sequence of animated MRI/PET images. 

This video incorporated an adapted hypnotic induction read by two Doctoral psychology students (a female voice speaking French, a male voice speaking English). In one of the inductions the 'subject'/viewer was asked to imagine (and thus perceive) that their hand was becoming numbed and de-sensitised after being sprayed with Novocain (a local anaesthetic). While 'feeling' this, they were asked to 'erase' the 'target': a pink mass visible in the cut-away structure of a 3D brain. After about four minutes of this repeated suggestion, the target (a visual representation of pain) was almost completely 'erased' - the pink mass was de-saturated. The viewer may fleetingly have believed that they had affected this process in witnessing the change.The viewer was then encouraged to dream about the meaning of sleep (while awake).

Duncan, A. (2000) 'Inside - Outside - Permutation: Science and the Body in Contemporary Art' in ed. Ede, S. (ed) Strange and Charmed: Science and the Contemporary Visual Arts. Callouts Gulbenkian Foundation, London

'Possessed' was originally made for Galerie La Centrale, Montreal in April 1995. It 1996 it was shown in the Science for Life display at the Wellcome Institute, London as part of the The Visible and the Invisible project.

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