Text by Joshua Wilson
Two eyes stuck to an insufferable body of opinions, of facts and falsifications – and the cathodic screen pressed to any encroaching wall and upon boxes in our pockets… currently in the gallery space of The Newbridge Project in central Newcastle upon Tyne the work of Scottish, London-based artist Steven Dickie displays a kind of muted existential wriggle. A Hypertrophied Eye is a 6-week long exhibition comprised of film, sculpture and sound.
When entering, the viewer pushes through three draped cellophane sheets coloured red, green and blue (or RGB – the colour model most often used in the display of electronic systems, such as televisions and computers). The room consists of two HD videos and a sculptural sound arrangement in the centre, emitting carnal noises from some estranged mouth, throat or nose. Two speakers face each other and the sound is contained via an encompassing acrylic tube broken in the middle by a microphone connected up to an amp – suggesting an invitation to reciprocate noise within the space. On the wall opposite to the entrance, a video is washed in white; it depicts the outline of a severed eye in motion, an autonomous limb that doubles as an actor in a film occupying the majority of the frame. The high-opacity animation is projected from a central vantage point and the image is thus received upon the wall. Only until the viewer walks across its path and intercepts the projection does one realise that it is in fact not only one image, but two – one layered over the other. By stepping in front of one of the two projectors, the opaque viewer literally allows for a new visibility of the irritable eye.
Upon another wall plays the film: ‘The Problem of Explaining a Thunk’, the 17-minute tale of an unknown protagonist whom after waking and acclimatising to the day’s activities (played by the artist) becomes obsessed with a particular geometric pattern. After pursuing a series of object experiments that imbue Dickie’s own playful physicality within the show, the protagonist then finds himself at the end of a silent quest, entering into a blue room within a rural wasteland clutching only a coloured stick. There he finds a surreal CGI character planted at the front of a cinema watching a film that depicts the protagonist himself. The remainder of the film is a microcosm of the preceding film, repeated within a series of randomly coded time lapse versions each lasting only 3-4 seconds.
Interestingly, the title may inadvertently be a concise play on the purpose of information technology and a statement about the current climate of our gratifying approach to accessible digitised knowledge. When the ‘i’ of think is removed and replaced with the ‘u’, in its place we have a thunk. Thus the action of thought is allegorically replaced with the autonomy of a noise, a beat or a pulse – or rather, impulse. From think to thunk, forever and always.
Joshua Wilson is an artist and writer based in Newcastle upon Tyne. He runs the collaborative project ‘Dennis Isou’ with fellow artist Mark Bleakley and is currently a programmer for Musee Imaginaire.