WITH Collective at Chapter

Date posted: November 4, 2011

Chapter Gallery’s Resident opened at the end of September, which seems somewhat of a distant memory from where I am now, but its relevance resurfaced at last night’s discussion on False Memory with Professor Christopher French and WITH Collective artist Alistair.

WITH are an art collective; their intervention within Chapter’s gallery has involved a very physical transformation (though people may be somewhat used to seeing part of the café in what was (and still is) the gallery space!).  This presence though is hard to define; essentially WITH are a set of idea’s that exist in a state of flux, for they live experiences on our behalf.  Sometimes I can get my head around this, other times comprehension fades and I’m left slightly baffled, but WITH would explain themselves as providing experimental solutions to the most everyday experience (even getting out of bed in the mornings), they will adopt some of the most personal aspects of our lives, and in a way allow us to release ourselves from the baggage of lived experience, as we can trust that WITH will take this on board for us.

The exhibition itself took the form of an extension to Chapter’s café, a series of CCTV-like images documenting communications via text message hung on the walls.  Perhaps the only clue of something strange afoot were the leaflets placed on the tables that suggested WITH were already acting on our behalf as we sat and read the information, but the audience remains unsure as to what exactly they are part of?!  The exhibition continues if the individual chooses to pass the turnstile for a small fee, at which point I collected my limited edition artwork and entered into a space between a room, within a room.  Yes, that’s right, the space between a room within a room, only, the audience is not permitted to enter any further, becoming observers of this space through convex traffic mirrors, intensely studying the objects of a bedroom and constructing the narratives within.

Psychologist Christopher French opened with two interesting points; first, that memory cannot give us exact details so we constantly fill in the gaps to make sense of the whole without realising, and second, that there is rarely someone to challenge the accuracy of our memory.  French went on to talk us through the very nature of memory and some of the psychology of false memories, explaining how as individuals we enter into constructive processes that feed off many different areas of experience, from actual events, influences, distorted reflections and our imagination, disrupting our very understanding of the real.  French also described instances of memory conformity (whereby a verbal suggestion can sway experience), intentional blindness (the tendency to become completely absorbed in one thing) and the authority figure of memory.

WITH are in the very business of selling experiences and such processes of encoding memory seem particularly relevant within our highly commodified, fast paced and over-exposed technological society; asking, what do we chose not to see, what are we convinced is true, and how do we even distinguish the real from an elaborate hallucination anymore?!  Essentially, WITH raises the question of how we construct and deal with our own realities, and reveal unnervingly, the fragile threshold between fiction and what we think we know to be real.

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