Three series of works were created in response to the notion of Victorian Spiritualism and the practice of automatic writing as a form of communication, trace of action, and deception.
The first, came about through an initial response to the site of the Portico Library in Manchester; a space which recalls the Victorian era in its appearance and holds a number of texts from this era, including a number linked to natural and super natural phenomena. Intervening into the space of the library with a fictional work seemed to lend a sense of authority, with each validating the other as genuine artefact and the subject of collection.
(Work exhibited February 2012, as part of Curious Pursuits, The Portico Library and Gallery, Manchester.)
This play between reality and fiction in the authorised space was important to the work, and continued with the intervention into Bletchley Park Museum. In both cases the situation of the work in the library and museum contexts shifted the pieces into being viewed as potentially genuine, in a way they might not be within the contemporary gallery, where the fictions and deceit might be more expected.
(Work exhibited September 2012, as part of Ghost Station, Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes. Curated by Arthertz.)
The work was presented as genuine archival finds from a collection bequeathed to an assumed character (my own involvement was cited as the archivist/researcher working with the collection) a Spiritualist medium whose niece held the artefacts. This was given as the explanation to both the audience and curators. How far they were receptive to the given narrative was uncertain, a number of layers were open to questioning: the narrative of how and why the work was in an exhibition, the supposed ‘translation’ of the automatic writing, the practice of the writing itself. The play between reality and fiction in this type of document – when dealing with blurred realities – allowed for multiple readings. I became interested in where my own duplicity ended, and where that of the medium began.
(Exhibition images courtesy Arthertz)
As the series developed I also considered the influence of other artists who had used automatic writing as an element of their practice, as a manner of mark making or physchic experiment. The pieces produced became less focused on re-producing an effect or artefact, but rather creating the trace of an action and leaving the interpretation of that work to the viewer.