Yes, the title is correct. We got hypnotized. Which is something I truly never thought or really planned to experience in my young life. Let alone in my artistic career. I realized many people let the media control what we believe hypnotism to be. But thanks to local dreamer, artist and librarian, Steve Kemple, I have a new appreciation for the art that is hypnotism. What would typically come to mind when you think about this subject? Immediately you may think - "Just don't make me cluck like a chicken!" or assume your actions fall out of your control. But that's actually not the case. I know, I am just as surprised as you are. Really it's more of a deep trance-like meditation if anything. It's truly an open experience to which you can follow your guide or choose your own path.
When Lindsey asked if I could get a small group of three other volunteers together, I was a bit nervous. Only because I wasn't fully sure on how exactly to sell this commitment. But luckily art students are pretty much down for anything. I knew exactly who I wanted to partake in this experience. And that was the group I had bonded with from August to December of 2018. Lindsey led a performance/sculpture course in which we partook in many long Friday evenings working on performative exercises, readings, field trips and one coffee fueled weekend in Chicago. I just knew that they would be up for the task. Madison Mumma and Lura Bentley: Two out of my three radically brilliant peers who were eager to commit. But we needed one more and word-smith Harris Wheeler immediately came to mind. We were all set and I was confident in the group; for the reason that after the second round of hypnotisms we were to give transcriptions of what we had experienced. But maybe I just wanted to know what was in the subconscious dreams of my peers. (haha)
So flash forward to Tuesday April 30th: A perfect, sunny afternoon. The Contemporary Arts Center in downtown Cincinnati was our destination. Which if you aren't familiar the CAC is (unfortunately) closed on Tuesdays. So we had the place to ourselves, with the exception of my boss and the employees running the lobby. (Being a gallery guard really does have its perks) We had the entire second floor gallery, harboring Archive As Action to do with what we will. And the goal was to get hypnotized! After rounding everyone in the lobby we head up and immediately notice how chilly the space is. Amanda Curreri's flags hang stagnant without the breeze of patrons floating around them, Cal Cullen's typewriter sit in silence. But that was not what we were here for today. Around the corner from a long corridor was a soft glow hanging from the ceiling, framed in orange and yellow, peering down over us. This photograph features a concept Lindsey had been dreaming about for quite some time.
*Photo by Grace DuVal*
- Below are some photos of folks interacting with the ceiling photograph
Dreaming about a dream? How meta! So here we are laying on the gallery floor in almost complete darkness. With only the glow of this portrait to encase us. Steve begins by setting up the ambiance: some light ocean noise. It’s clear now that we’re off to the beach - So as we start drifting off Steve guides us calmly into trance like meditation. We see it now. The water, it’s warmer than the gallery floor. The subtle rush of the waves in the background. We’re on a beach. There’s caves, glowing figures (much like the ones in the photo), giant beetles, boxes and.. a didgeridoo?
At this point we’re in silence, with the exception of some throat singing (courtesy of Steve) maybe this is where the idea of the masked man playing the didgeridoo came in? It was comforting in a very obscure way. This place felt protected and safe.
Another thing I haven’t mentioned is the concept of “the box.” Which was set in place by Steve to help record your dreams so you may either look back or visit them again. The consensus was that it exists as a small gray cube placed upon your forehead. Since this I’m convinced my own dreams have been more lucid and I’m able to recall them for a longer time. Maybe the box is responsible?
Shortly after Steve brought us back into the meadow and we began to regain consciousness. I looked up once again to the glowing portrait above. It was like we were transported straight out of the piece. I couldn’t believe this was a real experience we just had! (It also felt like the best nights sleep I’d ever had) even though we weren’t technically sleeping. So as we awake we meet back to access what our boxes have gathered. And though we all chose to do different things - we all saw the same things? It was like actually being inside the elusive collective unconscious. Honestly what’s truly mind blowing about this experience is how we each took such similar, yet different paths. All starting at the meadow/hallway and either gravitating towards a cave on the beach, or going off on a completely different narrative. Harris and I ended up in the same cave with a masked man. Madison ignored the cave completely and continued on down the beach, only to encounter elephant sized beetles. And Lura floated into a hallway for some time.
My favorite part has to be how we got the opportunity to interact and experience a piece of art this way. It’s become one giant chain of collaboration that exists by itself but also can’t continue without the next rendition. Like I stated before this photo began as a dream Lindsey had and was eventually brought into reality with the help of friends Grace DuVal, Jake Vogds and husband Clint Basinger. Jake and Clint modeled Lindsey’s work while Grace photographed. The photo was then turned into the light box we were hypnotized under. And will now be turned into a performance by Steve utilizing a giant choir robe that was a previous prop in another performance at the library. It’s really never ending! I think it’s truly amazing how friends/peers can continue to build on concepts such as this one. As artists it is vital to make that piece you’ve been dreaming a reality. Because you never really know what else it can become or inspire.