20 minutes of action
For as long as I can remember I’ve seen the world in a way that is apparently abnormal but only realised this 2 years ago. One night on commenting on how hazy the lights outside looked that night; my parents pulled their hair and gnashed their teeth, fearing I had early-onset cataracts.
An enforced trip to the optician confirmed that there was nothing wrong with my eyes (20/20 vision!). But further conversations with my parents confirmed that what I saw was very different to what they did.
After some online research I found a term that described the way I see the world: Illusory Palinopsia - a rare neurological condition which manifests as a visual disturbance defined as the recurrence of a visual image after the stimulus has been removed.
This is when I began my work into visual disturbances. Funded by Arts Admin Bursary Scheme I began regular conversations with Neuroscientist Dr Edward Bracey. As part of this we met the authority on Visual Disturbances - Professor Goadsby. After this meeting I realised I had Visual Snow.
This search for a name of my condition is common for those with VS. Many of them (and there are thousands who contacted Professor Goadsby worldwide) have spent years talking to doctors and neurologists about what they say and experience. But it was not until Goadsby’s research in 2014/15 that it was officially recognised as a separate condition from Migraine Aura.
For me, this means that my vision is full of glowing lines and shapes, whizzing, fizzing dots and auras crossing and filling my vision. When I climb the hills around my familial home (the moors of Saddleworth) they grow more intense and kaleidescopic, amassing into recognisable, pulsating, geometric shapes. On a clear day, looking at the sky, it seems full of trillions of fizzy dots, like a bluish, translucent tv static.
I decided to research my VS, out of a burning curiosity and see how it could connect to my artistic process and artistic presentation.
Projects that have so far come out of it include:
Your Reality is Broken Festival at Guest Projects
LADA DIY - Break Your Reality
Your Reality is Broken at Wellcome Collection
My interest for this project is to create a culture of artist/science projects, experiences, happenings and grow collaborations.
I have worked with AXNS Collective on their LSD Hackathon https://axnscollective.bandcamp.com/releases
Had fascination conversations with scientists including Dr Chiari Nostri, Dr. Robin Carhart-Harris, Joe Barnby, Francesca Puledda.
I choose to contextualise this work as part of my ongoing Afrofuturist strand, creating new values for what is considered ‘black’ art.
Other artistic research into Palinopsia
Other artists have recently explored how to accurately represent Palinsopsia, mostly using technology to recreate the symptoms.
The Hallucinophone - an audiovisual interface created to replicate the visual symptoms of Hallucinatory Palinopsia: http://cmr.soc.plymouth.ac.uk/alexiskirke/insight.htm
Fractured Visions - a digital installation replicating the visual symptoms of Hallucinatory Palinopsia
Before beginning my research in 2016, I thought about what I could add to the world of art/neuroscience. I thought one difference was that as a live artist interested in ritual, I wanted to explore sensuous embodiment rather than literal visual representation via technological innovation. However, on the path, I have also become interested in augmented reality and visulisations - as they seem to offer real hope for VS sufferers trying to describe their condition - whether to friends or doctors.
Here are some questions and aims I set myself at the beginning of the process:
- Through a diagnosis, find out if I have Palinopsia
- Can the scientific method be a useful tool for my artistic research. Can I converge the disciplines of practical performance research and neuroscience?
- How does the psychophysical training that I undertake in MAS effect it? What effect do varying stimuli on the senses have? (proprioception, equilibrioception, audioception, opthalmoception and mechanoreception)
Aims and Objectives
To discover if I do have this neurological condition and if there was a cause. To use myself as a test subject to explore illusory Palinopsia.
To work with Neuroscientists in a collaborative Science/Art laboratory environment. Creating potential models that can be repeated.
Finding a way to test my own Palinopsia - using different senses and stimuli within the artist laboratory and potentially the science laboratory.
Create a hypothesis linking my research into my personal perception and illusions and how it can be used have an effect on me as a performer and potential audiences. Particularly if there can be a link with ecstatic transformation on me as performer and audiences.
Through the research create a methodology for performance or artistic creation related to the concept of visual perception, visual illusions and specifically Palinopsia; connecting to my multidisciplinary process - music, psychophysical performer training and further developing my process.
Document the process in a way that may become part of the creative process.
A short neurophenomenological study on myself, using Fftsch model - July 2016
The afterimages I see - looks is on scale of 0 - 10
Like an afterimage
But the visual snow on plane backgrounds is probably more like 5. Cause its indistinguishable from the surface - although I know its not part of the surface
The feeling around posession
Feels uncontrollable whilst feeling very calm. Like all is right. Whilst things are quite different to normal.
Like an extreme version of pretending, where you’re not quite in control of the pretence. Or an extreme version of imagining, where the boundaries of imagination are blurred.
Suggestions, being more suspetible to suggestion - the state of readiness in order to improvise. My state during The Passion - leading me to behave like Dolores, leading me to see the stove in Ellis kitchen. Occurs during alert conciousness
- Varies depending on the situation - really worth some more thought and reading.
1 - I’d say 0, but it seems like I can go for long periods of time without consciously noticing them, until I remember again.This is definitely less now, the more I’ve thought about it. Also its confused by the fact that it connects with ill health - e.g. feeling stressed or ill and feeling like light is too much, getting a migraine etc
Mmm - well objectively, I have full agency. But there is a shock to the system if I don’t let myself go. Thats what I found in Berlin I think. It feels like there is a danger around it if I block it. Maybe that will fade now I’ve started being more honest with my emotions.
Totally feels like it is outside of myself
Mostly from inside - projecting out onto the world at times
Afrofuturism and Sci Fi and Creating a new work
Palinopsia - seeing again. I realised I see past and present overlaid on top of one another. For how long? How long do the after images exist?
Make a model of my personal neurophenemonmology
- the brightness of the afterglow
the way the image repeats
the quality of movement it has
the throbbing nature of it
the way different parts overlay on top of the other
what its like when I close my eyes
Interaction with the ‘normal’ world
the effect/interplay with other senses - the synaesthetic nature of it (e.g. on illusory sound)
the density - the denseness, overlaid effect
Voice - e.g. transpose the model of my palinopsia onto the voice
e.g. brightness of voice
repetition of one note
throbbing nature of it
overlaid different parts one on top of the others
interplay with other elements - e.g. with light
Could do this with action, movement, text and then also the theatrical elements - visual (light,
Late July 2016 - Met Edward Bracey, began to discuss ideas with him
He brought in the idea of Augmented Reality:
Maybe an app so people could see the different types of visual perception - you could choose. So you could see how other people see the world objectively.
Email from Dr Bracey Notes
All brains are different - spreading this message as a positive message to people
“From an evolutionary perspective, the more different brains there are, the more different perspectives we have on the universe, so the more likely we can solve problems together. Diversity of brains is crucial for the species!”
“Events like this that make brain differences more visible and normalises them are extremely valuable. Potentially such a powerful tool for dismantling stigmas about mental illness.”
Determining public attitudes to people with altered perceptions or mental illness.
Determining the attitudes of people who have altered perceptions to their own ideas towards their altered perceptions (this seemed to be important in diagnosing conditions earlier on?)
“could we measurably change their attitudes to brain variabilities and brain illnesses? We could even design an implicit association test to test their attitudes before and after. Appealing to emotions tends to be far more powerful than trying to grind people down with facts and figures”
People involved in the project
Dr Edward Bracey - will help design the survey and research and help me to develop my scientific method. Neuroscience mentor?
He will collaborate on creating the virtual reality systems
He will look into how easily we can create visual disturbances that change what you see in real time - sort of augmented reality.
He speak at events about sensory perception
He will find other experts in perception to be involved
Fuel Commission: Short Sharp Shock
Fuel Short Sharp Shock - October 2016
Ed and I came up with an idea for Short Sharp Shock for Fuel
Short Sharp Shock: Sensory shocks, a preliminary experiment:
The aim of the project is to use short, sharp sensory shocks to trigger feelings or heightened awareness of ourselves and our surroundings and to draw us out of our comfort zones.
The difference between how the artist and the scientist approach and cope with each shock will be used to find common ground, a common language between us.
This project inspired the LADA DIY workshop led by Jonathan, Ed and I in August 2017:
(Link to LADA DIY page)
“An intimate and exposing journey into perception, learning and creativity. Challenge your perceptions through a week of sensory deprivation and sensory immersion. An invitation to artists of all disciplines, with and without perceptual disorders, to explore perception through extreme acts of sensory deprivation and immersion. This laboratory is in response to artists Jonathan Grieve and Nwando Ebizie's own gradual realisation of our perceptual conditions: Synaesthesia and Visual Snow.”
Jonathan and I curated YRIB at Guest Projects (link)
Along the ‘20 Minutes’ strand I curated a series of happenings during the month exploring exploring perception: altered states, visual illusions and hallucinations; and how it is linked to the creative act. What happens in that moment of suspension between perceived reality and action? The no consciousness. Is this the moment of trance action?
In the happenings rituals became gigs. Film screenings opened out into practical work sessions. Public science experiments became club nights.
The idea was to deepen our understanding of our own perceptual framework.
The ‘20 Minutes’ series within the festival:
Opening Ceremony (link)
Creative Neurophenomenology of Visual Illusions - (link)
Dancing and Drawing Society: Visual Illusions (link)
20 Minutes of Action research week and performance sharing (link)
Vogue Workshop - Bedsit Ballroom - extreme movement, social ritual (link)
Higher Higher Higher (link)
Add images and video
This series led directly to:
LADA DIY - August 2017 (link)
YRIB Wellcome Collection - December 2017 (link)
Including ASMR experiment
20 Minutes of Action
20 Minutes of Action, Home - January 2018 (link)
Hildegard: Visions - March 2018 (link)