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Mind at Large - Video. 2014
William Mansfield
1 Channel HD Video. 7'34"

Mind at Large is a single screen digital self-portrait, utilising the reflective quality of water. This piece is a meditation on life and the interconnectedness of all living things. An unknown force disturbs the initial stillness of the portrait propelling the face to fragment and distort on the undulating water surface, illustrating humanity's fragile existence on earth. With the subsidence of the turbulence, we are reminded of the delicate balance in nature. This work challengers the viewer to look deeper, beyond the superficial physical façade into the psyche.

The title Mind at Large directly references the concept from Aldous Huxley’s 1954 philosophical novel The Doors of Perception and his further essay Heaven and Hell, 1956. This concept is born of the belief that the human mind is able to perceive all time and space, but we use filters to protect it from sensory overload and confusion. Huxley believed that by taking psychedelic drugs or through other means such as meditation or fasting we could disable these filters and unlock Mind at Large. A state where the body’s senses are intensified and the mind’s subconscious antipodes can be accessed and the vibrations of all that is living become connected.

The first stage of filming this portrait involved the subject attempting to access a meditative state as a performer enacting the role of the sitter in the traditional practice of portraiture, the role of the painter being played by the apparatus of the camera. As the sitter, this prolonged shot was achieved by focusing a continuous and enduring gaze directly with the camera lens, losing oneself in the stillness and the very moment of being. The second component of the filming involved the projection of the first component over a prepared pond of water, adapting the pre-cinematic illusion of the Pepper’s Ghost reflection. This technique enables a reflection to appear on the water surface through the use of an angled projection, bringing to life the almost static portrait. The fluid manipulation of the face comically distorts and disfigures it beyond recognition and with each ripple a new grotesque persona emerges.

The artist’s reflected self-portrait draws inspiration from the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection, with reference to contemporary society’s obsession with one’s own image and the permeations of these images throughout online social media channels via the vein and mundane ‘selfie’. This piece pays homage to Carravagio’s melancholic portrayal of Narcissus from the 16th century, through the use of chiaroscuro, that strongly contrasts the enveloping brooding darkness which surrounds the composition with the stark light of the figure.

Mind at Large is a tribute to video artist Bill Viola and his spiritual oeuvre; drawing inspiration from Viola’s mesmerising, ultra slow motion compositions have a powerful transcendental quality. The grainy lo-fi quality of this video also alludes to a childhood nostalgia of early 3D animation and computer graphics in particular sci-fi films of the 90s and the graphic adventure puzzle CD-Rom, Myst.

For the artist, Mind at Large is a return to the concerns of his earlier video experiments, examining the canvas of the face.