I was at the Short Circuit event at the lighthouse in Brighton last week, as part of the Brighton Digital Arts Festival.
Short Circuit is an Arts Council initiative that brings together disabled artists and digital twiddlers to collaborate on a range of projects exploring this interface. The project is curated by Jo Verrent and Sarah Pickthall.
My idea was to put an internet site through the experience of psychosis. It came from doing my Barbican-commissioned film, where I made a film about the subjective experience of psychosis, and wondering how it could extend to other art forms. What if a song became psychotic, and no, One Direction doesn’t count.
What if you were a dancer and you were dancing to both music everyone hears and music only you hear. Friedrich Nietzsche already thought of that when he said: "And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music."
Then it hit me: what if the Internet was psychotic? The internet can make us mad, Justin Bieber is on there, men wearing nappies are on there. But what if it was mad itself? What if it was paranoid? What if it heard voices, what if it thought it was Jesus?
So with the help of Peter Pavement of Surface Impression and sound artist Jon Adams, I created a website experiencing psychosis, which hears voices, thinks it is being spied upon, and that it is Jesus. It does two things: reflects my own experience; but also asks: what if the internet experienced madness, what would it look like, would you ever return to it, would you bookmark it, would you share it, report it, what does it feel to vicariously experience psychosis? Virtual reality may not exist, but what if it didn’t exist twice removed? Or what if the psychosis makes it more real?’ It asks the question: is there are malfunctioning in the programming or is it reacting quite appropriately to the system that it finds itself in?
I wanted the original website page to be boring, generic, corporate, and to show the journey of normality, thinking the government is spying on it, that because of trolls it is going to get hurt, it struggles with paranoia, begins to experience psychosis, gets forcibly restrained, sectioned, medicated, it escapes from hospital, decides what recovery is and whether it will use the recover programme provided by a society that judges it, or whether it should make its own meaning, and finally ending with the acceptance of its difference.
But fundamentallly it asks: What if the screen of your being says: ‘No soul to be found. The soul you are looking for might have been removed, had its name changed, or is temporarily unavailable. Maybe psychosis is the programme that wants you to find your soul. Normality is the Microsoft of reality, it has the monopoly, but it’s not the only programme there is.
John O’Donoghue wrote a cool review of the whole event at http://www.disabilityartsonline.org.uk/short-circuit