Artist: Thomas Zipp
Venue: Guido W. Baudach, Berlin
Exhibition Title: Effects of Stimulus-Range and Anchor Value on Psychophysical Judgement (The Laerdal Rehearsals)
Date: September 5 – October 18, 2014
Full gallery of video, images, press release and link available after the jump.
Thomas Zipp, Effects of Stimulus-Range and Anchor Value on Psychophysical Judgement (The Laerdal Rehearsals). Performance Documentation at Guido W. Baudach on September 5, 2014.
Images and video courtesy of Guido W. Baudach, Berlin. Photos by Roman März.
Dreams and visions are among the fundamentals of human existence. Quite what they are is one of the oldest questions in the history of mankind. All over the world there is a wealth of evidence for the fascination for the phenomena of dreams and visions – from the very beginnings of human culture right up to the present. And this much is clear from any perusal of the documented reflections on dreams and visions: the central question as to what a dream or vision is remains an historical constant, even if the very immediacy of the question renders it hermetic from the outset. People have always asked where dreams come from and what they are.
Thomas Zipp does not have the answers to these questions, and they are not the specific focus of his interest in this area. What is fundamental for him is that everyday existence is determined by a physical time that is clearly distinct from the requirements of our social lives and the sense of time associated with them, whereas dreams and visions as such are timeless and only become meaningful as a result of stimulated processes that manifest themselves differently in different individuals.
So it will hardly come as a surprise to hear in the background of Thomas Zipp’s exhibition, Effects of Stimulus-Range and Anchor Value on Psychophysical Judgement (The Laerdal Rehearsals) a sound-recording of a performance of Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy – a vision conceived in the grand style. Therein first-person-narrator Dante sees himself wandering through an eerie forest at night. He is plagued by wild animals, symbols of lust and greed. Lost beyond hope, his fellow classical poet Virgil appears to him as the emissary of a messianic prophecy and the guiding stimulant that will save him.
This element of stimulation is also present in the original function of the exhibition’s main protagonists: a group of five Resusci Anne dolls shown in a stage-like installation. When the Resusci Anne was created, its inventor Asmund Laerdal based his design on the facial expressions of the so- called unknown lady of the Seine, who was pulled out of the river in Paris around 1900. There were no signs of a violent death so it was assumed she had committed suicide. However, her face was fixed with such a lovely smile that people soon started calling her the ‘happy dead woman’. A death mask was made, and it was this face that Laerdal later took as the model for his CPR practice doll.
Thomas Zipp has brought the exhibited dolls ‘back to life’ by making physiognomic, ‘anatomical’ interventions – the ‘opening’ of their eyes, for instance. As part of an opening performance, the dolls are stimulated and moved around the space like marionettes by various agents in uniform masks and sterile white clothing. The scenario is augmented with a series of paintings and collages in space, and live music lends it an element of the operatic, while the natural difference between the male and female voices is aligned using a vocoder, which modifies or ‘bends’ the gendered voices.
Exhibition and performance point to the fact that dreams and visions, regardless of the context, can only be comprehended when seen against the backdrop of the specific premises that make up the particular worldview of each and every culture. It is only on the basis of these perceptual foundations, without which there can be no socially anchored consensus on a whole range of issues, that any individual or collective experience – dreams and visions included – can be validated as real or unreal within a society. But Thomas Zipp doesn’t leave it at the ontological status of the phenomenon; he implicates the recipient of the exhibition in its new artistic manifestation.