Hopkinson Mossman, Auckland, New Zealand
Hopkinson Mossman 2013
Auckland, New Zealand
For Other Explications, Mitchell presents a series of new sculptural and photographic works that chart the territory between sleeping and waking, conscious and subconscious. Hypnosis, as an alternate state of consciousness, here provides a framework through which Mitchell considers and teases the nature of perception and belief.
The main gallery contains two highly polished, large brass hoops enjoined to form a three-dimensional Venn diagram (Hypnosis Venn). One hoop is engraved ‘sleeping’ and the other ‘waking’. The intersection is a gap; an empty space of an unknown or ungraspable state. Nearby, a single resonance speaker is affixed to a large sheet of glass freestanding in the space. It transmits the sound of human breathing in a state of hypnotic induction that permeates the material and space alike, enveloping the viewer in the mesmerizing rhythm. On the floor, four brass corners demarcate a square space. The work, titled Teleplastic Alloy (Witnessing Separates Itself From Seeing), is in itself a minimalist-quotated-sculpture (with its own material weight and art historical legacy), but potential lies beyond the visible, in its activation of the ‘empty’ space it carves out. In recent work, Mitchell has used barriers, plaques and signs to signal a threshold beyond which a spell has been cast, or a sacred act has taken place. On the opening night of Other Explications, an anonymous person will have been hypnotized to see an object that is not visible to other visitors (just as the hypnotic state may not be perceptible to others in the room). An object will appear to the hypnotized person, and only to them, in the space demarcated by the brass corners. The work plays on the expectation, imagination and belief of the viewer, amplifying the already heightened mode of perception conditioned by the white cube.
On a shelf in the large gallery a clamp device holds a single piece of paper; a tester strip sprayed with perfume. The scent is that of “an unseen object”. For Mitchell, perfumes are molecular sculptures; weight, mass, and dimensionality all account for the way in which they manifest to the viewer. They vanish soon after they appear, as molecules loosen themselves from their complex structure to dissipate, cling, reform, swarm and spread themselves thin. In this case, the artwork takes shape in the viewer. As scent enters the body, it disestablishes the boundaries that artworks traditionally maintain with the viewer; the space between object and body is here imagined as something active and constantly in flux.
The small gallery contains a series of seven photographic prints. Taken on a microscopic camera, each contains a single piece of rheum or ‘sleep’; the ‘unconscious material’ produced by the body that typically gathers in the corner of the eye during sleep. If scent is conceived as sculpture that infiltrates the body, the photographs document microscopic, crystalline forms produced (automatically) by the body.
Though immediate in their sensory appeal, Mitchell’s concrete forms are conductors or residues of unseen forces or currents. Assembled from materials with their own rich alchemical ancestry – typically materials that have undergone a major transformation to arrive at their current state (such as alloys, perfume, and glass) – they tease out the potential for things to appear and disappear, and our ability to perceive or imagine transfiguration.