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John Wood and Paul Harrison, installation view from ‘I DIDN’T KNOW I DIDN’T KNOW IT’, Contemporary Art Gallery, February 12 – April 24, 2016. Photography by SITE Photography


UBC Intern Patrick O’Neill interviews Jeremy Shaw | Part 1 of 3

Jeremy Shaw, Quickeners, 2014. 16 mm film to HD, still. Courtesy Johann Konig Gallery, Berling and Macaulay & Co. Fine Art, Vancouver.

Patrick O’Neill is a UBC Art History student who has come on board as an intern at CAG to assist with the research connected to our Reading Room. While Jeremy Shaw was in town, they took some time to discuss the three works that are currently on display. This post focuses on the work Quickeners (2014).

Patrick O’Neill: What inspired you to create Degenerative Imaging (In the Dark) (2015) as a glow-in-the-dark, light-sensitive piece?

Jeremy Shaw: Degenerative Imaging is continuation of work I’ve done in the past (Representative Measurements) where I reformatted fMRI brain scans of subjects after cumulative use of MDMA as black light silkscreen posters.  This time I’ve used SPECT scans of the cumulative effects of various mind altering drugs on blood flow in the brain and transferred them to the same material that is used to make glow-in-the-dark constellation stickers that adorn bedroom ceilings.   It is a bringing together of these two very disparate drug experiences – one which is attempting to map and explain, the other attempting to enhance or further the experience itself.  This pushes the 80’s “this is your brain on drugs” propaganda with the idea of looking at a scientific representation of what something has done/could do to your brain via the experience you are currently having.  The representation is aiding in positively enhancing yet presumably seen as a negative when considered in its cumulative context.

PO: What inspired you to start working within a more explicitly narrative structure for Quickeners (2014) and what did this juxtaposition allow for in your exploration of themes which are familiar in your practice?

JS: The decision to work with a narrative was due to my desire to be able to talk about all these seemingly disparate interests in a more cohesive or straightforward way. It is the first time I was explicitly able to address a lot of these things – ideas around scientific rationalization of transcendental experience, parallel realities, belief systems of many degrees, etc.  The creation of a narrative in which a new, entirely rational species was experiencing a degenerative syndrome that incited reversionary, irrational behaviour allowed me to create characters in varying states of decline from which I could address many different perspectives on said topics.  Here I was able to explicitly vocalize via these characters speech/subtitles rather than submerging the ideas into a nonlinear or abstract piece.   I had the footage for Quickeners for years and knew that I wanted to work with it, but hadn’t quite figured out how. It ended up being a logical progression in my practice – specifically after Introduction to The Memory Personality – where I felt the desire to push further with linear structure.  I still did end up with an immersive, experiential section within this that reads like previous works – but it is submerged within the narrative form.  I liked the idea of almost pushing the viewer into submission or a kind of exhaustion before introducing this cathartic release in the narrative aspect of the work and for the audience as well.