Control vs Contingency ?

FACT Liverpool  is a friendly and helpful art-space we visited on the Liverpool Trip Day 2 They combine art and creative technology : a cinema, exhibition space and cafe, with a hackspace with stuff like a 3 D printer, other art materials and resident artists. They hold children’s workshops, events and academic seminars.

On their events programme is a workshop by a sound artist I had forgotten ( appropriate!) abouImogen Stidworthy, Her work is about language a prompt to look at it again…

and this, about language after a stroke.

The main exhibition here was Lesions in the Landscape  by Shona Illingworth whose work I have interested in before.

It has background of detailed research in to memory studies is a collaborative project with a neuropsychologist, Martin A Conway who I think she worked with in her project Balnkiel which I wrote about here 

University of Kent- Lesions in the Landscape

There were 3 large screens and immersive sound from a large number of speakers which apparently were placed with great precision to give the effect of sound which moved all the time around the space. There were also maps, GPS print outs and 3D- printed lesions from inside the brain of the person, Claire, whose amnesia is at the centre of the project.

The link above  shows  the points of reference  from the projects point of view.

See also the video

I just found the strangest of coincidences!... her father The Blind Watchmaker (in her work of the same name) was born in the same place as me! Thornton-Cleveleys in Lancashire…

Lesions in the Landscape is described as the examination of amnesia from an individual and social point of view. It is based on the experience of a woman living with amnesia and interlinks this with with an exploration of the island of St Kilda in the Outer Hebrides which was compulsorily evacuated ? to make way for an MOD station.

There was also an Amnesia Museum with archive maps,  photographs and sound work from EEG and Senscam images  with  neurological diagrams.

You could also wear a Senscam and navigate around a space.

The brochure states

 How do our individual and collective memories influence our understanding of society?

 Shona Illingworth’s new multi-screen installation reveals the devastating effects of amnesia on one woman and the parallels with the evacuation of St Kilda in 1930.

The culmination of a three-year research project in collaboration with neuropsychologists Martin A Conway and Catherine Loveday, the exhibition examines the implications of memory loss on identity, space and the capacity to imagine the future.


There is something I find difficult about her work and I don’t know what it is.

It was very powerful and moving; very affective.

Filmed in black and white, from a boat I think sometimes and sometimes from the air tracking people moving across the landscape of St Kilda with torches.I really enjoyed watching it and it is very well made, carefully crafted. There are cinematographers, sound recorders and others involved.

So what is it I don’t like that makes me feel uncomfortable about her work?

I felt it with Balnakiel too……..

The only thing I can think is that there is  too much production.

Clare, the patient,  was taken to St Kilda… I somehow feel  uncomfortable with that… the   ethics…a patient being used in the art work… I guess she was happy to do it and I have ‘used’ people for my work so why do I object?

Illingworth’s work  has many resonances with  to the issues covered in my Research Paper…. even down to the alluded to MOD links she has in this work and which are obviously part of the work in Balknakiel….

BUT I can just imagine a whole team of people and Clare going to St Kilda…
Is it because the work moves me but in a detached and impersonal way because of the ‘production’?

True enough there is a beauty in the work and the images are raw but it doesn’t feel raw…

 UPDATE: 25th October: I was in the shower yesterday when I thought! Contingency and Control!

I like to work with contingent situations and see what happens whereas Shona Illingworth’s work is very well controlled from the POV of the filming and introduction of the subject, Claire.

This review from Disability Arts Online does describe her as an active collaborator.

I think that’s it…..I prefer to be in a place and then do something, film something , from what arises. I like the ‘subjects’ to have as much control as possible…

I will ponder some more but for now just put in some links to some of the neurology drawings by the neuropsych which I really do love! There were plenty more on another page which I now can’t find… lesson learnt in keeping a Bilbiography.


Whilst looking for these links which may be useful to me, (and to Sarah Robinson, Fellow student, whose blog is here)

 I Found THIS below about the visual matrix method  of researching shared experience.

It was described to me by Susie Mellor, a hugely helpful and knowledgeable volunteer at FACT.

This, The Visual Matrix Method, was something ( or at least it sounds like what she described) that the staff and volunteers took part in after having watched Shona Illingworth’s work….

Susie was also interested in my Research Paper so I emailed her a copy…..

Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research

Volume 16, No. 3, Art. 6 – September 2015

The Visual Matrix Method: Imagery and Affect in a Group-Based Research Setting

Lynn Froggett, Julian Manley & Alastair Roy


The visual matrix is a method for researching shared experience, stimulated by sensory material relevant to a research question. It is led by imagery, visualization and affect, which in the matrix take precedence over discourse. The method enables the symbolization of imaginative and emotional material, which might not otherwise be articulated and allows “unthought” dimensions of experience to emerge into consciousness in a participatory setting.

We describe the process of the matrix with reference to the study “Public Art and Civic Engagement” (FROGGETT, MANLEY, ROY, PRIOR & DOHERTY, 2014) in which it was developed and tested. Subsequently, examples of its use in other contexts are provided. Both the matrix and post-matrix discussions are described, as is the interpretive process that follows.

Theoretical sources are highlighted: its origins in social dreaming; the atemporal, associative nature of the thinking during and after the matrix which we describe through the Deleuzian idea of the rhizome; and the hermeneutic analysis which draws from object relations theory and the Lorenzerian tradition of scenic understanding.

The matrix has been conceptualized as a “scenic rhizome” to account for its distinctive quality and hybrid origins in research practice. The scenic rhizome operates as a “third” between participants and the “objects” of contemplation. We suggest that some of the drawbacks of other group-based methods are avoided in the visual matrix—namely the tendency for inter-personal dynamics to dominate the event.

Key words: visual matrix; association; scenic; rhizome; methodology; affect; images; psychosocial; social dreaming


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