In an era of meditation apps, resilience training, and wellness spas, the mastery of one’s inner life has never seemed more important. Emotional dexterity and self-enhancement are key personal attributes for anyone hoping to excel as a person, partner, friend, or colleague. Coaches, consultants, stylists, nutritionists, gurus, and mentors can all help, but the real work of self-actualisation falls to you.
This exhibition of new moving image and photographic works continues Grant Stevens’ exploration of the apathies and contradictions that haunt the aspirational self. Using a variety of digital production processes, these works explore the contemporary confluences of contemplation, digital technologies, and obsessions with self-improvement.
In the video, Happiness, for example, mantras and phrases from mindfulness meditation, corporate training, positive psychology, online dating, and job applications mingle together on screen. The text combines with an uplifting soundtrack to narrate a celebratory progression towards an idealised self.
Another new video, The Universe, features simple representations of atoms, stars, and galaxies as a male narrator describes the history of the universe. Drawing on the conventions of nature documentaries, The Universe condenses the entire history of the universe, blending particle physics with cosmic existentialism.
The Studio Meditation series is a set of lenticular prints in which layers of abstract colour patterns shift and change according to the angle of view. The layers are computer-generated through an automated algorithmic process triggered by the artist meditating in his studio. As the artist undertakes a 10-minute mindfulness meditation, his computer begins a process of creating Photoshop layers according to a set of scripted code. These layers are combined through lenticular printing, which creates an almost infinite array of possible images, evoking an ever-changing visualisation of the meditative experience.
Finally, Phalaenopsis I and Phalaenopsis II depict grocery-store-bought phalaenopsis orchids using product photography conventions. Photographed in a controlled studio environment, these highly staged photographs seem to hover between sentimental and generic, organic and digital, beautiful and banal.
Together, these works seem to question the significance and limits of human experience in an era of therapeutic and digitally enhancement.