September 3 - October 16, 2010
Organized in conjunction with Paul Pieroni
Hackney Branch consisted of 40 books acquired from London secondhand bookstores and charity shops. It included a group exhibition that featured work by Nina Beier, David Horvitz, Ruth Beale, Hans Diernberger, Richard John Jones, Raphael Hefti and Damien Roach. The artworks were all generated in response to one volume from the library's collection: Inkblot Perception and Personality: Holtzman Inkblot Technique. A photocopier was provided for visitor use.
Nina Beier - Spectacle #1
In Nina Beier's Spectacle #1, a sculpture (of an inkblot) is produced by the artist, photographed with a viewer and then summarily destroyed, displacing the work onto the record of its unique and never-to-be-repeated viewing. The illusiveness of the sculpture is reflected in what it depicts, both as an object and as an idea the inkblot resists being fixed down; rather than existing it subsists, never quite a thing, but always still there...
Before Wikipedia became heavily policed, David Horvitz would, in his own words, 'tinker' with articles. These actions would be relatively minor (for example adding his own name to the list of former members of a niche band). Since this has become more difficult, Horvitz has come up with a new interventionist strategy. Making a photograph of relevant material to an article, he will subtly place himself in the image (a hand or arm in the periphery, for example). Accordingly you can visit his full contribution to the exhibition here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holtzman_Inkblot_Test
How the Mind Works (1932) by Cyril Burt is paired by Beale with The Mismeasure of Man (1981) by Stephen Jay Gould. For Beale, the commitment to the cold logic of scientific analysis that brings Burt's text into disrepute (it contains many allusions to eugenics) is mirrored in the Holtzman's Inkblot book. Though of course not lent to such divisive causes, Holtzman's book suggests a continued faith in scientific methodologies for assessing human potential. Beale's opposition, one coterminous in the arguments contained in Gould's The Mismeasure of Man, is that scientific analysis when directed against human categorization can often be dangerously reductive; in some cases being the guise under which a litany of ulterior motives geared towards racial, sexual or cultural prejudice are stewarded into plausibility.
What happens to the analysis of a subject if they can no longer speak properly? What if you ask them a question–the answer to which will form the basis of your analysis–and they are unable to provide an intelligible response? Dental damming the mouths of friends, Diernberger proceeded to question his subjects about card 2A of the Holtzman Inkblot technique. The unintelligibility of their responses suggest something profound about the very nature of such tests. The Holtzman test is predicated on a certain expectation, it presumes that subject will fall into a certain a-priori category. And yet by resisting the speech act, the subject breaks loose from this system; becoming entirely unquantifiable; a big Other in a carefully controlled character type spectrum.
Richard John Jones
A Bacchic carnival plotting a transverse line through the psycho and sexual politics of the 60s, JACK TAKES A TRIP is John Jones' homages to the historical moment surrounding Holtzman's book. On a personal journey of enlightenment, the films protagonist Jack queers the world around him, reframing his body and consciousness with free love, LSD and KARAOKE.
Raphael Hefti uses photography as a starting point from which to explore his wider curiosity about the history of materials, moments and sites of scientific discovery. Pollen from the moss plant Lycopodium has burnt on photographic paper to produce the strange visual effect of the final photogram. Like an inkblot, Hefti's image is the result of an unmanageable process of production. The variables are set, but the outcome remains determined by forces outside of the creator's control. Equally, the temptation to interpret Hefti's image is great: the human eye–as when encountering an inkblot–being immediately drawn to identifying something that in truth doesn't actually exist.
Damien Roach's wall text consists of two groups of brief descriptive statements taken from Holtzman's book recording patients' responses to inkblot tests. Are they to be read as a poem? Or are they in fact a 'score' - a set of instructions for a precisely articulated, yet absolutely unfathomable activity. Too brief and context-free to be precise, they rotate in a space of multiple interpretation and language gone hazy - the site of dreams recalled or the unbounded chatter of yet-to-be-articulated thoughts experienced.
Exhibition notes by Paul Pieroni
London, September 2010