Blindspot Gallery is pleased to present “The Afterlife of Rosy Leavers”, Angela Su’s first solo exhibition at Blindspot Gallery. The exhibition will showcase the artist’s newest works that include drawing, video, hair embroidery and installation. This is the culmination of Su’s extended research on mental illness and social control, offering a dissection of her own state of mind to explore the im/possibility of autonomy, agency and empathy in one’s daily struggles.
The exhibition is a self-reflexive journey that begins with Su’s exploration with hallucination to question the perception of reality, and subsequently how she positions herself in these uncertainties. Interlaced with different key concepts, recurring motifs and historical facts, the journey contains two main intersecting narratives: the first thread focuses on the inner self and introduces doubling, hallucination and virtual reality; the second exposes external structures, relating psychiatry, social control and resistance.
By the entrance of the exhibition stand three Rorschach test ink drawings. The drawings are in perfect bilateral symmetry, as the doubling biomorphic forms emerge and evolve over two overlapping layers of drafting films, manifesting as vegetative and floral parts interpenetrated with human bodily organs, often in analogous spiral patterns. Like the Rorschach tests used by diagnosticians in psychology, the images elicit not the viewer’s logical faculties, but the free-associating, deeply intuitive side of the human psyche. Further providing a psychoanalytic context of the subconscious, a bed rests in the middle of the room, covered with a bed sheet embroidered with human hair outlining an apologetic phrase by a troubled woman.
The Rorschach drawings contain two visual motifs that weave the narrative onward: the double and the spiral. The doubles propagate themselves in the word play that starts with “twin” and “split”, which the artist visualised with found images from the Internet. With the playful slippages in the rhyming of twin/pin/spin and the alliterating sibilance of split/snip/slit, Su conceives of words as sound-images with autonomy from the subject. As psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan theorised, “The subject is nothing other than what slides in a chain of signifiers.” These slipping signs are then vocalised in the adjacent video work, Rosy has a spinning twin, a moving Rorschach pattern composed of found footages of autistic children spinning – the spiral and the double have achieved an obsessive and uncanny unity.
The doubling also occurs in Please tell me what’s been bothering you, which contains a conversation between a patient, who is convinced she has a doppelgänger, and ELIZA, a first-generation AI computer psychotherapist from the 1960s. Although ELIZA had passed the Turing test , the programme is very basic, and only responds with keyword substitution and canned phrases. The resultant conversation is droll and frustrating, as the AI therapist mirrors and parrots the paranoia of the patient, effectively turning into the latter’s doppelgänger.
Hallucination, mental illness, doppelgänger and artificial intelligence – these concepts all congeal into the exhibition’s namesake centerpiece film-work, “The Afterlife of Rosy Leavers”. It introduces the viewer to Rosy’s life story: early fascination with spirals, experiences with hallucinatory psychedelics, schizophrenic episodes, joining Socialists’ Patients Collective (SPK), and ultimately uploading her consciousness to cyberspace and thereby living her life as an animated character. The film starts with found footages that range from Dadaist cinema to early Fleischer studio animations, and ends with an animation of Rosy’s avatar meandering in cyberspace and being molested by a panda-headed man. The exploration of digital consciousness and virtual reality is an important progression of Su’s artistic practice, which had long investigated the limits of the mind-body duality in man-organic and man-bionic/prosthetic hybrids. To further extrapolate the mind-body problem of authorship, The Interview features a TV talk-show host interrogating the artist if one can make performance art without the body.
The militant activism of SPK, in particular the call to “turn illness into a weapon”, is the inspiration for the work A Reminder to Myself, a set of eight poster banners composing of SPK slogans, borrowed texts and found images. Based on historical research, each poster tells the struggles and resistance of different individuals, most of them deemed invalids, deviants or criminals, against the establishment system.