Cornford and Cross
The White Bear Effect 2012


LED screen showing Olympic highlights
4 x 3 metres
De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill, East Sussex

We hired a Light Emitting Diode (LED) screen, of the kind used at public and corporate events, to show a video compilation of from Olympic games around the world. We bought a DVD compilation of Olympic highlights, and deleted any scenes that did not feature the human body in sporting action.

The size of the screen is determined by the height of the gallery ceiling. The position of the screen allows viewers to move right around it, and actively engage with the spatial dynamics of seeing. LED technology applies the phenomenon of additive colour by splitting the image into red, green and blue light, which appear to merge into white light at a certain distance. Close to, the screen is experienced as a technological grid of pulsing, coloured lights; further from it, the separate points of light merge to become recognizable as an image. Between the image and the screen is a zone that corresponds to the liminal space in art between abstraction and figuration, and in science between perception and cognition.

In visual representation, perspective is used to produce the illusion that the picture plane is transparent, allowing imaginary access into the three-dimensional space depicted. One of the functions of a screen is to obscure what lies behind it. Yet in this installation the screen consists of LEDs set in an open framework of clear plastic tubes, presenting the viewer with a shifting interplay between the illusory and the actual. Moving freely around the installation, the viewer can take a range of subject positions, including spectator, observer, watcher and performer.

In our first conversation with neuroscientist Dr Richard Ramsey, he described “the white bear effect”, a paradox noted in 1863 by Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky, and tested over a century later in experiments by scientists Daniel Wegner and David Schneider. People instructed to suppress thoughts of a white bear find their thoughts flooded with thoughts of white bears. The scientists concluded that, “attempted thought suppression has paradoxical effects as a self-control strategy, perhaps even producing the very obsession or preoccupation that it is directed against”.

 



The White Bear Effect 2012


The White Bear Effect 2012


The White Bear Effect 2012


The White Bear Effect 2012