Q & A: Alex Myers - This is Fine at Project Project, Omaha
by J. Fatima Martins
November 25, 2017
The multimedia installation This is Fine at Project Project created by Alex Myers, Assistant Professor of Interaction Design at Creighton University, is about human consciousness in flux. Specifically, the fusion of technology and biology suggests that another neuroscientific revolution in human self-awareness and existence is happening. While looking at the image Odd Gods Before Our Eyes I accidentally ran across a quote by American psychologist Julian Jaynes (1920- 1997) who examined the possibility that humans had a bicameral mind or “divided self” in the 1976 book The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind:
“Some people believe in a time when humans had another voice in our head. Our brain, as we now know it, was divided into two halves, and each half could speak to the other. We called the front voice “I” and the voice at the back of the head, “god.” So, the story goes, when people heard the voice of god, they were hearing another part of their brain. When they channeled texts, they were transcribing it. Thinking was dialogue. Schizophrenics may still be able to tap into this, but then again, so can all of us, to some degree: the devil on your left shoulder, the angel on the right. People talk about their inner monologue, the single stream of consciousness - but my experience of myself is and always has been dialogue.”
Jaynes argued that ancient people were not conscious and that at some point in the evolution of culture a radical, but slow, shift in neurology occurred. One of Jaynes’ most interesting theories is that during the breakdown period or biological shift, dialogue with the other mind (Logos) for guidance took the form of prayer, oracles, and divination. If we apply this idea to what’s happening today, we see another stretch in knowledge occurring pushed by our integration with artificial intelligence (AI) - the new Gods. In his images Myers combines ancient and futuristic motifs evoking an unfolding modification of human awareness and communication.
JFM: The images in your digital collage work show the integration of organic, specifically human elements, and technology, but I'm also noting references to more ancient, universal, and spiritual ideas, specifically in the image Odd Gods Before Our Eyes, and He/ She and Voyage in Time. It's almost like your work is a new brand of trippy psychedelic expression. What are your sources of inspiration? Where do these ideas come from?
AM: I read a lot - comics, sci-fi, mysteries. My favorites are always the stories that subtly mix the supernatural with the mundane. So those sorts of narrative structures inform my work conceptually. Visually my influences come from a wide array of sources. I love movies. Cronenberg, Carpenter, Lynch. I also love early Netherlandish art. The weird late-Gothic stuff, with its amazing, semi-polygonal cloth, its tight compositional structures and flat, two-dimensional bodies. They also contain a mix of labels in gothic-lettering. Almost a Proto-User-Interface. When I'm working on a new series I often surround myself with books on alchemy, mysticism, and symbolism throughout the ages. I feel it's important to understand these old systems of meaning so that I can mix them with the new systems of meaning. After I've thrown in a bunch of these visual and conceptual inspirations, I usually build one or two small images. Sometimes I'll see something small and random during my day that sends my mind racing. That's when I really start to put the pieces together.
JFM: The images are printed as large posters and panels, why this format? Are you trying to create an immersive environment by hanging them from the ceiling? Tell us about the process of printing so large.
AM: I started using tapestries about a year ago for a show at Tugboat Gallery in Lincoln. I was really interested in the idea of creating this softly moving wall. I also felt placing the panels in a sort of oblique opposition to each other helped create these little pockets of dialogue. The large size helps bring out the small details I like to embed in my works. I really enjoy things that reward a patient examination. Having the pieces made was the easiest part. I decided to use industrial methods and to have someone else make them for me. I am enmeshed and teach in the design world and using a printer was a natural choice.
JFM: There are three videos in the exhibition: one is projected outside onto the window, the other two are inside. I'm particularly curious about the one that is on the ceiling forcing views to get down on the floor to look up. In the gallery, you told me it was to make it uncomfortable. Why are you pushing people to feel anxious? What's your message?
AM: It's not about anxiety so much as it is about discomfort. By placing the work in a place that causes the viewer to adopt an uncomfortable posture, I hope to use their body as a part of the piece. The choice to hang the work on the ceiling came about through conversation with curators during installation. We couldn't decide where it should go, then one of the curators, Josh Powell, suggested the ceiling. I immediately felt it was perfect -- that weirdness, that dis-location helps drive home the emotional impact I feel in the piece.
JFM: Is your work prophecy, warning, lesson, mirror, or something else? Is it philosophy?
AM: Oof. I don't know. Yes? All of them? This sounds terrible, but they really are the feelings I have that I can't articulate in any other way. I think they really are a little bit of both.
Visit Alex Myers’ website