We Cannot Unsee enabled 6 emerging artists to make a short, experimental film supported by no.w.here. Drawing upon the potentials for science fiction imagery and narrative to communicate the ways in which people experience a range of symptoms associated with psychiatric and brain disorders.
We Cannot Unsee was a collaborative project with no.w.here and BFI, and was generously funded by Wellcome Trust.
By working with the medium of film, a visual form which offers alternative nonlinear, non - verbal impressionistic ways to convey lived experience, We Cannot Unsee aimed to deepen our understanding of symptoms associated with patho-psychologies, and reassign agency to those who experience them. The project takes its title from the description of ‘Palinopsia’, a condition whereby afterimages appear to linger in the mind after they have been seen. no.w.here provided valuable practical training in photochemical filmmaking techniques, access to cameras and studio time at no.w.here in Bethnal Green, creative and technical mentoring, as well as a stipend for materials.
The artists chosen were:
'I am a visual artist. I produce work with small groups of friends, or within a discrete community or interest group, for artistic reasons: I want to celebrate and make visible the joy of the filmmaking process itself and explore its value as a tool for individual and social change. This focus is mirrored in the subject matter of my work, which deals with themes around technology, our social environment and relationships with one another.'
EMOTION OUT is a short film experiment that draws a poetic analogy between the chemical state of brain and film. Each is vulnerable to environmental factors and must be handled delicately. Using hand-processed film, animation and in-camera effects, the work explores the causes of visual aberrations in a playful way.
'In my current work I am looking at the intersections between individual and collective anxieties. I am exploring experiences of psychiatric conditions, not as individualised or depoliticised as often represented, but through affective politics as a potential tool for social change, and how alliances can be formed where different kinds of inequality and marginalisation intersect.'
What Lies Below (17')
Set in 2054, a time when soldiers have been programmed to forget their actions and robots command the front line of war, a mother reads to her daughter from a notebook written in 2015 while she was still working as a military psychologist. Recounting the dreams of soldiers, she reflects on the impact of killing on the human psyche and the inevitable technological advancements that led to a complete denial of conscience.
Rosalind Fowler is an artist filmmaker with a background in visual art and anthropology. Her work explores the politics and poetics of place and belonging in the contemporary English landscape. Through quasi-ethnographic forms of enquiry she combines real lived experiences and narratives with performance, fictionalization, writing and the language of dreams and the subconscious in her work. Recent work has been shown at the Morris Gallery, ICA, Plymouth Arts centre, and Milton Keynes gallery, amongst other venues.
Leah E Millar
Leah E Millar is an artist working in film and sculpture. Her film practice is experimental in nature, with co-operative working methods and chemical techniques at its heart. She is interested in the recreation and emulation of organic structures and cellular rhythms through photochemical film, and the effect of this on the viewing experience. Currently studying at Central Saint Martins, she is writing on co-operative movements in artist film and video.
Leah's project for We Cannot Unsee was 'There are colours which we cannot see'.
Tom's world is closing in around him. Diagnosed with a degenerative neurological condition, he begins to see things that are not there. This short film uses experimental chemical and narrative techniques to follow his attempts to navigate and map this new territory, forced to question the context and veracity of everything he sees. Humans process and 'see' images composed of memories and real time input - Tom's problem is that he can't work out which is which. As he forms and tests out systems to find his way back what is 'real', film is used as a medium through which to question our perceptions of documentation and visual truth.
Seth is working with an 11 year old boy who he used to teach. They are writing a script together that explores alternative world-views.
Seth is currently studying Sculpture at the RCA, where he has worked on music videos and film installations.
Tanya Singh and Sarah Dorrington
Tanya is an interdisciplinary artist working across writing, performance and moving image. Her work has been shown at Laban, V&A Museum, Oxford Playhouse, Southwark Playhouse, Soho Theatre, Hampstead Theatre, Bush Theatre, Ovalhouse, East End Film Festival, ICA and Channel 4. She frequently works collaboratively and is a member of the Paper Tiger collective (www.papertiger.org.uk).
Sarah is a psychiatric clinician and researcher working with film/video.
Their project for 'We Cannot Unsee' brings together disorders of face recognition, such as Capgras syndrome, with methodologies of face mapping, from C18th physiognomy to contemporary neuroimaging. Historical research and individual case studies form a jumping-off point for a tenebrous, tangential narrative in close-up.