Aifric Kyne: What is the importance of video in your practice?
Ann Maria Healy: For me, video and moving image act as spaces where other works might spring out from (or get resolved within). The moving image feels like a sculpture to me, so it’s important that it has a presence as part of my wider installations. I often think about how the audience will feel in the space where the videos are played. For example, the beanbags for My Dreams Won’t Resist are gaming beanbags. They have a back to them because I wanted them to cup the sitter. While the peacock is a central motif in ‘Hypnagogia’, I’ve used it before, so it is part of this iteration of work but also operates separately. In this show, I think of the peacock as playing the role of a dream.
AK: How do you make the separate elements of an exhibition interact with each other?
AMH: This is something I try to intentionally make happen but resist at the same time. Sometimes I feel the works collapse into each other and other times they’re way too different. For ‘Hypnagogia’, everything is channelled through the eye sculptures. I knew that I wanted them to feature in the video work I was making and used photogrammetry to make this happen. I worked with a gaming company called Enter Yes to make that video. Sometimes I feel like some of my artworks eat other works, or they show up in each other. I think specifically about the architecture; for this exhibition, I kind of infected the space with sculptural works coming out of the environment. For example, the skullcaps upstairs are coming down from a cavity in the ceiling and the windows are tinted. I think a lot about story and narrative and I wanted the space to have a residue of the video. The sculptures have lo-fi motion tracking markers, which gives them an opacity. There’s something kind of mystical about them.
AK: Can you discuss the importance of mysticism in your works? It is extremely nuanced yet plays an integral part in ‘Hypnagogia’.
AMH: Before I made When Dealers are Shamans, I had undertaken a shamanic journey. I was also interested in humanity’s search for an ultimate reality. When you say the word ‘mysticism’, it conjures up a specific aesthetic. I think people’s search for a divine presence often manifests in different industries and how we operate within those fields, specifically in relation to artificial intelligence. The pineal gland produces melatonin which causes us to relax during sleep. The outpour of blue light from laptop or phone screens has an impact on the production of melatonin. ‘Hypnagogia’ operates around the idea of the pineal gland being a third eye. I’m interested in spaces that have the potential for mysticism but where there’s also a scientific explanation, and this reoccurs in all of my work. For example, with The Holy Well, I was interested in holy wells that people would go to if they had mental health problems. It turned out that these wells had lithium deposits in them, and they realised that it was the lithium that was helping the people who went there to be cured. However, belief in these holy wells still carries on and I’m interested in that fine line between truth and belief, between wellness and sickness. I think about mysticism and universal truths, and the tools we use to try and improve ourselves. I’m interested in these support structures, who holds the power, and how it gets used.
AK: Can you tell me about your residency at Insight SFI Research Centre? How did it influence ‘Hypnagogia’?
AMH: I was in the run up to the show when the residency was set up. It was mostly a research period. I did everything on Zoom because of the pandemic but I got to chat to one or two researchers while making the videos. I was hoping the research would either influence the video work or that new ideas might come out of it. I spoke to researchers about neurofeedback, where they use a QEG headset and compare you to a dataset on a computer and try to understand what brainwaves are acting normally, therefore indicating what you might be suffering from. They have you watch a monitor which stops if you’re anxious, which means you’re producing beta-waves. The video doesn’t restart until your brainwaves regulate, so the idea is to have it play smoothly to train your brain to be more relaxed. I found it all really fascinating. In Insight they’re using all kinds of technology to research things like AI and deep learning. I wanted to merge the new information on neurofeedback and its systems with my own research. I also did some sessions where they read my brain and gave me feedback, which I used for the video work.
AK: Are there any future projects you’d like to discuss?
AMH: I’m doing a show in the Mermaid Arts Centre in Bray in January 2022. Some of the work in ‘Hypnagogia’ will be featured there. I’m also doing a publication for the show which will include an essay by Jan Verwoert and some of my conversations with the researchers.
Aifric Kyne is a writer, editor and digital artist from Dublin.
Ann Maria Healy is an artist based in Dublin.
‘Hypnagogia’ ran at The LAB Gallery from 28 June to 30 September.