Steven Dickie’s A Hypertrophied Eye challenges us to rethink the process by which we arrive at understanding. With particular reference to knowledge economy (the use of knowledge to generate values, including the transferal of human knowledge into technology), Dickie’s immersive audio-visual installation speculates on future possibilities and fantasies of screen-based knowledge systems.
Emerging into the space through plastic sheeting of red, green and blue, there is a sense that this crossing marks the passage from reality into the meta-reality of the screen. Dickie’s installation is a dimly lit space, uniting film projections, sculpture and audio-visual equipment rigged up into otherworldly inventions.
In one film projection, Dickie, cast as the protagonist, undertakes a voyage of discovery. In this narrative of part biopic, part sci-fi, part home-movie (with home-made props), the imagery eventually breaks down into unrelenting flashes of visual information. Coupled and interrupted by computer sounds (like the type of melodic beeps a computer makes when something goes wrong) Dickie’s amusing film serves to bridge the gap between aspiration, anxiety and nonsensical understanding.
A white geometric sculpture akin to an oversized molecular structure sits uncomfortably displaced from its surroundings. The title of the exhibition itself A Hypertrophied Eye, nods to this scaling up, referencing the medical term hypertrophy, denoting the abnormal growth of a tissue or organ. The structure appears foreign, so clean and sharp that it resembles a computer graphic, superimposed into the space.
Within a hollow chamber of the sculpture, partially hidden from view, on a small television set appears the word ‘More.’ Dragged away by a finger, as if on a touch screen device, it is replaced by another ‘More.’ The ‘more’ is demanding, but also uncanny, unrelenting, it is never enough; we always need more, more, more.
Dickie creates a testing ground for audio-visual experiments upon a silver sci-fi-esque plinth. Two speakers direct sound down clear piping to a central microphone, causing sound waves to clash or pass by each other. A mass of wires run through amplifiers and other audio equipment, but to what end, remains unclear.
A literal hypertrophied eye occurs in another film work. An overexposed projection (the overexposure created by another of his experiments) sees a cloaked figure emerge on a rocky site, bearing, instead of a head, only one oversized eye. Historically, the semiotics of the eye has been closely related to conscious awareness, though in this work the overexposure is blinding, counteracting the semantics of the eye.
Dickie makes intuitive judgements combined with known facts about the actual world, presenting the exhibition as a proposition. His curious coupling of sound, sculpture and moving image provoke questions regarding ways we read, interpret and use information systems. Dealing with contemporary issues of how one can or should navigate a digitally saturated world, Dickie’s epistemology teeters between the pursuit of knowledge and the idea that we can only know so much. Do we really need more, more, more?