Matt Mullican: The Sequence of Things at Camden Arts Centre
I am not a fan of mega blockbuster art exhibitions, often I find them over-hyped and mentally exhausting. There are some smaller and out-of-the-centre art centres/galleries that I love visiting and Camden Arts Centre (in Hampstead) is one of them.
Recently, I went to see American conceptual artist Matt Mullican‘s ‘The Sequence of Things’ exhibition and I was completely blown away by it. I wasn’t familiar with the artist’s work before the exhibition, but I was enthralled by the plethora of works that filled the two gallery rooms upstairs.
Born in 1951 in California, Matt Mullican is the son of artists Lee Mullican and Luchita Hurtado. Now based in Berlin, the artist has been active in the American art scene since the 1970s, and he was a member of the “Pictures Generation” along with such artists as Cindy Sherman, Jack Goldstein, James Welling and Sherrie Levine etc. For over 40 years, Matt Mullican has been experimenting with hypnosis to create art that examines his subconscious mind and act as a strategy to break from the patterns of everyday life. He has developed a codified language of symbols and diagrams in an attempt to articulate the complexities of existence and the human condition. The colour codes are as follows: green for material, blue for the everyday world, yellow for ideas, white and black for language and red for the subjective.
Inspired by Camden Arts Centre’s history as a public library, ‘The Sequence of Things’ layers Mullican’s multiple methods of categorisation and ordering. The works include pin-boards, posters, drawings, flags, objects, photography and videos, all depicting his various maps, charts, diagrams and symbols.
3rd right & last row: Matt Mullican giving a lecture at the Camden Arts Centre
Matt Mullican is renowned for his lectures and performances under hypnosis and in a state of trance. Hence, I was eager to attend the lecture given by the artist on the final day of the exhibition. The 2.5-hour long lecture comprises a demonstrative blackboard talk, a slide show, video, followed by a Q & A session.
The long but intriguing lecture enabled the audience to learn more about the concepts behind the artist’s works. Yet due to the complexity of his ideas and theories, sometimes it was difficult to grasp or digest them easily. During the last few decades, the artist has continued to explore the topics of cosmology and the subconscious, and has performed in a trance state at many world-renowned art museums including Tate Modern.
In recent years, scientists are conducting more research on the relationships between consciousness, hypnosis/hypnotherapy and meditation. And since we still know very little about our minds and consciousness, ground-breaking works by artists like Matt Mullican have contributed to the understanding of the subject matter.
You can watch a video of Matt Mullican performing while under a state of hypnosis at Tate Modern in 2007: