The Institute for Future Life Regression
In the Main Gallery, Modern Fuel presents The Institute for Future Life Regression, an installation of work by Dustin Wilson (Guelph, ON). In this project, Wilson generates simulations of possible future individuals through a participatory form of pseudo-divination and story telling. While Wilson’s practice is multidisciplinary in the production of video and animation, performance and installation, drawing is essential to him for producing speculative images that are filtered through physical, biological and geographic constraints. In his work, Wilson appropriates the forms of systematic representation, museology and didactic illustration. He uses these forms as vehicles for absurdist science fiction narratives, attempting to subvert the semiotics of authoritative representation. The various strata of signs and text within the work engage multiple subjectivities and associative layer, promoting a sense of agency on the part of the viewer, allowing the environment of the installation to be read as a novel of sorts.
Dustin Wilson is a practitioner of secular magic. He has exhibited his work in artist run centers across Canada and has received funding from the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Quebec and the Canada Council for the Arts. He is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Guelph. The exhibition opens with a reception on Saturday May 5, 2012 at 7 pm, with the artist in attendance.
The Wilson Effect Essay by David LaRiviere. There are enigmatic forms embedded into the diagrammatic renderings of Dustin Wilson's Futurology, problematics disclosed with a quasi-scientific methodology that compels the curious among us to delve deeper. Eventually, following the contours of Wilson's data sheets, we penetrate a complex, manifold reading of the future, one containing layers of social conditions and political economies, replete with many strange occupants and multi-faceted technological features.
In order to begin to unpack this complex work one is well advised to closely examine the analysis provided from within the work itself, in the form of an educational video entitled Secrets from the Future. While the narrator of this short “documentary” is somewhat sceptical of Wilson's method, the overall tone of the video is enamoured with its fantastic subject. Certain stylistic or aesthetic choices contained in Wilson's Secrets from the Future video mirror, as would an affectionate homage, an obscure science documentary program entitled The Hutchison Effect. Mr. Wilson is transparent about the fact that this likewise science-smitten informational short was an influence and an inspiration, as evidenced by its honoured position next to the Secrets video on his own Future Life Regression website (http://www.futureliferegression.com/blog/). In fact the relationship between Secrets from the Future and The Hutchison Effect is psychologically complex. There is a sincerity shared between the two projects, a genuine attraction motivating their respective investigations. Along these lines Wilson has explored both the material content and symbolic expression of the Hutchison video, resulting in a series of parallel treatments. For example, both works are charming in a low-budget modesty that is also reflected in either soundtrack.
In The Hutchison Effect a muffled synthesizer lends an almost “science-porn” vibe to the proceedings – a sultry, early digital new age score that might have likewise inspired The Boards of Canada. Secondly, Wilson fashions his own stoic, sober presentational style after John Hutchison, to the comparable degree that, like his inspirational predecessor, Wilson is framed as a seer investigating science from the outside, consistently driven by an unorthodox method of intuition. Thirdly, Wilson's project flirts with an irony that implicates aspects of the Scientific “establishment,” in particular authoritarian strictures that claim to speak for the “better good.” Such over-arching conceits belong to the scientist-despot, and such establishment privilege is likewise implicated in the Hutchison affair.
Dustin Wilson, who has enjoyed the benefit of studying the Hutchison video, sympathizes with the imperative to make a case for wonder, but at the same brings to the fore what is only hinted at with Hutchison's professed discomfort with math. Yogic method and fugue states are but two of the tangential techniques that Wilson deploys in order to deterritorialize “quantum particle entanglement theory” and thereby gain the capacity to receive information from another time. Ultimately Wilson's challenge to the scientific establishment is delivered with transdisciplinary force, simultaneously from inside and outside of contemporary scientific paradigms. By engaging Hutchison not as a “Platonic Model,” but rather as just another simulacrum carrying out deviations, Wilson effectively casts himself as a colleague in the struggle against totalitarianism. Here is a resistance that is rendered in a minor language, such that the entire system must be conceived as open-ended and always in a state of development.
Moving on from the Secrets video, we are presented a series of drawings undertaken on graph paper, each of them annotated with codified entries as well as notes, and systematically laid out in parallel rows of airline cable. Taken as a whole we enter into a giant flowchart. The layout is itself open ended, widening as one proceeds, and always receptive to new data that Wilson collects from time wormholes. The installation that I saw first-hand was at AKA Gallery in Saskatoon, however judging by the photo documentation of other iterations documented on his website, it would seem that the work is quite pliable to shifting configurations. The first consistency to note is that these suspended flow-chart papers are dominated by drawings, Wilson's preferred form of scientific divination. Drawings populate the flow chart and drawings record his research findings, including his most profound revelations. This is because drawing is the only medium available to Wilson while he is in the fugue state necessary to receive tachyon beams from the future.
No doubt it is the automatist in Wilson that has predisposed him to this rather artistic brand of transcription. From here the artist-as-scientist-as-artist begins to illuminate a future society with its own complex relationship to scientific enterprise. As Wilson stated in the Secrets video, “Judging from the content of future images rendered by myself, it appears as though the down-streamers do indeed frequently alter the human genome.” What is revealed in the drawings constitute a bestiary of biogenetic perversity, whereby the future privileged class, who wear blue suits and live in protective geodesic domes, have marshalled the gene pool to the violent degree of steering evolution. The drawings graphically depict a variety of hybrid creatures that the blue-suited ones have “programmed,” but Wilson's depictions also chronicle horrible miss-steps, catastrophic genetic disasters that would dwarf the consequences of the Cane Toad debacle or that of the Nile Perch. For example, let us consider the mole phisher – here is a dome dweller fuck-up par excellence. Initially the mole phisher was biogenetically determined to chase after another genetic mishap, namely the over-stocked p'tits deer. Of course the ferocious and prolific mole phisher devoured all p'tit deer stocks in no time flat, and, not being in the least bit satiated, immediately began to feast upon varieties of the hominid slave classes, such as the Homo Domesticus or the Homo Pilosus.
Ironically, the more that the genome is subjected to this classical brand of scientific determination, presupposing all of evolution as merely an admixture that can be ruled over, the more that wild, unforeseeable variables run amok. Such is the hubris of this future science: to persist in their arrogant determinations in the face of such disasters! Indeed, the blue-suited dome dwellers persist to the point of necessitating their own evacuation! Of course, the indictment of a corrupt scientific establishment, or of the privileged “authorities” who carry out their misbegotten determinations with relative impunity, is not far off from the obscene wealth, status, and impunity accorded to contemporary pharmaceutical or biotechnological industrial “leaders.” Hence the scope of Wilson's future scenarios can not be limited to the time of Futurology. The implications of his work repeatedly enfold past, present and future into a pretzel. Let us consider the case of how our aspiring Futurologist came to experience a “quantum flash” in the course of discovering his first time wormhole.
Wilson admits that it was voyeurism that accidentally opened up his channel to the future, but not some romantic voyeurism of the future, rather he was listening-in to his next door neighbours having a quarrel very much in the present. Expanding on this domestic squabble, Wilson recalls that his neighbours are representative of many Newfoundlanders living in the Lake Shore Village near Toronto, insofar as they moved to the area in hopes of finding employment at the nearby Goodyear Tire factory. Many of the factory workers found themselves thrust into adverse economic conditions following the historic closure of the tire plant. Such events formed part of the enduring predicament, very much like a containment system with little space for social mobility.
While this back-story does not factor directly into Wilson's drawings, it is certainly resonant with the future manifestations of an underclass. Enter the genetically modified hominids who work for the dome dwellers. Beyond the economic consideration of their utility, the Homo Domesticus, Homo Faber, Homo Betula, etc., are as much expendable playthings for the blue suits as any other material determination that they manipulate. What is resonant between this past/present metatext and the future diagram that Wilson channels is a lack of agency bound up in presupposed, designated, and (sadly) adopted identity constructions. Conversely, it is perhaps the one who is not confined to a single time, the one who has taken flight from any such confinement, who is best equipped to undertake the critical task of (automatic) drawing from the future. As Wilson's research continues to unfold his future reflections only complicate their relations; adding branches to the flow chart and confounding the controlling measure of any Dome Dweller with still more wrinkles and folds.