QUENTIN DE WISPELAERE
The new technologies broaden our perception of the world. Numerous devices allow us to see the world in new ways : thermal and infrared cameras, microscopes, aircrafts, drones and rockets, wide-angle lenses and telescopes, to name a few. The human eye has never been made aware of that many different views of what surrounds it.
Nevertheless, consciousness, defined as the clear mental representation of reality and existence, has long been neglected scientifically, due to the lack of conceptual and experimental tools, while it was the subject of intense debate in the fields of philosophy, metaphysics and religion. If there is not yet a complete explanation of consciousness, neuroscience begins to understand the biological support of the phenomenon according to which the mind functions inseparably with the body.
An altered state of consciousness, by definition, refers to any mental state diverging from the ordinary state of consciousness, representing a deviation in subjective experience or in psychological functioning from certain general norms of consciousness in the awake state. They include dreams, hypnosis, hallucinations, coma, meditation and near death experiences.
These experiences open up new ways for understanding our representation of reality and the vision of what surrounds us. Altered states of consciousness provide us many potentially revolutionary elements regarding our perception of the world and its mental representation.
What is consciousness? What is reality? How to define and interpret them?
“Three monkeys ... well, maybe four” is a photographic project inspired by the story of Mr. Wilson, an ordinary tourist who got lost in the jungle for 19 days.
Mr. Wilson survived his adventure but his perception of the world was seriously altered during his ordeal. He experimented with a large number of hallucinations due to various factors such as hunger, fear, heat, social isolation and the visual aspect of the jungle itself.
To what extent can these factors change the perception of what surrounds us?
Photographs depict chaotic views of a two weeks experiment in the Belizean jungle. In order to document the experiment through two distinct modes of perception, referring to Mr. Wilson’s both “lucid” and “delirious” mental states, a photographic camera sensitive to spectral light and a thermal camera, sensitive to temperature variations, were used. We are presented alternatively with spectral light photographs and thermal images, as to emotionally acknowledge Mr. Wilson's ordeal.
Taking altered states of consciousness and recent discoveries in cognitive neuroscience as starting point, the camera becomes an exploration tool playing with the boundaries of representation and hallucination.