Artist features

Jeremy Shaw

Jeremy Shaw (1977 North Vancouver, Canada) works in a variety of media to explore altered states and the cultural and scientific practices that aspire to map transcendental experience. Often combining and amplifying strategies of verité filmmaking, conceptual art, music video and scientific research, he creates a post-documentary space that complicates expectations of the moving image as a form of testimony.

All images Courtesy by the artist and Koenig Galerie. Photo by Timo Ohler

Phase Shifting Index is a seven-channel video, sound and light installation that uses science fiction, documentary, visual effects and synchronization to complicate narrative temporality. The over-arching story is structured as a revisionary look from a distant point in the future at a familiar past in which human beliefs and survival are at stake. Each film documents the embodied, movement-based belief systems of one of seven different subcultural groups across time that aspire to induce parallel realities.

Employing various outmoded 20th-century media, ranging from 16mm film to Hi-8 video tape, Shaw presents what appears to be archival documentary footage as the distant future, creating cognitive dissonance within the viewers’ relation to a sense of place and time. The videos are narrated in the past-tense and delivered by a singular male voice in a style reminiscent of 20th century British ethnographic documentaries that detailed the practices and beliefs of foreign cultures. The dress, style and choreography of the subjects suggest found historical footage from the 1960s to the 1990s. The groups incorporate gestural elements that span a wide cross-section of codified subcultural and spiritual movements that range from the analytical to somatic, and meditative to ecstatic. Through variations of modern dance, popping and locking, jump-style, hardcore skanking, and trust exercises, they explore the potentials of physically altering reality.

Jeremy Shaw’s Quantification Trilogy consists of three parafictional short films: Quickeners (2014), Liminals (2017), and I Can See Forever (2018). The works are set in the future and explore how marginalized societies confront life after a scientific discovery has mapped and determined all parameters of transcendental spiritual experience. This is known as “The Quantification.” Employing aesthetics and outmoded media of the 20th century to depict the future, Shaw’s alchemical combination of cinema verité, ethnographic film, conceptual art, and music video invites the viewer to suspend their disbelief in the story, and provides a series of critical perspectives on systems of power. The Quantification Trilogy examines fringe culture, theories of evolution, virtual reality, neurotheology, esotericism, dance, the representation of the sublime, as well as the notion of transcendence itself.

Towards Universal Pattern Recognition is a series of archival photographs that feature subjects experiencing states of spiritual, hedonistic or technological ecstasy. The photographs are framed under precisely faceted picture lenses, designed by the artist to create multiple refracted images of a specific element within the picture. This mediation of the presented image not only appears to approximate the altered state of consciousness of the photographic subject(s), it heightens an awareness of the perspectives of the camera, the beliefs or values of the original photographer and the viewer of the artwork; they are brought into relation around the very notion of capture, witnessing, authenticity and representability.

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Tique | publication on contemporary art #3: Six Questions