March 2 – April 14, 2018
Opening Reception: Friday, March 2, 7 pm at Artcite Inc. with artist in attendance
Artcite Gallery Hours: Tues – Sat, 12:00 – 5:00 pm
In 2015, while researching another project, the artist came across two videos, uploaded anonymously and without title or description. Somewhere between travel diary and documentation, the footage follows a Western researcher and his Turkish interpreter as they field test an unknown device. In one video, the two sightsee, browse markets, and follow their device through fields, streets and alleyways. In the other, they perform a vaguely medical procedure, scanning the heads of three subjects. Shortly after being found, the video files were removed.
Following what little information could be gleaned from the footage, Richards uncovered a heavily-redacted development contract requesting prototypes for a technology capable of “detection and realignment of oppositional ideologies in the field”. Found in the notes of a congressional budget document, the contract details an agreement between the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the Centre for Global Inquiry, a Raleigh-based firm specializing in experimental neurotechnologies—an emergent field involving direct manipulations of the mind.
Working out from this nexus, Richards embarks on a wide trajectory of research and production concerning the interwoven histories of social deviance and control. From Theseus’ defeat of the Minotaur and civilization’s “triumph” over “barbarism”; from the leprosarium to the asylum; from McCarthyism to modern-day deradicalization programs (with their claims of a cure for violent fundamentalism) An Impeccable State is a cautious meditation on the attitudes, architectures and apparati—past, present and future—manifested in response to the plurality of our human condition.
The exhibition’s centrepiece, a single-channel video titled Cutting the stone (2016), portrays a quasi-medical procedure from the perspective of the subject. Referencing Hieronymus Bosch’s painting of the same name (c. 1494), in which a charlatan doctor removes the “stone of madness” from the head of a patient, the work evokes existing neurotechnology (in this case, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation) and an increasing lack of distinction between difference and illness in the eye of Western institutions. To this end, the script contains dialogue pulled from psychiatric questionnaires for the diagnosis of schizophrenia alongside texts from examinations claiming to detect early signs of radicalization in British schoolchildren.
In the context of Windsor—a border city—An Impeccable State urges the viewer to (re)consider the physical and psychological construction of social identities, the state architectures which support them, and the present/future extension of state power into the cognitive realm. The exhibition mines the archive in order to locate these practices and technologies in relation to inherited frameworks of exclusion—frameworks that continue to prefigure xenophobic and nationalist definitions of “normative” ideological, cultural and political states.
About the Artist
Grayson Richards is a Toronto-based artist working in photography, video, installation, performance and the archive. Through long-term projects and interventions, his work explores the capacity of artistic practice as a path toward understanding or confronting systems of state and corporate power—particularly those which obscure or naturalize their influence. Alongside this material work, he maintains an academic practice concerned with the role of artistic methodologies in the creation of politically actionable knowledge. His work has been shown across Canada, with recent exhibitions at Stride Gallery (Calgary) and the Audain Art Centre (Vancouver). He holds a BFA from Emily Carr University and an MFA from Ryerson University, where his research was supported by the Ontario Graduate Scholarship.
The artist would like to acknowledge the support of the Ontario Arts Council.
The artist extends a special thank you to:
Nil Alt, Ali (Istanbul), James Agostinho, Zoe Brownstone, Fahri (Istanbul), Elle Flanders, Vid Ingelevics, Ozer (Göreme), Ed Slopek, Grace Smith, Julia Welsh