The Hum – Caustic Coastal

I’m happy to have a new WiFi LAN work WAVES  in The Hum curated by Tžužjj at Caustic Coastal in Salford .

Emli Alrai, Dave Evans, James Fuller, David Lamelas, Mark Riddington, Troika Collective.

3/3/17 – 8/4/17

PV: Thursday 9th March 6-9pm

UNIT 2, Regents Trading Estate, Oldfield Road, M5 4DE
Open Thursdays & Saturdays during shows 1-5pm

“The film safe was made by Todd Haynes in 1995, but is set in the late 1980’s. It starts with the wrong couch being delivered to Carol White, an affluent suburban LA housewife. She doesn’t really appear to have any personality, just reflections of her suburban lifestyle, shopping, aerobics, lunch dates etc, Men are dominant, they tell their stories and dish out the advice. When Carol tries to speak she quickly lapses into banalities and cliche. The couch, which Carol describes as ‘totally toxic’ triggers a slow disintegration of Carol’s health. She get a rash, suffers from paralyzing attacks etc. Has a massive nosebleed while getting a perm (so eighties!). No doctor can find anything wrong with her. She gets repeatedly ill and repeatedly sent home from the doctor with pills that do not help. She tries fad diets.

She sees a flyer at her health club that asks ‘do you smell fumes’ and ‘are you allergic to the 20th century’. It directs her to a self help group for people with multiple chemical sensitivity. Carol decides this is what she is suffering from, she is basically allergic to household chemicals, smog, exhaust fumes etc. This is not a proven illness,  Carol continues to attend self-help groups, wearing her respirator, but does not improve, and continues to get sicker. She eventually goes into the desert to a retreat to reduce her chemical ‘load’ and comes under the spell of a charismatic leader who offers lots more nice sounding but ultimately useless advice (another man).

The film is so complex that I don’t think it offers anything as simple as an underlying sub text. Part of it is about social problems being palmed off onto the individual – Carol is basically persuaded that all the problems are in her head. This chimes in my skepticism over things like self-help and mindfulness (and that there is only one thing more dangerous than a man guessing at the causes of problems, that a man guessing at the solutions, which is what Carol is subject to all the way through the film). Also there is a link to the HIV/Aids crisis in that it was often described as a ‘lifestyle’ illness, as if the individuals themselves were somehow to blame for their condition, and that if only the most affected populations regulated their activities then somehow this would prevent it. This is obviously bullshit.

This multiple chemical sensitivity of safe has it’s contemporary equivalent in electro-magnetic sensitivity, or an unproven sensitivity to phone signals, Wi-Fi signals and radio waves. The Internet is full of this stuff, written by people who obviously spend a lot of time sitting in front of electronic devices. They just feed each other little nuggets of dicey advice all day. It’s nice, supportive even, but helpful? I’m not sure.

For The Hum I clipped some footage from safe and overlaid it with some chat from EMS sufferers BB. As a work it is self-defeating as the advice is delivered by the source of the problem (not chemicals or over bearing white men) but radio waves. Incidentally, I left the chat channel open, wondering what would happen. The final post was someone looking for swinging partners.

If anything WAVES is about the dangers of asceticism – making sure whatever I do doesn’t just become another dominating cult.”