Art probes mystery of the paranormal

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Good art is quite often mind-boggling in the ideas it provokes.

And there are few exhibitions which will probe more deeply into the profound question of human powers than the latest display of sculpture and video work by Susan MacWilliam, running at NN Gallery in Guildhall Road, Northampton.

Susan has developed a fascination with historic research into telepathy and ESP (Extra Sensory Perception).

The NN exhibition is called An Answer Is Expected and includes sculptured spheres and video work showing some of the archived images of research into the human ability to read minds.

Susan was particularly inspired by the work of parapsychologist, JB Rhine, and in 2011 she focused her work on archives at the Rhine Research Center and Parapsychology Laboratory Records at Duke University in North Carolina.

One question Susan does not like to be asked is whether she believes in telepathy or not. For her, it is all about asking the question and examining the different paraphernalia which has been used over the course of time to study the mysterious subject.

She said: “There is a number of components in the exhibition. The main part is video, which is 65 minutes long, and there are some 3D images and neon text pieces. This work comes from the five or six weeks I spent in 2011 working at the Rhine Research Center. What I was studying was historic ESP and research which had been carried out by JB Rhine. He was trying to carry out investigations with methods akin to scientific methods.”

She continued: “There used to be cards used to test people, with five symbols such as a star or wavy lines, and the person would try, through telepathy to guess the cards when they were face down.

“I must have seen 3,000 documents through the periods of research. The research took place in the 1930s and I also had access to audio recordings from the 1970s from researchers who studied parapsychology and psychology.”

She added: “The work 
developed through looking at the idea of a researcher setting up a question and trying to find answers.”

The exhibition will open with a launch event tonight between 6pm and 8pm. It will then continue until November 24. A series of earlier video works will be exhibited at the Northampton Museum and Art Gallery, in Guildhall Road, until October 13.

Susan will be giving a talk on October 24 at 2pm, at The University Of Northampton’s Avenue Campus.