Enigma Bodytech is a story about journeys, a subjective road trip to nowhere through time and space, meditating on the sights and sounds of energy within and without the body. In this new work (HD video) from Glasgow-based artist and filmmaker Kimberley O’Neill, technology appears to both disconnect and connect us.
As soon as you enter the dark, empty space of the Collective’s Hillside Gallery you notice only the HD screen on the far wall with two-floor speakers either side. The perception of hard-edged technology gives way here as you sit down. Your body sinks into the soft edges of a squishy bean bag, on a carpeted floor with a thin veil of the curtain between inside and outside space. This is the first hint of the interplay between body and technology.
Scenes from Taiwanese Ki energy healing loop the film together with the sense that you can join the trip at any point. A lone female protagonist takes a car journey reminiscent of the – typically male – counterculture road trips of the late 60s/early 70s. She lists various failures in SatNav into which we “follow like lambs”. The little Google Street View man is dragged across the screen on his own enforced road trip.
The film alternates between disjointed voiceovers: the male voice comments on the shift of technology from a sharing culture to a commodity; the female voice is an audio meditation playing in the car; the protagonist’s voice repeats “out of body, out of body” before going on an “inner pilgrimage” through the Californian desert and Silicon Valley parking lots.
Add to this a soundtrack which includes pulses recorded from inside the body, car radio interference crackling between stations, electronic energy moving and humming, desert winds shuddering against the body.
O’Neill draws inspiration from the psychedelic novel Nog by Rudy Wurlitzer(1969) and UK writer Ann Quin’s experimental novel Tripticks (1973), both disjointed road trips with shifting collagist narratives involving multiplicity, disconnection from self/society and unstructured narratives.
This work was produced through the Collective’s Satellites Programme, development support for Scottish-based emergent artists and producers. O’Neill was also shortlisted for the Margaret Tait award last year.
By Julie Boyne