Suki Chan (UK/HK), b.1977, is a critically-acclaimed artist and filmmaker whose work uses moving image, photography, and sound to explore our perception of reality.
CONSCIOUS brought together different perspectives from scientists and ordinary people which shake up our preconceptions about individual and collective consciousness. Within her wider study of consciousness and perception, the artist worked with people living with dementia to explore how memory loss can destabilise our understanding of the present, while opening up other realities.
The exhibition included photography, sculpture, virtual reality and three films Memory (2019); Hallucinations (2020) and Fog In My Head (2022), a major commission by Film London.
Memory shows the contrast between geological time and the human lifespan, exploring geological processes and activity in the brain. Subterranean panoramas of caves are shown alongside extraordinary aerial views of Somerset and time-lapse confocal imagery inside a developing brain. These enigmatic images are accompanied by voice-overs that tell of pilots caught between life and death, traversing the air above the earth, some able to reflect back on their hard-won experiences.
Hallucinations is an immersive journey into the personal experiences of two people who are living with dementia, shown next to the perspective of two carers. The film reveals intimate details that convey how dementia changes perceptions – resulting in hallucinations, altered experiences of time and sense of identity. The two-channel video installation invites us to enter into the reality of Pegeen O’Sullivan, the daughter of Irish novelist, Liam O’Flaherty, who currently lives in a care village, and Wendy Mitchell, who wrote her first book after being diagnosed with young-onset dementia at the age of 58. The film transports us to their interior worlds, their personal journeys and perceptions of reality. The voices of O’Sullivan and residents, families and staff of the Belong care Village at Crewe, where Chan undertook an artist residency, spill out of tea cups in a new sculptural installation by the artist. The textured soundtrack is composed by Dominik Scherrer, winner of the 2014 Ivor Novello Award.
Chan’s most recent film in the CONSCIOUS series Fog in My Head (FLAMIN commission) contrasts real-world imagery with abstract scientific material. The artist takes the viewer on a sumptuous visual and aural journey: from the centre of a natural beehive, a developing brain, a home, an office and a forest. Connecting these distinct spaces is fog. The title refers to the quote “fog descending on the brain”, Wendy Mitchell’s metaphor for how dementia makes her feel. Fog is an analogy for the confusion, disorientation, isolation as well as the strange comfort that dementia brings.
Coffee Morning with Suki Chan and Wendy Mitchell
We welcomed bestselling author Wendy Mitchell, whose life story features in Suki Chan’s work, for a relaxed in-conversation event with the artist
Wendy shared what her experience is like living with dementia, and discussed her book What I Wish People Knew About Dementia (2022) as well as her memoir Somebody That I Used to Know (2018).
A new commission by Suki Chan, FOG is a 360º video work into the world of a writer Wendy Mitchell, who wrote her first book after being diagnosed with young-onset dementia at the age of 58. She describes dementia as a “fog descending on the brain”. Wendy's home emerges from a cloud of fog as her voice explains how she uses visual signifiers around the home to trigger her memory and help live her life as independently as possible.
FOG is commissioned by The Bluecoat with support from the Garfield Weston Foundation. It is a prototype for a new immersive video work that Suki Chan is currently developing.
Suki Chan is a Bluecoat artistic alumni: she was commissioned in 2002 in a performance collaboration with Dinu Li as part of Liverpool Live.
Showing alongside CONSCIOUS was Where the Arts Belong: Making Sense (Of It All) a group exhibition exploring our ongoing Where the Arts Belong project which saw a group of artists work creatively with people living with dementia on a wide range of artistic activities.