Melanie Gilligan Commission

The Common Sense

Gilligan is in the process of creating a new project titled The Common Sense. Commissioned by the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery and Charles Street VIdeo. The Common Sense is an experimental narrative drama in the style of a television miniseries. The project is currently in production. Half of the film was shot in January 2013 in Toronto, and the other half was filmed in 2014 in the Netherlands. The work will be shown throughout 2014/2015 in three parallel solo exhibitions planned in the Netherlands at De Appel, Amsterdam, Casco, Utrecht and De Hallen in Haarlem. All episodes of The Common Sense will be made available for viewing online. As with Gilligan’s previous video works, Crisis in the Credit System, Self-Capital and Popular Unrest, this long-form video piece will use drama and fiction to contemplate broader social, political and economic issues.

The story of The Common Sense revolves around a new technology that allows people to feel one another’s embodied experience, physical sensations and emotions. Worn on the roof of the mouth, the “neural entrainment device” is given the informal name “The Patch”.

Technologies change us - our attitudes, our behavior and our bodies. The film charts a future moment where the widespread use of the Patch has created pronounced neuroplastic change in the brains of its users, transforming their capacities. As our story begins, The Patch has existed for ten years and in that time the relation between self and other, individual and collective, and also between subjects and their economic survival, have been profoundly transformed as the physical conditions of individual existence are technologically remade. Conceptions such as empathy and solidarity have been replaced with the ability to have concrete sensations of other people’s situations.

The story spans the period of a decade, and will show the social and political effects of The Patch over time. In doing so, it will grapple with how social contact between people forms subjectivity, how structural conditions affect such contact, and how political possibilities are shaped by these interactions. The time of the story is - like our own - one of ever intensifying competition and economic polarization. Living standards are declining rapidly for many in a culture that desperately prioritizes business and financial growth over the wellbeing of its population. Collective political resistance is emerging in many places around the world. However, the technology’s role in these shifts is ambiguous. While this technological development creates possibilities for new modes of existence and collective social formations, it also leads to new contradictions and conflicts.

Gibson is a university professor who teaches a class on technology and society. As our story begins, Gibson’s students sit down to watch a television program relevant to their studies. The TV show takes place many years ago when the Patch was first released. Events that take place in this television program are discussed by characters within the wider narrative and we see the social changes caused by the technology through their eyes. Then, in the world outside the TV show, a calamity occurs: the Patch network breaks down for the first time in its history. Everyone is utterly shocked. Nothing like this has happened before. The students of the class are faced with a disorienting few days, in which they alternately feel the need for constant social contact, but feel a discomfort with contact that is unmediated by the Patch. The anxiety makes each of them retreat to their own homes.

When the Patch network is repaired, something is very different in the world. Our story and its structure has suddenly changed. We still follow episodes of the TV show, but now when we return to our main story, it is split into two parallel realities: one where wide scale political disruptions have broken out, and another where life continues as it was before. These two realities continue in parallel and will create a physical disconnection in the story, which will be borne out in the mode in which the work is displayed.

Melanie Gilligan completed a BA (Hons) Fine Art at Central Saint Martins in 2002 and was a Fellow with the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program in 2004/5. She has presented solo exhibitions at institutions including Chisenhale Gallery (London), Kölnischer Kunstverein (Cologne), Transmission Gallery (Glasgow), The Banff Centre, (Banff), Justina M. Barnicke Gallery (Toronto),and VOX centre de l’image contemporaine (Montreal). In 2008, commissioned by Artangel Interaction, Gilligan released Crisis in the Credit System, a four-part fictional mini drama about the recent financial crisis. In 2009 she received a Paul Hamlyn Award for Artists and in 2010 she won the Illy Present Future Award. Gilligan has taught widely in Europe and North America, and has appeared in numerous group exhibitions worldwide, including Manifesta 8 (Murcia, Spain) in 2010. Her writings on art, politics and finance have appeared in magazines such as Artforum, Texte zur Kunst and Grey Room.


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