FEATURE: Shaney Barton – My Inspiration | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Artist Shaney Barton talks inspiration ahead of the Newcastle University Master of Fine Art Summer Degree Show on Friday 24th August.

Your Brain Works Better When It Slows Down (2017) is a sound and video installation made for Newcastle Uni’s MFA summer exhibition last year. As soon as the audience enter the room they are immersed in the projected imagery and sounds of water and different healing instruments such as gongs and singing bowls.

The work has many influences including Masaru Emoto’s work documenting water crystals, brainwave theory and sound therapy. I had been researching brainwave patterns and became interested in the slower alpha and theta frequencies between around 14-5 Hertz. These are areas reached by the brain in relaxed states, just before and during sleep and during meditation, where the the unconscious mind is accessible and the brain taps into heightened creativity and intuition. I was thinking about how this could give rise to creative problem solving- not just for artists but for people in their everyday lives, and so I set out to make a piece of work that attempts to slow down the viewer’s pace into a calm state of presence. I wanted the audience to stay a while with the work and feel comfortable and relaxed as gallery spaces can sometimes feel a bit rigid and I wanted to challenge that directly. I sewed some lying mats together and had pillows with headphones attached to them so that the audience could lie back and listen to healing sounds while the imagery washed over them.

All of the projected imagery is water- both under the sea, captured with a GoPro camera and as clouds in the sky. After reading Mararu Emoto’s Messages in the Water I became fascinated by his work and by the notion that water has memory. Emoto collected and froze water samples from various geographical locations. The resulting photographs of crystals found differing and surprising results in each different sample. Photographs taken of water crystals from areas of unpolluted natural beauty showed beautiful and complex six-pointed crystal formations. Conversely, chemically treated or polluted water from busy cities such as Tokyo resulted in distorted and scrambled formations. His research also found that even exposure to harsh music or harsh words could negatively impact on the appearance and formation of the frozen water crystals. Given that humans are made up of 70% or more water I found this research compelling and wanted to somehow study water through direct observation for myself.

To make the sounds for this work I collaborated with a talented sound therapist called Diane Jackson, capturing and recording the colossal sound and vibrations she played from her Paiste gongs and other healing instruments. The gong was brought to the West in the 1960’s by Yogi Bhajan in an attempts to give the American youth an alternative to psychedelic drugs and as a means to reach higher vibrations naturally. In sound therapy the gong is used to balance and restore the body’s natural vibrations, so it made perfect sense to me to combine its sound with the images I’d recorded of water. The gong actually accompanied the piece live during the opening of the show so that the audience were able to experience first-hand the visceral vibrations of the gong going through their bodies.

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