Hypnotic Suggestion 505

Jane and Louise Wilson collaborate to explore dyadic1perspectives and stereoscopic visions through photography, video and sculptural installation. They are best known for their split-screen film installations, which “in the hands of the twins the device structures instead a dangerous liaison of selves.”2The Wilson’s early performance work with the narcissistic telepathy of performance for video, highly reminiscent of Rosalind Krauss’ observation of rampant telepathy in early video art of the 1970s, and augmented with hypnosis and LSD, presented the twins as one artist rather than as collaborators. The twins refuse to be drawn out too directly on this question of telepathy within their twinned collaboration, yet they do admit to playing with the idea of twin telepathy as part of their work with a wide range of doubles, splits and mirrors in the form and content of their video installations. Sometimes the twins focus on telephones, highlighting the telecommunicative technicity inherent in their use of modern cinematic medium, e.g. in works such as Stasi City, Gamma and Parliament (A Third House). Sometimes they also work with horror, thriller, sci-fi and surveillance genres, which adds to the paranoia of their documentary work with sites of institutional power. Hypnotic Suggestion 505, 1993, is a video projected onto the back of a single suspended screen, photographic series and installation. The artists were hypnotised in their native English,3 and again in Portuguese, a language neither spoke.4A stage-like space, the original site for their hypnosis, was a bit “like a chat show set with blue backcloth, two chairs, and a video”5. Set against a backdrop of heavy curtains, it evoked the tranquil environment of the theatre or cinema. “The Wilsons compared their emergence from hypnosis to the sensation of walking out of a cinema after the film has finished [. . .]”6 The installation was divided into two same-sized rooms, with the recorded projection hung in an adjoining darkened space. The artists quickly responded to the hypnotist “in near symmetrical synchronisation to his instructions.”7 The twins’ movements were almost totally synchronised. Viewing the projection in a dark room, accompanied by the audio of the hypnotist’s soporific voice, viewers can become “at the risk of becoming entranced ourselves”8and there it may be possible that it “puts the viewer at risk of hypnosis.”9

  1. A dyad is a formation of two individuals. In psychoanalytic situations of transference the analyst and the patient make up the psychoanalytic dyad.
  2. Wakefield, 112-3, 112.
  3. Hilty, “Beside Themselves,” 40-3, 41-3.
  4. Gregor Muir, “Beyond Belief,” World Art 1.2 (June 1994): 109.
  5. Hilty, “Beside Themselves,” 40-3, 43.
  6. Hilty, “Beside Themselves,” 40-3, 43.
  7. Hilty, “Beside Themselves,” 40-3, 43.
  8. Wakefield, 112-3, 113
  9. Muir, 109.