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12 August 2013
Come Back To Where You Are presents a new body of work in video and photography by Michelle Walsh. Her practice explores contemporary portraiture at the point where neuroscience intersects with Eastern philosophy. In the interview that follows, Michelle discusses this new project in detail.
NAE: For Come Back To Where You Are you have used Hyson Green as your focal point to work directly with a number of religious and secular groups such as the Soto Zen Buddhists, the Baha'i Community, Sai Dham practitioners, Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, Kadampa Buddhists and Yoga practitioners. Can you describe the starting point of the project?
MW: For this exhibition I have photographed people in Nottingham who are already involved in contemplative practices, directly after they had been meditating, doing yoga, singing devotional Bhajans or contemplating on spiritual themes such as love. Subjects were invited to do the opposite of what usually happens when being photographed: they stood with eyes closed in front of the camera and reconnected to the heart of the particular practice they had just engaged in. When they felt present and centred, able to maintain their attention focused inward rather than projected out to the camera, they would open their eyes and look at the lens. Once their eyes were opened I captured their portrait instantaneously.
NAE: This collection builds on the themes of previous work in photography and video. For example, your earlier series, Out of Nowhere, Nothing Answered (2011), explored contemporary portraiture at the point where neuroscience intersects with Eastern philosophy. In that project you used an EEG machine to read the brainwaves of sitters, with the camera only being triggered when the mind was at a pre-determined deeply relaxed state. Can you describe how this new project, Come Back To Where You Are, relates to and extends on this previous work?
MW: In the previous work, the experience of turning the attention inwards within the installation space was the key thing. With this current project, working with people who already have some experience of contemplative practices, the focus was on whether the subtle shift from keeping the attention strongly focused inwards rather than projected outwards to the camera could come across in a portrait.