White Matter


'Study for White Matter' (2014) K.Beales
'Study for White Matter' (2014) K.Beales

White Matter, 2015, Katriona Beales (UK)
Multi-media installation with glass sculptures, moving image and sound.
Commissioned by FACT (Foundation for Art and Creative Technology), and shown as part of ‘Group Therapy – mental distress in a digital age’ curated by Vanessa Bartlett and Mike Stubbs, 5th March- 17th May 2015.

Images above: stills from ‘White Matter’ (2015), images below: research images.

Soundtrack by Shane Beales

More information on FACT website and accompanying artists’ talk.

For images and more information please contact:
Sofia Sigroth
Media Relations Officer at FACT
0151 707 4413 | [email protected]

Extract from Press Release:
Beales’ developed ‘White Matter’ in conversation with Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones, the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ spokesperson on Behavioural Addictions and Problem Gambling, and one of the UK’s leading experts on online addictions. A scientific study in 2012 has shown that Internet addicts “show an impairment of white matter fibres in the brain connecting regions involved in emotional processing, attention, decision making and cognitive control. Similar changes to the white matter have been observed in other forms of addiction to substances such as alcohol and cocaine.”

‘White Matter’ consists of a purpose built round room, the ceiling of which is a back-projected, hyper-real sequence of moving images. The eye has been used as a structural device for both the physical and virtual elements of the work – the shorts in the circular moving image grow outwards, like an expanding pupil. Beneath the ceiling, black glass sculptures the dimensions of the hand are displayed, reflecting and distorting the moving image above. Audience members are invited to handle the glass objects whilst in the space. Beales’ comments, “The Mexica people treasured obsidian, the volcanic black glass-like material, making mirrors and other ceremonial devices as portals to access other realms. I’ve drawn a parallel between these obsidian mirrors and contemporary mobile telecommunications devices, which also act as portals into vast realms of information.”

Whilst the study and even classification of Internet addiction is an emerging field of research there have been several high-profile cases which have highlighted some of the dystopian potential of the slippage between our online and offline lives. One of these stories in particular has acted as a foundation for ‘White Matter’. In 2010, a South Korean couple played a role-play game called Prius Online for 12 hour stretches every day in local internet cafés. In the game they nurtured an online girl called Anima. The more they interacted with Anima, the more she grew. Meanwhile, tragically, their three-month-old baby starved to death. The coroner reported that the pair had fed their premature baby just once a day. Beales’ explains ‘In part of the moving image work, I’ve used a digitally manipulated image of Anima’s face transformed into a topography and rendered as a 3D model so that the audience journeys across the contours of this unknown landscape.”

With thanks to:
Anthony Spence at the British Museum, Bruce Marks, Django and Alfie Pinter, FACT, Hana Janečková, Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones, Luc Julien, Shane Beales, Uniform (Mark Lee, Antonio Miele & Lucy Johnston) and Vanessa Bartlett.
Brain imagery courtesy of the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging and Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Consortium of the Human Connectome Project www.humanconnectomeproject.org