Extrospection is a word, but feels funny in our mouths and on a keyboard. Non-introspective is mechanical, perceptive, woolly. This presentation of work is – I think – both introspective and perceptive: the journey to all-knowledge starts with self-knowledge? I don’t really know, if I’m honest. I immediately shied away from the references to Plato in this work – in part because they are earnest, and in part because I can’t remember, in situ, anything he wrote about.
Stripping out all the theory – and simply responding to the work as it presents – is a lovely and worthwhile endeavour. A series of lenses, images, shadows, words, photograms, films, projections, crocodile clips and armatures are elegantly deployed as explorations of visibility, light, clarity and truth. All of the references that Nelson includes within the imagery and text elements are pleasingly didactic and diagrammatic, even without the larger theoretical context.
But the thing about allegory is that it depends on your perspective. Within these fleeting and subtle works, it feels like we’re being told something that’s just out of reach, something too monumental or impenetrable, without having first laid the groundwork on individual, malleable components. What if the imagery and text and apertures are all just rhetorical and each of the armatures, on which a lone lens rests, are gathered together to look in at one another and out towards us at the same time? The positioning of Nelson’s videos, projections and UV pieces require a physical closeness – a proximity that I think she understands innately, and which I’ll be interested to see develop in her future work.
There are choices to be made between the playful and pathological with each of these materials – magnifying glasses, UV light, skeleton structures balanced precariously and delicately atop one another. The shadows change as the light does. Everything is mediated by the relationship in which it is placed. There are some little anthropomorphic Transformers scaling the exposed pipework in the studios. There’s a torch (a torch! More of these please) with which to view the screen-printed ultraviolet pigment. Of course, only a small proportion of the print is visible, rendering everything beyond the torch’s reach illegible. I’m sure this echoes something in the text or the work’s rationale about enlightenment, but it doesn’t feel gimmicky. Photograms of various types of lightbulb are also super-meta.
The layers of lenses and facets and ergonomics made me think about blind spots, peripheries and running interference. Whilst they’re not tricksy, these works do all feel like little bits of magic. You just can’t see the strings or wires.
The Degree Shows: Writers’ Choice is an annual project inviting writers to respond to the work of a chosen graduate from BA Degree Shows taking place in May-June 2019 on the island of Ireland.