by Nicholas Quin Serenati
About the series: Illness experience is a resource for experiential knowledge. To that extent, it is important to understand that life has infinite spaces which can be experienced. My work is concerned with phenomenological experiences that transform these spaces into places. These places become the foundations in our individual lives – the construct of our identity. The work in this series is intended to ascertain an understanding of the ways meaning–making functions as a method for healing, and how the creative process operates to uncover and identify new metaphors that best communicate illness experience to others.
Reclaiming Experiential Residue: Misconceptions
Illness is a window to foresight. My proposed metaphor is a dynamic performance. This metaphor encompasses experience, object, space, language, sound, translation and meaning as a surfacing of my experience with illness. I have chosen a window for two significant attributes: an object – a way of being, and a lens – a way of seeing. With this approach, the window is a reconstitution of my body in a place – or experience – that is designed by time and space. Time, within the relationship of this video, provides insight into a spatiotemporal system. This system is intended to shape perception and impart meaning. Employing this conceptual system of spatiotemporal thinking has a history that also needs unpacking.
In 1922, Sigmund Freud published his analysis of the conventional understanding of traumatic neurosis in his book, Beyond the Pleasure Principle. In Freud’s analysis, he identified two major effects of traumatic neurosis that go beyond the conservative notion of physical injury (8). Most critical to Freud’s analysis are two polarizing and complex effects. First, the idea of a negative effect is characterized by the defensive action of suppressing the traumatic event as a method of avoiding a reliving of the event. The second, the positive effect, is using methods to bring the event back into operation, or as Freud states, “confirm the reconstruction of [the patient’s] own memory” (17-18). It is of my opinion that the positive effect approach exercises with success illness experience. Presently, this approach can be deemed most effective by contemporary applications such as journaling and creative outputs (i.e., painting, drawing, photography, etc.) and will play a central role in the theory that underpins this project.
In elaborating on illness experience, a trauma is absorbed and an influential preoccupation with that experience becomes rooted in the psyche of the patient. This preoccupation can have a deeply profound result on the way an individual perceives and lives with illness experience. Through methods of positive effect approaches – repeating, reliving and re-organizing – the traumatic experience will serve as a source of knowledge building. In using video art as the method of positive effect operation, there exists a fascinating application with digital media that support, and in some cases, goes beyond the ideas presented by Freud when it comes to “repetition-compulsion” (Freud, 19).
The idea of repetition and compulsion is a landmark in video art and I will use this method to emphasize the focus of the work’s investigation of metaphorical construction and meaningful subtext. For example, one key component to the structure of video art is time. Through the employment of repetition, or the loop, time can be utilized to suspend the real so that a greater attention can be paid to an element that may be, in the real, too small. More specifically, the idea is to narrow the scope of time on a particular sequence of footage, lock in a specific set of in and out points within the timecode of the video, and encode a repetitious sequence that delivers a cycle meditated on a specific idea(s). Another key component in the structure of time is the notion of speed. The rendering of speed not only shifts the paradigm of what is believed to be footage of real time, it also changes the context by ramping up or slowing the speed down to a hyper-real interpretation. In influencing these few attributes, the work moves outside of normality and is reconfigured to communicate a new perception of reality – or provide exposure to an augmented reality.
This augmented reality is a justification of constructing methods of sight. Time and space manipulation of the video project will inform the ways the work is engaged, meditated, and understood. For instance, the window is the conceptual anchor – for being and seeing differently. The concept of a window extracted from its traditional context and placed directly in an aesthetic situation, is intended to communicate an idea of illness within the body.
Misconceptions (2012) is a body of work that enforces the notion of repetition, time, and space. Additionally, the work was produced from a mixed methodology approach involving the weaving of my Buddhist mediation practice and art practice. From this particular approach, the objective is to select a location that I am interested in investigating – at times it is planned and others it is meant to be spontaneous and thus would explain my work with new media and mobile devices – and I arrange my meditation session along with the setup of my camera. If I choose video, I record the entire meditative session. If I choose still photography, I wait to the moment that my meditation is complete and I either use a short or long exposure to capture the moment. Misconceptions employs video as the means of documentation and a window as a center of interest. Interestingly enough, this experience inspired some creative writing that I shortly after I stopped recording the session. Later, I recorded the prose with a talent that I frequently use in my pieces and embedded the audio track in the video to complete the work. This project was the first in a series of experiments intended on achieving dharma art.
Nicholas Quin Serenati is an interdisciplinary scholar-artist whose work is defined by arts-based research that explores the potential of medium and discipline in liminal spaces. With a practice rooted in locating one’s place, Serenati employs video, creative writing, photography, sound, installation and performance to investigate forming situations that direct his research around illness and metaphor.
Serenati’s intellectual practice deeply engages the creation of meaning – form and function – and the articulation of story throughout the investigative process. Themes of trauma, identity, illness, disability, experimental narrative, social constructivism, sound and language are all contributing factors to Serenati’s work as a critical discourse. Serenati’s scholarly-art practice is intended to investigate phenomena as a way of achieving profound knowledge of theory, philosophy and art.
Based out of St. Augustine, Florida, Serenati holds a BA in Communications from Flagler College, an MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts from Goddard College, and is a candidate for his Ph.D. in Interdisciplinary Studies: Humanities and Culture from Union Institute & University. He is currently the Art Director / Dept. Chair of the Cinematic Arts program at Douglas Anderson School of the Arts and an adjunct professor of media and cinema studies at Flagler College.
Serenati’s dissertation, The ReFraming of Leukemia: Metaphor, Buddhism, Art and Illness Experience, will be completed May 2014, and the installation of the project is set for early 2015 in St. Augustine, Florida.