Circumambulating the Mind
It may be wise to drop some dimenhydrinate or promethazine before sliding into Jeremy Blincoe’s latest foray, for he’s about to take us on a very strange journey indeed.
We have all, as children, watched with dizzied fascination the strange machinations of insects, the methodical web slinging of spiders, the elegant dancing of the bees. Ants are, of course, a perennial, their stringent lines of searchers, their occasional moments of apparently urgent information-sharing with specific peers. I recently watched a line of ants charging along in the red sand of Arnhem Land – so multitudinous were they that they’d built a kind of superhighway, dislodging so much sand that the trail was almost a centimeter deep and seemed to run for over a hundred metres.
Ants are a fairly recent fascination for Blincoe and, in his typically eccentric fashion, they stem from a decidedly arcane source. Blincoe has a problem with curiosity – he simply has too much of it. His conversations can range from the history of spirituality to notes on obscure scientific facts. Indeed his latest inspiration stems from a technical textbook entry from the Department of Animal Behavior at the American Museum of Natural History by a chap by the name of Theodore Christian Schneirla with the unwieldy title of ‘A unique case of circular milling in ants, considered in relation to trail following and the general problem of orientation.’
Ants, it transpires, do not always act with insect-rationality.
Blincoe is by no means the first artist to become enamoured with the insect world. A case in point would be Sydney-based Maria Fernanda Cardoso’s Flea Circus (1994-2000), a beguiling series of videos and still-images replicating the bygone phenomenon of the flea circus. But as Blincoe began investigating his rotating ants, other ideas and notions began rotating in his psyche, travelling in circles like a Worm Ouroboros.
In his rather fevered notes for his research into ‘Circumambulation,’ Blincoe refers to numinous symbols, consciousness, rationalism, dream life — an immense swathe of psychological states of mind. Along the way he drops in on William Butler Yeats, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Carl Jung, Alexis de Tocqueville and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn for their takes on the state of the human mind. He goes so far as to tell the story of The Marabout, or Muslim Holy Man, who draws a large circle in the dirt, which represents the world and places a scorpion, symbolic of man, inside the circle. The scorpion cannot escape the circle, which the Marabout keeps making smaller and smaller until, utterly trapped, the hapless creature stings itself to death.
Blincoe takes us on a roller-coaster ride through the pyrotechnic insanitorium of the labyrinth of the human mind. The seats of the roller coaster are in fact us, our minds, taking impossible twists and turns and loops to dizzying effect.
The works in ‘Circumambulation’ act as powerful metaphors for escape and entrapment. The traps are self-perceived, the Marabout’s circle, in theory easy enough to escape, is indeed a symbol of our self-perception. But Blincoe has given us an option — it is time to be seated and go for a roller coaster ride of discovery.
— Dr. Ashley Crawford