Stef Will

Stef Will

• 22 January 2022

Nothing to see

With my art, I explore the sense of self and identity in relation to embodied experience. Via working at the interface of art and science, the self in its current body, is examined from a variety of perspectives, often through use of the clinical or algorithmic gaze. Merleau-Ponty agrees that the body is central to our perception of the world. He writes in his 1962 book ‘Phenomenology of Perception’, “I am conscious of the world through the medium of my body”.

However, while my work looks at the body, the embodied self is not explored in isolation, as I explicitly investigate the embodied experience in a marked period of history – one of global introduction of totalitarianism, under the guise of ‘for our own safety’. As Merleau-Ponty aptly writes, “we shall need to reawaken our experience of the world as it appears to us” via deepening contact with our body, which is exactly what I am trying to do.

The work ‘Nothing to See’ critiques the current mass coercion to take up a medical intervention, namely Covid vaccination, disregarding individual benefit/risk ratio and bodily autonomy, which had been up until recently the cornerstones of ethical medicine.

The work displays a quote by Nobel Prize winning physicist Richard Feynman, who stated, “Religion is a culture of faith, science is a culture of doubt”, as scientific advancement requires scepticism and critical, uncensored debate. However, this is now no longer encouraged, even permitted, as we are urged to just ‘trust the science’. Science has become, like religion, a closed, faith-based culture, with dissenting opinions being ridiculed or censored, which is referenced in the work by fading out the word ‘doubt’ and replacing it with ‘faith’.

The quote is displayed on an illuminated lectern reminiscent of a religious preaching pulpit. On the lectern there are standing gold-filled syringes, alluring to the ‘golden solution’ presented to us in the form of Covid vaccines, as well as pharmaceutical profits made from said intervention. These are juxtaposed to a single syringe containing black dust, referencing the Russian roulette of potential complications and unknown long-term safety.

Also on the lectern is a folded newspaper celebrating the safety of a Covid vaccine. On closer inspection, the body of text has been completely blackened out, apart from any words furthering fear and panic. The work references censorship, deliberate manipulation and misinterpretation of data, as well as the tight control of the mainstream media in order to fit a narrative and serve a political purpose.

Austrian-born philosopher Karl Popper, who has written extensively on the philosophy of science, warns in his book ‘The Logic of Scientific Discovery’, “in so far as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable: and in so far as it is not falsifiable, it does not speak about reality”. This means in other words that whenever we propose a scientific solution, we must try as hard as we can to overthrow our solution, rather than defend it.

I shall leave you with another Popper quote. In ‘The Open Society and Its Enemies’ he concludes “The way of science is paved with discarded theories which were once declared self-evident”.

I shall say no more…