As you enter the McMaster Museum of Art (MMA) and begin to explore the exhibition About the Mind, you are encountered with a dilemma similar to the one faced by Keanu Reeves in The Matrix: will you choose the blue pill and stay within a fabricated reality or instead take the red pill and escape the Matrix into the “real world”? About the Mind features the work of five internationally acclaimed visual artists and incorporates the continuing debate on theories of the mind including philosophical, psychoanalytical and forensic approaches. Each work in the exhibition poses a different question about the concepts of reality, truth and existence, deliberately taking the viewer into an uncomfortable place within his or her own mind.

Are we living inside a fake reality?

In creating Platon’s Mirror, artist Mischa Kuball was influenced by Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. Kuball encourages us to consider the reality of the things we see and to acknowledge our feelings about the things we cannot see. Within the philosophical environment of Platon’s Mirror, the viewer attempts to distinguish tangible images from among dancing layers of light. But the images are unclear and blurred, challenging the viewer to expand their mind beyond their definition of reality.

What is truth?

Trained and licensed in lie detector operation, Paulette Phillips conducted over 230 interviews in an attempt to archive the art world for her work entitled The Directed Lie. Prior to viewing each interview, we are made aware that participants are untruthful when answering certain questions, many of which are deeply personal. But we aren’t told which questions are answered truthfully and which are lies. We are left intrigued, attempting to read each participant’s body language, listening for a quiver of uncertainty, searching for the truth.

How many of us really want to know what’s going on inside our head?

Shaun Gladwell’s Endoscopic Vanitas incorporates a live endoscopic camera which probes a rotating human skull and projects the image onto a video screen. In viewing the piece, we are provided with the opportunity to witness the inner-workings of a vacant skull, a place in which memories, thoughts and ideas once resided. Once the site of our consciousness, the skull is now empty, placed on display to be looked at and analyzed. Vanitas, as a genre of still-life painting, is symbolic of the inevitability of death and the vanity of earthly achievements and pleasures. Not only are we faced with the loss of consciousness – this work also challenges our understanding of death and morality.

How do we conjure memories?

Wyn Geleynse’s piece Untitled considers the way in which cultural artifacts such as films and photographs conjure the psychological spaces of memory and evoke a nostalgic response. The work consists of a miniature gallery space, a sort of “modeled experience,” incorporating both film and sound. The viewer is able to physically interact with the work, taking each person beyond the confines of a typical gallery space. For every individual, the sounds and images conjure up different memories, bringing to light how one space can hold multiple meanings and multiple realities.

How does technology help shape our individual realities?

David Harris Smith, an artist and assistant professor in the Department of Communication Studies and Multimedia at McMaster University created a non-intrusive robot called my kulturBOT 1.0 for the exhibition. The robot quietly glides through the gallery space, reviewing each work and relaying text-captioned photos of its point of view on the displayed works via Facebook and Twitter. This work not only mimics our social media driven culture, but also questions the relationship between humans and technology. Each of our realties is now entrenched in technology, driven and shaped by it – a result of our thirst for innovation. But what happens when technology begins to mimic our behaviour, when a robot tweets about this exhibition instead of us?

Written by: Dominika Jakubiec

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