The Wellcome Collection
State of Mind – “yellowpinkblue”
“A Room Full of Coloured Vapour – Defying the apparent immateriality of the medium and veiling any detail of surface or depth within the space. As visitors walk through this thickly coloured world, attention is focused on the process of perception itself.”
– Jack Lowe, art and design review for ‘huh magazine’
I desperately looked down at my iPhone upon exiting Euston station amongst a swarm of people. Following the arrow and blue line of dots stumbling and rushing through streets and crowds with my friend clinging to my side we finally arrived roughly 6 minutes later at a stone coloured building that read The Wellcome Collection.
After entering a tightly spaced revolving door there was a poster displayed signifying the whereabouts of the exhibition within the building. Up one flight of spiralling stairs and straight ahead was neon pink illuminated text reading States of Mind next to a short queue of people in front of glass doors. Observing a constraint in the space that created a line for the people waiting to enter the exhibition we joined in at the back. Whilst waiting we were handed paper leaflets that contained information about the artist, Ann Veronica Janssens and the exhibition. We were then told that past the glass doors was another queue and that the waiting time was roughly an hour long. Upon hearing this a few people murmured under their breath and turned around to leave.
Finally passing the glass doors, we were faced with another queue however long green sofas, instruction sheets for the exhibition and iPads accompanied it. By adding additional elements to the waiting time allowed for an enhancement of experience. By giving us, the viewer a taste of what is to be expected and adding a technological element followed with instructions on how to act in the exhibition it created a mapping effect to let us know how to act in the space. For example the placement of two low, long, wide sofas in lines created a zigzag seating arrangement and the collaboration of various signifiers and mapping allowed a behavioural response. It gave us the ability to respond and use the space efficiently as well as allowing us to begin thinking about the exhibition before entering it.
The space was confined, cramming four people between two sets of white-framed opaque glass doors and a thick plastic curtain. Ensuring no vapour exited the space the second set of doors opened and we were suddenly pushed in to what felt like an enormous space. Surrounded by a deep pink coloured vapour unable to see anything around us except what was directly in front of us our habitual instinct no longer came in to place. As we cautiously stepped forward, arms stretched out in front of us walking in a straight line the mist began to change from a bright pink to a deep coral, edging forward it became peach, slowly changing in to shades of yellow then dwindling into a light green and emerging into a deep blue. After walking into various strangers and the occasional wall after about five minutes of being amongst the densely coloured vapour our awareness was heightened and the space became more familiar. Once adapting to the room the other people in it also quietened and there was a shift in atmosphere, shrills of anxious laughter became less and the experience was being appreciated and analysed more seriously. Colours could be associated to roughly where in the room we were; deep blue was the back off the room, yellow and green were in the middle, pink was the front and the corners of the room were filled with thicker mist and deeper shades of colours. The perception shifted after ten minutes and the level of processing faded from reflective to behavioural as we made our way to the door.
After exiting the coloured vapour it took a moment for our eyes to adjust to a space that was confined by walls and filled with people. Walking away and down the stairs felt extremely disorientating and the area which once required a visceral level of processing became a behavioural one in which signifiers were needed to assess the direction in which we were going. As we exited the building knowledge in the head and knowledge of the world was restored and the ability to assess the space according to context and familiarity returned.
The ‘yellowpinkblue – State of Mind’ exhibition demonstrated exactly what Janssens’ imagined. Tactility, perception, interaction, adaptation and habituation of space were changed drastically resulting in an individual experience that has been engraved in to our memory.