THE SOURCE 2002 (Video Still)

single-channel video installation

An overgrown garden: out of the distance comes a solitary person, then another one and another one. People start walking in the other direction and disappear into the distance. We see this coming and going of people in a series of shots. The people are walking in and out of the garden through a gate, over a courtyard and through the front door of a house onto a busy street. Ultimately we see a street corner with many people walking in all directions. It has, however, gradually become apparent that all the people are the same - this place is entirely populated by identical replicas. The sequence of cuts is reversed as an ever-diminishing number of the replicas retreat back into the house, over the courtyard and into the garden back to the source.

The confrontation with a world populated by replicas of one person creates mixed feelings. Is this egoism on the part of the artist (for he has populated this world with replicas of himself)? There is an innate drive to reproduce and pass ones own genes on to the next generation. This seems here to have been forced to the extreme of megalomania. A strange variation on the solipsistic idea that the only being I know to be a thinking, feeling consciousness is myself.
On the other hand what we see can also be viewed as a recognition of the fact that, in many important ways, one person is the same as the next, thus allowing empathy. Behind the superficial differences, we all share certain drives, aims, hopes and fears, existing as thinking, feeling beings in mutual dependency with the society as a whole.

Both views seem credible and the tension created by their apparent incompatibility is exactly the interesting point. There is an increasing tendency towards individualism in the western world. The emphasis is on self-fulfilment, personal freedom, the uniqueness of a person’s own goals, perceptions and needs. Other factors, whilst being forced into the background, cannot be ignored: we are totally dependent on the society for the fulfilment of even our most basic needs; as the procedures for the collection and analysis of statistical information progress it becomes apparent that our ‘individual’ behaviour is increasingly predictable. As unpleasant as it might be, our self-perception as unique individuals is threatened by a view where we are more like ants, one differing little from the next, whose behaviour can be explained without the need for the idea of free will.

THE SOURCE seeks to approach, in a visually simple way, a current existential problem of deep complexity.

Tim Coe