This research and resulting installation examines the heightened awareness achieved by top athletes. It questions the possibility of capturing visually the moment when perception and cognition become indistinguishable.
Commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella and the De La Warr Pavilion, The White Bear Effect arose from a series of discussions with neurologist Dr Richard Ramsey (Bangor University). The installation is both scientific experiment and art installation, and extends Cornford & Cross’s previous interests in commercial imagery, perception and the displacement of readymades (A Month in the Country, 2003). Employing a large LED ‘sports’ screen and testing the relationship between the images shown, the screen size, and the distance between spectator and the screen, the piece invites viewers to make a conscious decision about where to focus their attention. The viewer is asked to explore the liminal zone between the recognisable images visible when the screen is viewed from afar and the visual and technological display of pulsing, coloured lights that overpower the viewer’s senses when the screen is encountered up close.
Amalgamating the shared experience typical of a sporting event with the personal viewing experience of the gallery, The White Bear Effect highlights a tension between passive spectatorship and active viewing, between perception and cognition, and between technology and the body.
The White Bear Effect was one of four invited works that made up the exhibition Everything Flows: The art of getting in the zone. Funded by the Wellcome Trust and Arts Council England, the exhibition attracted 60,533 visitors. It was accompanied by artist talks and a filmed interview by David Bickerstaff. Cornford presented the research findings, which were also outlined in a conference paper for the annual conference of The Cognition Institute, Plymouth University (2013) and an article for the Moving Image Review & Art Journal.