Objects in Other Rooms
Filter Theory, proposed by French philosopher and parapsychological researcher Henri-Louis Bergson, suggests that “if the brain developed biologically for reasons of survival, as an organ whose main function is to receive information, perhaps it also serves to screen out certain information in the service of biological survival. Thus, it would act as an organ of limitation, a filter.”
Curious to learn more about how our brain filter works, I visited the American Society for Psychical Research in New York, a world class research organization for the paranormal. The organization practices the Ganzfeld Procedure, an experiment for demonstrating ESP in which two participants (a sender and a receiver) are secluded in separate rooms, with the sender instructed to telepathically send an image to the receiver. The receiver is placed in a state of sensory deprivation, and this forced reduction of other stimuli makes the receiver’s internal mentation — thoughts and images that might otherwise go unnoticed — more legible.
While at the ASPR archive, I was shown a series of images that were used in actual Ganzfelds, and heard recollections of the ways past subjects had described those images, but, I was not allowed to photograph the images themselves.
The resulting book is my attempt to reconstruct the Ganzfeld imagery I saw at the ASPR from memory and fragmented notes using the archive of images at the RISD picture library.
The project presents this reconstructed imagery, as well as four streams of intersecting footnotes — four competing but not totally inconsistent voices: the voice of the ASPR experimenter as she walked me through Ganzfeld imagery; my internal voice during in my exhausting search through RISD’s picture library; the voice of William James in The Will to Believe; and Bertrand Russell’s voice in An Analysis of Mind, a deconstruction of memory. Each voice is set in a different typeface that’s derivative of Helvetica. Each offers a subtly unique perspective — different, but difficult to distinguish.
This second-order Ganzfeld Procedure further tests our ability to access “objects in other rooms” through the walls of space, time, mind and memory — the experiment at the ASPR, the images in the RISD picture library, my imperfect memories and my present stream of consciousness — through a form of “literary” ESP.