Seasonal Affective Disorder light therapy unit (S.A.D.), + 4 double bulbs, Plastic tray, Raspberry Pi, 7” HD LED screen, various cables, USB
54 x 23 x 35 cm

Shown as part of Staffage, Lehmann + Silva, Porto (Curated by João Vasco Paiva).  

This work looks at our current vision of technology and its societal utilization in both a medical and mystical application. Using a Seasonal Affective Disorder light therapy unit, also known as a S.A.D. light, this work reconfigures the four bulbs into legs that support the mechanism powering the light also providing a platform to a HD screen playing a video (00:47 loop).

According to the NHS website; “Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that comes and goes in a seasonal pattern. A number of treatments are available for seasonal affective disorder (SAD), including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), antidepressants and light therapy. Some people with SAD find that light therapy can help improve their mood considerably. They produce a very bright light. The light produced by the light box simulates the sunlight that's missing during the darker winter months. It's thought the light may improve SAD by encouraging your brain to reduce the production of melatonin (a hormone that makes you sleepy) and increase the production of serotonin (a hormone that affects your mood).”

It’s interesting how susceptible we as human beings are to our environments. I think we often forget this as under capitalism we work and live to a clock that has little dispensation for the changing seasons of the year. In the past (pre-Industrial Revolution) the proletariat would often work dramatically altered schedules throughout the year. This old way of life ran in parallel to the natural world with work revolving around the harvesting of crops and daylight hours. Technology has made it possible to bring in our current abstracted collective comprehension of time. Yet our physical bodies are not running to this new clock and are actually influenced by natural phenomena in the world we inhabit.

This unalignment forces us today to use technology (both in the form of anti-depressants and light therapy units) to trick our subconscious selves and bodies into functioning within this altered reality. In this moment in time it has become our job as individuals to change oneself to fit into society, rather than aspiring to collectively change society to better fit us. A SAD therapy light is a reminder of this moment in time, a technology that exemplifies this reality.

Coupled with this is an idea of debunking the myth of ‘techno mysticism’. I’m a big advocate for DIY and its ability to liberate the mind (and wider society) from ignorance and imposed codified boundaries around technology. If we want technology to be a liberating force for good and not just a tool to oppress we need to open it up… After all, what could be any less mysterious than something you have created, yourself?  

Here is a text we put together on ‘techno mysticism’ for a great little group show called Slap Dash For No Cash at The Old Newington Library back in 2018:

Under capitalist economies, commodities are often produced within an in-built obsolescence; they are manufactured in order to expire. Not only this, but commodities are further protected from any attempt made by the consumer to interfere or engage with the process. For example, Apple’s ‘pentalobe’ screws cannot be removed by standard tools, or washing-machines where the drum-bearing is permanently moulded as to inhibit repairs. In the words of Ernesto Oroza, “These kinds of objects impose a limit on the user because they come within an established technological code.” They are codified.

Our current moment is often described as 'technologically sublime': systems and technologies so beyond the pale of quotidian human understanding that they acquire a newfound sublimity, a techno mysticism. Walter Benjamin wrote that capitalism is “a purely cultic religion, perhaps the most extremely cultic that ever existed.” In many ways he was right. Under capitalism, subjects are told to ‘have faith’. They are told to devolve their social and technical challenges to an anonymous clergy of technocrats and corporations. Yet 1990’s Cuba negated this tendency. It proves that given the freedom to, the people will find their own codes; their own realities. In fact, people are always up to their own tricks: engaging with objects through novel, spontaneous and experimental channels. Art it would seem is particularly attuned to this sensibility; taking things apart and creating anew. Manufacturing new worlds.


Another thing I was thinking about a lot when I made this work was this fluorescent strip light chandelier made at the Bauhaus school (see image). Also this quote from Tom Eccles when he interviewed Franz West (see image of them both in NYC in 2004):

Heidegger believed that our understanding of being in the world can be found when objects that we use every day fail to function – when something like a teapot doesn’t work. At that moment we get a glimpse of our being. The Adaptives seem to me a little like the broken teapot. Rather than a functional object, they become playthings. You become aware of your body in the world. After all, people do act out with the Adaptives”

This stripping of function allows you, the viewer, to see it for what it is, and maybe more importantly what it could be. If you take the idea of a kettle and imagine that it loses its function to heat up water, this loss of function causes you to think - what could this now be? It could be a myriad of things, right? - a jug, a vase, a plant pot… a fish tank, a plinth, a paper weight, a very small bin, even an elaborate hat... Things “become playthings” and in this un-fixed state “you become aware of your body in the world” and that break can be liberating. Ultimately if you completely reduce reality down to the bare bones; we are just sentient sacks of water wondering around on a crusty spinning rock while basking in the glory of a burning hot ball of plasma that’s also cruising though the void of space while we are all somehow trying to make sense of the abstract nature of reality – far out.

But in all seriousness; It’s this thinking outside of defined and recognized societal reality that gives us the ability to see that, in the words of the late, and in my opinion great, anthropologist David Graeber (see last image); “the ultimate hidden truth of the world is that it is something we make and could just as easily make differently” - I think that is beautiful in its simplicity and has the ability to change how we think. With my work I am interested in the functions we give to objects and how this affects our thinking, how the over categorization of our brains inhibits our desire for newness. Graeber’s quote could be more aptly edited in regard to technology and ‘techno mysticism’ to read; “the ultimate hidden truth of technology is that it is something we make and could just as easily make differently.”