De Anima, 2014

Three channel video installation. Installation view: RMIT Design Hub

Catalyst: Katherine Hannay Visual Arts Commission in partnership with NETS Victoria, The Cinemas Project, RMIT Design Hub and Bendigo Art Gallery. De Anima is associated to  RECHARGE: the Experimenta 6th International Biennial of Media Art tour 2015.


by Bridget Crone

Brook Andrew’s De Anima is a work that is ostensibly about images and sensations. It asks us to question the way we see the world and to consider a new view. Drawing upon Andrew’s extensive personal archive of home movies, war propaganda, ecological and pseudoanthropological films, De Anima combines and recombines these images with newly shot footage that creates a theatre of sensations: of light, of sound, of image, of images that we feel. Upon entering the world of De Anima, we are immersed in a world of sound and image and we accept an invitation to see the world anew.

De Anima directly references the title of one of the great philosophical treatises, Aristotle’s On The Soul (Latin: de anima). Aristotle proposes that the soul is the essence of every living thing, and it is therefore integral to living matter. The soul is the potency of life or the drive for living, and, in the most basic terms, it is that which every living thing possesses – it is not a separate, solely human capacity. There are many complex philosophical debates extending from these seemingly simple observations that Aristotle made so many years ago, yet what is the most pertinent for us today are the ethical implications of his theories. In its reference to Aristotle, De Anima is a provocation that demands that we consider the world differently; that we consider the world as that in which we are immersed as just another being amongst others, not at the centre of the world, not as the most significant because ‘rational’ being but equal to all living things; all with a vitality and potency for life and living. This places us within a vast ecology of which we are simply one part – no more, no less.

De Anima therefore strives to shift our worldview, and our sense of being in the world. Most significantly, the work demands (and causes) us to shift our view in relation to images – our ways of seeing. A simple manifestation of this idea can be seen in Andrew’s appropriation of landscape photographic images by Tasmanian photographers Stephen Spurling and J W Beattie. In Feeling (man) (2014), which is present within the overall installation of De Anima, a man is awkwardly positioned and a vast expanse of rock looms over him. He stands almost horizontally, as if the usual laws of gravity and proportion have been eroded. The horizon line, which would normally act to anchor our gaze and order our relation to the world, is destabilised and skew-whiff, and the expected hierarchies of scale have been unhinged. In this image, man is overcome by the epic vastness of nature. And while this image – of a loan hero attempting to conquer the wildness of nature – might seem to reinforce a sense of man versus nature, Andrew asks us to see this image anew: to rethink and re-question this view that pits man against nature. Instead, the affective nature of the image is emphasised so that we feel the sensation of the figure immersed in the world that surrounds him. It’s a scene that aptly demonstrates what Deborah Bird Rose has so vividly evoked, writing of the sense in which, ‘the hereness of the place is vividly present, and (in which) the nowness of the living moment is the time of life and encounter.’ 


Photos: Tobias Titz