“I guess Surrealism has a draw for me because it’s an unknown world. It’s a world of subconscious. Some things you can’t really get your hands on very easily. Things that are kind of nebulous and they feel like they’re not completely formed. You have to feel your way through that.” –Gotye

A Branch is Too Big to Come Out of a Twig is the joint project of two outlets, Regina-based collective Turner Prize* and Chicago-based artist veteran, Steve Reinke. Instead of looking at the installation as a mere assessment of the subconscious, viewers are instead taken through a lucid scrapbook of audio and visual aesthetics.

“We aim to make work that is not really about decoding imagery from the subconscious and ascribing it some sort of real world referent or meaning, but rather work that explores process of translation from thought into form, and the shifts and ruptures that occur during these translatory turns,” explains the Turner Prize* trio.

The way the Regina collective came to merge with Reinke (who is originally from Ontario) was through a mutual artist and owner of gallerywest, Evan Tyler. Tyler saw correlations between the artists and suggested a project. Humble beginnings.

As celebrated fans of Reinke’s work, Blair, Jason and John (aka Turner Prize*) were even unsure he would want to work with them. But Reinke ended up coordinating, he in Chicago and the trio in Saskatchewan -with meetings in between.

“The first meeting was a bit nerve racking, like flying 2000 km for a blind date, we weren’t completely sure what kind of chemistry we’d have. Luckily Steve was flexible enough to accommodate our vision while still remaining true to his own aesthetic and conceptual sensibilities,” explains Turner Prize*.

The end result is mainly video, yes, but there isn’t necessarily a central narrative. This combined with the ‘Mind’s Eye Plus’ which hangs outside the gallery, makes for a ripple effect to the discovery process. The device (when lit up) beams a sharp luminosity and a single colour-blinking LED light, initializing a connection to the idea of dream simulation and its piggyback on technology. Found in the basement of one of the Turner Prize* members, the device has previous regression therapy roots and uses, practiced in previous decades.

“We find it quite beautiful and intriguing, and it lends a certain techno-authoritative air to what we do. It is also legitimately useful, allowing most of our subjects to focus their thinking inward, and to simulate intensely dream-like thought and focus,” explains the Regina trio.

So how does this device (when put on) stream the subconscious and assist the dream simulation process?

Subjects are asked to describe their dreams while a member of Turner Prize* also wears an identical ‘Mind’s Eye’ device, and begins digesting the dream. This audiovisual experience is then reinterpreted through mixed media and photographic means, after the team has concluded their conceptual pow-wow of course.

The video may tap into the subconscious or perhaps construct our soon to be present state. It’s not guaranteed.

As Steve Reinke states, “Subconscious processes are by definition unknowable and yet determine thoughts, emotions and behaviours. There seems to be some duty – even an ethical one – to chip away at it, although at the same time the activity (chipping away at it, bringing it to light) is the height of futility.”

Steve Reinke has an extensive body of work and countless achievements as an artist, writer and lecturer (including the Bell Canada prize for Video Art). Reinke’s ability to coat inquisition with simplicity is what keeps the eyes teetering.

“This piece seems to have some Werner Herzog in it – I’m not sure why. It is kind of like a storybook – the words and images are simple, the backgrounds, solid colours – it is a video for children, I think,” he says.

When asked, ‘Do you feel we as humans fear the subconscious more than we should?’

Reinke responds, “No, we should be afraid of what might be manifested through subconscious processes.”

A Branch is Too Big to Come Out of a Twig runs until June 29th, 2012 at gallerywest, 1172 Queen Street West, Toronto