My work proceeds from a specific anthropology – an historical view of how our species evolved and an understanding of what differentiates our species from other creatures. My work explores consciousness, sometimes called mind. “Mind” is the phenomenological experience of being. It is enabled by a distinct, though incompletely understood, set of neurological structures and bio-chemical processes. One promising and intriguing thread of data suggests that what we now think of as “mind” is a capability that evolved as a consequence or corollary of a mutation of the FOXP2 gene some forty to fifty thousand years ago. Whether this particular mutation is responsible, or some as-yet unknown mechanism, something enabled a radical advance in our adaptive success at around this time. The best evidence for this is provided by simple population data: Fifty thousand years ago, Homo Sapiens was a down-and-out species restricted to a tiny range in Africa with a total population of approximately 10,000. Current projections suggest that the global human population will stabilize toward the end of the twenty-first century at approximately 10,000,000,000 (ten billion). That is a million-fold increase in the blink of an evolutionary eye.
The archeological evidence also suggests that humans began to make art at roughly the same time. Whatever factor it was, then, that enabled a million-fold increase in our population and has caused our species to emerge as the mega-predator par excellence, completely redefining the global ecological balance in almost every way, also seems to have sparked in us the urge to make, to create, to memorialize.
My art seeks to understand consciousness, then, because consciousness is consequential. Like the invention of atomic weapons or the catastrophic spread of bubonic plague in the twelfth century, consciousness represents an historical singularity – a point after which, “everything was different.” This is not to deny the beauty and joy that consciousness makes possible. It is to put our ability to experience consciousness clearly in view and to see it as consequential and of critical importance for the artist. It is also to situate my work, at least in part, as “protest art” – an act of interrogation of something which has utterly transformed our planet and has led us to a place where all life – conscious and non-conscious – hangs in the balance of our actions.