Tristan Chant

Black Art Projects Actual Psychic Pollution Black Art Projects Actual Psychic Pollution Black Art Projects Actual Psychic Pollution Black Art Projects Actual Psychic Pollution

Actual Psychic Pollution

Much of human activity is motivated by forces outside our consciousness.


Thoughts and behaviours that once seemed random (thanks to two revolutionary schools of human psychology formed at the beginning of the twentieth century) can be predicted and changed.


It was Edward Bernays, Sigmund Freud’s nephew, that first combined and applied the psychoanalytic concept of the unconscious, Pavlov's behaviourism, and group psychology to improve company sales, by transforming what was then simply known as propaganda into what he called public relations. In his words: “If we understand the mechanism and motives of the group mind, is it not possible to control and regiment the masses according to our will without their knowing about it?" Bernays became the primary expert in influencing consumer behaviour through what he called the "engineering of consent”, mass marketing fashion, food, soap, cigarettes, books, and many other consumer products.


At around the same time, John Watson, who was Chair of the Department of Psychology at Johns Hopkins University, decided to leave his career behind to start working in the advertising industry. Extending Pavlov's conditioning of dogs to humans, he realised that human behaviour could also be greatly influenced by subliminal methods that bypass conscious awareness. He called the approach "behaviourism" because it had no interest in the complexity of consciousness and the human mind; humans and dogs were equally manipulable.


And so we arrive at Actual Psychic Pollution. Those familiar with Chant’s work will recognise his fascination with printed media, and much of his collage work is gleaned from the glossy pages of magazines of the ‘golden era’ of advertising. In these new works, which utilise serigraph techniques, Chant has pared back his usual style, presenting us with a single image above a word. Like advertising, these works are intended to influence our perceptions of things we know, or likely think, are truisms. The man on a bed with his head rested in his hand looks anything but ‘super’. The vampire baring its teeth can hardly be considered ‘alive’. The child holding the adult’s figure is not ‘violent’. What is achieved in these works is a manipulation in the way we read images when accompanied by text. The text’s divergence from the image creates ambiguity between words and images that seemingly contradict one another while also leaving ambiguous areas of similarity.


Friday 10 May - Saturday 18 May 2024


Tue-Fri, 11:00am - 3:00pm

Sat 12:00 - 5:00pm

Opening 11 May 2:00-4:00pm


Rosella Complex

(TWO DOORS UP) 6 Palmer Parade

Cremorne Vic 3121


Download exhibition catalogue (PDF)