Artist: Ramsey Hoey
Host: Nicolay Duque-Robayo

My Mind is Going Nos. 1 & 2, Collage on paper


“It feels like too much coffee on an empty stomach,” I text a friend living 800 miles away as we are both watching Rainer Werner Fassbinder’sVeronika Voss (1982). A couple of days earlier, I cry at three in the morning as I experience what I believe to be pure joy while watching Visages Villages (2017), the second to last film by the great Agnes Varda in collaboration with JR. What is a discipline but a framework in which to experience the world? I remember after a high school physics class seeing everything around me as a series of forces between objects floating in space. In a different life as a chemistry undergraduate student, life was but a set of chemical reactions.

“The pieces are definitely lenses in which through which I see the world, which on occasion can be very therapeutic in a way, especially when trying to understand my own self and the world around me, as well as when experiencing moments of dissociation and finding some comfort in that of sorts,” writes Ramsey Hoey over an email exchange in relation to My Mind is Going No. 1 & My Mind is Going No. 2. I have to confess, at first, I thought that both of these works were in direct relationship with icons of the history of art. This leap comes as a bias of my own from two significant moments of my own personal life. The first goes back to that lost life I once had in which organic reactions ruled my late teens. Disillusioned with the sciences, an undergraduate class in art history introduced me to Malevich’s Painterly Realism of a Peasant Woman in Two Dimensions (1915). The professor giving the lecture, who would later become a mentor figure, stated that the artist was asking us to stare into the image for hours, trying to decipher abstraction. As our eyes adjust to the red pigment, a ghost image would stay within our vision even after diverting our sight from the painting. Malevich had successfully changed the way that we see the world through our eyes.

In the summer of 2019, I took a trip to Los Angeles by myself, a vacation of both immense joy and solitude. There I saw Julie Mehretu’s Cairo (2013) at the Broad. The 24 ft canvas took me by storm, as I got lost in its monumentality. The reality is that despite being in one of the most populated cities in the world, the only sense of belonging that I felt on that trip was as the abstract rendering of a cityscape 8,000 miles away engulfed me. My mind was wandering. My mind was going.

And then there is the factual reality. “My Mind is Going represents two forms of disembodiment, which could be either monolithic or liberating.” Hoey writes, “The title refers to a line from 2001: A Space Odyssey, spoken by the on-board computer HAL, as his memory banks are being slowly disconnected. The film portrays human and machine evolution, and I was drawn to the idea of a computer processing emotions.” I’d like to believe that neither my initial art historical connection to the work nor the artist’s direct reference to the film undermine one another. If I am frank, I felt silly for forgetting the iconic line, or not connecting the red square in My Mind is Going with HAL’s blinking eye.

I can’t recall the last time I saw 2001. Yet, Hoey’s remarks feel tactile and relevant. Both iterations of My Mind is Going address this perception of the world in which the matrix of the experience appears to malfunction—a glitch.  It is perhaps here where both Hoey’s and my interpretation of the work can be reconciled. There something to the chaos and the confusion of immersing oneself in the nothingness where peace can be found for fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five minutes. Alike to what one might think a free fall into nothingness might feel, with the excitement of the unknown coupled with the fear. It is perhaps in those moments where we detach from reality and face the “glitch in the system” that a sense of clarity can be present unlike ever before. All is well indeed, one must imagine HAL happy.

I recently watched Aleksei German’s Russian epic Hard to Be a God (2013), in which for three hours we as an audience witness an alternate universe in which creativity and technology were suppressed during the Middle Ages. The audience then is left to wonder for three hours the grotesque and graphic imagination of the Dark Ages. “Aleksei German's posthumously finished Hard to Be a God is like stepping into a panoramic Bruegel painting and putting your foot right into a shit-stained corpse… in a good way.”[1] Nicolas Rapold’s opening line for his review of the movie for Film Comment is perhaps the best succinct assessment of the film. Yet what Rapold fails to address is why the disquieting motif of the film is so alluring. This suspension of reality is what Hoey so effortlessly arrives at—My Mind is Going Nos. 1 & 2 provides their audience a peek into the brief movement in which the glitch is suspended between both fear and excitement.

— Nicolay Duque-Robayo