States of Mind


The poem below was inspired by a visit last Saturday to the States of Mind exhibition at the Wellcome Collection in Euston, which follows on from Ann Veronica Janssens’ astounding installation ‘yellowbluepink’, in which visitors entered a room to be immediately immersed in coloured fogs of such a density that all bearings of consciousness were suddenly lost: an eerie and yet very exciting experience, forcing the individual to readjust to a totally disarming environment. The secret was to keep cool, not to panic, and to feel.

The current States of Mind exhibition, which runs until 16 October, examines perspectives from artists, psychologists, philosophers and neuroscientists who question our understanding of the conscious experience. Using a whole range of media, it embraces a variety of phenomena such as somnambulism, synaesthesia, sleep paralysis, and the disorders of memory and consciousness. Ideas around the nature of consciousness are explored, and in particular, what can happen when our typical conscious experience is interrupted, damaged or undermined. Well worth a visit!


States of Mind
Where is her beauty held
         if not in my mind
her eyes her lips her hair
         her slim frame
the elegance of her hands
         her voice and her turn of phrase
the pace at which she walks
         decisive and determined
always to arrive and to depart
         and back to the darting eyes
the light that flickers there
         curiosity alive and eager
to absorb the world around her

Where is her beauty held
         if not in my thoughts
conscious and unconscious
         my feelings for her
are a state of mind
         and in that state
there are London streets
         we have walked together
held hands and kissed
         if only so fleetingly
and thoughts and impressions
         have passed loosely between us
from one to the other
         artful opinions
and points of view
         separate knowledges
and experiences that shape
          our knowingness
of each other and how we
         begin to size each other up
a tantalising tangle
         a dance of consciousnesses
two material minds
         holding and releasing arms
and twirling and reeling
         in the delight of the company

Where is her beauty held
         if not in the touch of her skin
the brush of her smile
         against my lips and captured
in the coordinates we share
         the realization that we are
neither body nor soul
         but absolutely mindmatter
we are the unity
         of sense and sensibility
such that in order to advance
         in this atomic world
we must feel our way
         through life and admit
that in love at least
         we are not two but one
and dichotomies and dualities
         be damned

John Lyons

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