Close Encounters of The Third Mind

Peter Gillies & Rupert Loydell
(Self-published artist's book, edition of 100, 5 from Stride, 4B Tremayne Close, Devoran, Cornwall TR3 6QE)

Without is an artwork assemblage of ten double-sided foldout sheets in publication format contained in a matching folder. Essentially, a visual piece that can, nevertheless, sit comfortably on a bookshelf.

The artists are painter-poet Peter Gillies who has a painting website and works at University College Falmouth teaching English with Creative Writing and collaborator Rupert Loydell is Senior Lecturer in English with Creative Writing, also based at University College Falmouth - a painter poet who is also the long-standing editor of Stride

Essentially a word/image mosaic project Without
comprises ten foldout sheets printed in austere greyscale black/white tones. Sheet #1 opens to a large 'title' image announcing the main theme: UFO Story and the legend 'The Truth Is Out There', that famous X Files tagline from 1993. Without a doubt we are in the world of the Close Encounter, the alien zone and the anomalous 'event'.

There are five other main images scattered across the collection. 'Dark Hollows' on sheet #2 is an abstract triple bar form. 'How Does Form Sound Instead?' on sheet #4 incorporates torn text, longhand calligraphy, a pasted column of fragmentary printed text and a cluster of the signature pictograms or 'hieroglyph' motifs that pervade the entire work (and decorate the presentation folder). On sheet #6 the reader or viewer is confronted by an expressionistic form that might just be an alien xenomorph or, perhaps some kind of land vehicle on stilts, rather like the war machines from War of the Worlds
, or, perhaps, it is an alien being that moves on stilts. Running across the page, like a ticker-tape message from the beyond, is the phrase 'Just Landed Just Landed Just La[]'. Together with the enigmatic question 'Where were you?' The fifth large image is on sheet #8 and depicts a comfortably familiar holiday caravan isolated in a mystic landscape with a hovering saucer shaped UFO looking like the 'classic' lenticular Venusian Scout Ship popularised at the height of the 1950s UFO scare. From the scout ship descent two rays of light, prelude to some kind of manifestation or alien abduction scenario. Various themes and visual motifs are incorporated into the image including textual references to sundials and 'transparent skins'. There are trailing brush strokes and various painterly 'splatter' elements across the composition that also carries the defining text phrase 'Who Live Without: We Who Live Within'.

The final large picture on #10 features a low-resolution image of a squadron of five scout ships and an assemblage of four five-pointed stars. Other sheets are built up of smaller elements and motifs in a grid like format across which are scattered textual lines and phrases that resonate with the main theme. These are headline statements or questions like 'Did You see Them?' (#2), 'Create An Education' (#3), 'Culture' (#4), 'Nonsense' (#5), 'Denouement' (#7), 'Eyewitness' (#8), 'We Travel Into The Past' (#9), and 'Un Truth' (#10). Consciously or unconsciously these lines will invoke classic Sci Fi/Ufo themes and ideas in the mind of the observer - alien abductions, time travel, stars, lights, 'mist sprites', the hollow Earth, idyllic rural landscapes, crop circles, various types of alien encounter and mysterious apparitions with Eschatological or Apocalyptic undertones.

A symphonic organisation of textures, the aesthetic modalities of Without
derive from the interaction of complimentary factors: word and image, formality and informality.

Aside from the six large images already mentioned the pictorial elements, although diverse, all tend towards invoking the notion of a hidden message or a secret script. There are few photographic elements although they are key markers nonetheless - a sinister low angle shot of a helicopter in flight occurs twice (#3 and #7). There are some close images of textural forms that look like plaited rope and also the drapes of a shiny fabric used as almost decorative motifs. There is a view of wetland landscape, perhaps the aftermath of some devastating 'event' and on sheet #9 we find three images taken from what might be a sixties style Happening showing two performers (male and female) manipulating a reflective surface, presumably a mirror. This has a strange ritualistic feel and helps to provoke enigmatic narrative possibilities. The other main photographic element is the low-resolution image of a squadron of five flying saucer scout ships used on sheets # 8 and #10. The same image appears on sheet # 7, although this is a partial image and only two craft are visible. Although the method of montage is central to this project, Without
is not a photomontage, like those pioneered by Hannah Hoch and other Dada artists.

Here the essence of the method is juxtaposition - diverse graphical visual elements integrated into a decorative semiformal irregular mosaic, grid-like schema interlaced with cut-up text and perturbed by drifts or clusters of stylised hieroglyphs some of which look like signs of the zodiac, magic sigils or ancient runes. The grid schema provides various compositional options whereby for example some visual elements are boxed into a specific pigeonhole while others are allowed to spill across the page creating the effect of a formal structure constantly under stress from an irrational force. Either the force of an 'alien' incursion, or the 'invisible, intangible force' of the third mind, itself the product of the collaborative process.  The informal visual element is carried to more extreme lengths by the use of numerous expressionistic or tachiste
techniques such as drip patterns, blots and paint dribbles, horizontal splatter, torn dechire effects involving fragments of newsprint and gestural smear-style paint strokes. The words in the text are sometimes illegible and this leads to the generation of further open-ended narrative and symbolic options. For example the date '15th February' is used, or phrases like 'we thought it was just an ordinary balloon' or 'saw my name' - all verbal devices to provoke the imagination.

Elemental forms - squares, circles, five-pointed stars both black and white, cubes, triangles, polka dots - intermingle with spirals, whorls, a few technical diagrams and calligraphic motifs, and, on some sheets, these elemental forms are reminiscent of the symbols used in ESP experiments. Others have an oblique relationship to UFO legends. For instance the five pointed stars recall the insignia of opposing airforces during the Cold War period, the heyday of UFO hysteria. Or, again, spiral shapes may indicate the erratic trajectories of alien craft or associated anomalies like Angel Hair related to the occult chemistry of attenuated matter that some esoteric interpretations link to alien forms of energy. Density of texture is achieved through repetition and variation within what is in fact quite a narrow repertoire of signs and structural elements. Stars are grouped and stacked, and text is superimposed on decorative features in various areas of the composition. The text itself is an aesthetic element and confined, in the main, to horizontal cut-up strips or vertical columns. The 'communication' motif is enhanced not just by elements that look like they have drifted in from some weird flow chart or Romulan flight deck computer screen but also by uprooted numerals, isolated lettering and the large inverse (white on black) silhouette motif of a postage stamp. The inclusion of some fragments of sheet music adorned with dots and dashes continues this theme of 'contact' especially when one recalls that in Spielberg's movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) the superhuman aliens communicated via musical notes. 'How does form sound instead?' is one mysterious question that floats amid the textual elements and broken word columns. On sheet #2 we find a large spherical form that looks like a desktop study globe of the world but might also be the staring face of an alien with 'saucer' eyes: underneath is the slogan 'Imagining Reality'.

On the visual plane Without
is a diverse package of aesthetic references and mannerisms, a hybrid artefact combining Neo-Pop style with Art Informel techniques. The paste-in elements such as fragments of music score and technical diagrams hark back to Dada, Surrealism and earlier Futurist or Cubist innovations, while the incorporation of photographic elements derives from the same ultimate source and early twentieth century experiments with composite photographic imagery.

The verbal elements comprise a kind of non-linear open field avant-garde poetic text of free floating cut-up strips, word columns and even Punk style semi-industrial punched embossed tape labels. The typographical features ranging from isolated letters and numbers through to juxtaposed font styles looks back to late seventies Punk graphics and do-it-yourself fanzines, themselves an echo of early twentieth century Dada publications and later Pop Art examples such as Derek Boshier's 'Airmail Letter' (1961). The 'classic' Punk style typography as popularised by Jamie Reid with his 'God Save The Queen' and 'No Future' graphics (inspired by criminal ransom notes) is not part of the Without
stylistic repertoire. However many textual and other elements exhibit the 'ripped and torn' bricolage manner so common at that time.

Occupying an intermediate aesthetic mode between the cut-up text and paste-in graphical or photographic elements are a battery of painterly features that are part on a now established continuum of development. This continuum runs from Paul Klee via Andre Masson and the Abstract Expressionists to Tachistes
like Michaux, Wols and Hartung or to exponents of Art Informel like Tapies, Mathieu and Patrick Heron. On one level this battery of effects my be seen as a branch of decorative art arising from the spontaneous interplay of 'signs' and 'gestures', a calligraphy of blots and scratches, smears and drips. But like the Leonardo's Wall method or the Rorschach test the deployment of these features can also function as an incitement to the dynamics of the unconscious while, at the same time, providing for an incursion of unplanned chance elements that, in this particular context, may acquire a certain undertone. It might seem that the formal grid like infrastructure of the work is continually in danger of destabilisation by these tachiste effects, just as, perhaps the stable predictability of mundane existence, symbolised by the friendly holiday caravan, is turned upside down by the Close Encounter and the anomalous alien event. Conceptually the painterly effects are soon fused with the theme of communication as embodied in the extensive use of semi-automatic calligraphy and blown-up sections of longhand writing.

An immediate precursor of this use calligraphy can be found in the artistic and literary 'third mind' experiments of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin. Many of Gysin's paintings are based upon the spontaneous calligraphic forms of non-western scripts, ideograms and hieroglyphs. This factor merges into the thematic question of the secret message: the mysterious signals from alien craft, or as in the case of the Silpho Moor object, engraved on the craft itself. All of this imagery invokes the mystique of the 'hidden wisdom' of ancient texts that await decoding by initiates inducted into the arcane secrets of extraterrestrial super-science. Indeed the overall framework of this project is reminiscent of those pages from Burroughs' cut-up scrapbooks, a compendium of weird news stories, old photographs, graphical memorabilia, Gysin-style calligraphy and other exotic features pasted into a grid like framework of blotted vertical and horizontal lines. As Guy Debord once said: 'The construction of situations begins on the ruins of the modern spectacle.'

The non-linear open field cut-up poem that provides the backdrop scenario for Without
does not, of course, tell a simple story. It functions more like a cluster of musical motifs that sketch out a sinister scenario of alien incursion. On the first sheet we find the ominous slogan 'You are not to blame'. This is ominous in itself as the statement implies an indictment, however the word 'not' is boldly crossed out so the message actually reads 'You are to blame' which is a finger-pointing accusation. To blame for what?

There is no answer.

Also, there is a nuance of further implication implied by the crossing out of the key word - some agency is changing the text. Most UFO scenarios involve the idea of a final judgement or a warning, often delivered by some angelic saviour figure or intergalactic council of superior cosmic legislators. Existential anxiety is implied by the statement: 'since above you and the Earth's crust there is a void' which plays to primeval fears of vacancy and nothingness. 'Did you see them?' This is another question arising from the text in juxtaposition with various verbal images such as 'cold stones', 'dark hollows' and 'mist sprites'. These images are all playing to a modern mythology linking the UFO occupants to the ancient Little People of fairy tale (some aliens look like elves or goblins) who live in the 'strange hills'. In would appear that the visitants possess the secret of time travel ('we of the past travel into the future') and are associated, like many aliens, with bright lights and spheres, manifestations of supra-sensible astral-etheric matter from other dimensions.

The existential theme is further emphasised on #5 with the highlighted phrase 'your desolate without'. From the perspective of the others, we are inhabitants of the 'without'. Our 'without' is desolate and we are surrounded by a void. At some stage possible contactees find a 'soggy blue balloon' which at first sight may be a banal ordinary balloon, but in the end 'we are not so sure'. These anomalous phenomena are contrasted with the materialistic everyday lives of mere Earth dwellers too immersed in humdrum routine (Watch TV. Sleep. Wake up. Shower. Eat. Go To Work. Come Home. Eat') to recognise an alien presence, even though something has 'Just Landed'. There are other motifs like the sundial (another hint at the passage of time, another cosmic dimension) and entities with 'transparent skins'. On #9 the idea of existential unease is further emphasised by the thought that 'everything is uncertain, everything is shifting'. Not an ordinary balloon the manifestation becomes a squadron of scout ships that, perhaps, symbolises our own future, or may come from the future, even though Earth's ancient past holds the key to the mystery of our relationship to these stilted beings. The narrative is both ambiguous and open-ended and the above summary is just one of several possible lines of exposition conforming to some known preoccupations of UFO literature.

The final question must be the obvious one - how far have Loydell & Gillies 'bought into' actual Ufology, or is Without
, in the final analysis, a purely aesthetic artefact? It is clear that the depth and multi-layered character of the work make this a very difficult question to answer. There are obvious overlaps with the 'reality' of the UFO myth, these overlaps are either deliberate or the outcome of some Jungian a-causal correspondence phenomenon. For example, if one looks at sheet #8 showing the caravan with a clearly depicted scout ship craft, the scene looks like a version of well known early encounter as described UFO cultist Orfeo Angelucci. This event took place in 1952 five years after those defining UFO events the Cascade Mountains sighting and the Roswell Incident. Angelucci's book The Secret of the Saucers was published in 1955 at the height of the flying saucer craze fuelled by movies such as This Island Earth (1955) and The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951). In his book Angelucci describes a red pulsating, glowing oval object hovering over the horizon and says the disc came close to the ground before suddenly shooting away towards the west. Before the vehicle vanished, it emitted two balls of 'green fire' from which a man's voice issued speaking 'perfect English'. The emissions were defined as instruments of 'transmission and reception' in line with the underlying theme of alien messages and communication.

Again the grid like structure of the work echoes Jung's thoughts on the UFO myth or rumour, which he considered 'specific to our age and highly characteristic of it'. He explained the phenomenon as a reappearance of a traditional form of epiphany, and in his analysis contrasted the 'horizontal axis' of our empirical consciousness as it is crossed or bisected by another order of being, a 'dimension of the psychic'.

In a genuine collaboration, as William Burroughs explains, the two minds of the collaborators may generate a third 'invisible, intangible force' which, following Napoleon Hill, Burroughs called The Third Mind. This is the uncanny 'third who walks beside you' and who will answer the question 'why are you here?' with the somewhat sinister answer 'I am here because you are here.'  Perhaps this collaboration from Gillies and Loydell draws the reader/viewer into a strange, shared space that discloses the psychic parallelism between the Third Mind and an obscure 'alien' scenario - a modern mythical narrative or complex rumour that resonates with our shared collective unconscious disclosing our underlying existential anxiety. Its open field form and its pervasive ambiguities allow us to project into the work the psychic side effects and by-products of our unstable existential situation. What you find in this seemingly innocuous folder may generate close encounters with the radar echoes of your own hopes and fears - you have been warned.

               A.C. Evans 2010