Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Friday, 17 April 2015


If I am exposed to the suggestion that this a bad time of year for a cold or flu, will I become sick? Am I ill because I have seen the advert for Beecham's Cold and Flu or do they really care?

Psychogenic pain or that pain which is derived from prolonged emotional stress is not taken seriously in society (and certainly not by my mum) but specialists consider it no less 'actual' than other forms of more socially acceptable suffering (if there should be such a thing). The International Association for the Study of Pain (yes I know, I want to be a member too) states that,

'Many people report pain in the absence of tissue damage. If they regard their experience as pain and if they report it in the same ways as pain caused by tissue damage, it should be accepted as pain.'

Nocebo (Latin 'I will harm') is the opposite of Placebo (Latin:I will please'). If I take a sugar pill placebo thinking it is medicine for my headache, my headache will be eased or 'cured'. The Nocebo however is its evil twin, if I take something knowing it is poison i will become sick and I may even die. Ironically, there is a case where a man overdosed on a Placebo, thinking it to be the real drug and he collapsed. The power of the suggestion is so strong that it releases such chemicals in the body that can lead to real dangerous and debilitating illness. This is the power of the imagination...this is art.

Power of suggestion 'I suggest' goes beyond the medical, especially in cultural and societal terms and a form of hypochondria can be easily transplanted into how we imbue meaning where there is none, in art. I would go so far as to say that actually, the greatest art is that which is open enough to allow such an exchange to occur. It fits with the notion of Pareidolia (of which i do harp on about quite a lot I know) but I see similarities in the imagining of shapes where there is none (see Giotto in a potato chip). I feel the power of suggestion physically impacting on my existential well being when I stand in front of something wonderful or terrible.

If we accept the amazing power of art to heal then art must have an evil twin too. Studies have shown clearly that cultural Nocebo effects can be passed around ironically like a real virus from individual to individual. What, in the past, used to be spread through a small community by gossip and here-say, can now carry to vast swathes of the population by popular culture and social media and the only arbiters of the nation's health are infected with this filth themselves (this includes me by the way and this blog is severely infected).

So when you look at a tablet, does it say, 'this is a cure' or does it say 'you need me because you are sick'?

I am bombarded with photographic equivalents of Placebo, works offering healing in the atoms and chemicals and pixels, all I am asked to do is believe and i will feel better. Wearing my brutal, atheistic, objectivist hat, I am considering the legacy of works that rely on these cultural perimeters of the present to sell themselves. Works we feel are strong now, may mean very little in the future and other ignored works will become future masterpieces. A good example I have always felt is the horror film genre, which is especially susceptible and responds to the era it is created in but always fails to resonate in quite the same way to a future audience.

Do you want to feel better?

There are so many cures on offer and if we are creatively self-medicating perhaps we should be aware of what we are taking, where it comes from and who is selling it to us (like breast milk on the internet). Ultimately though we must ask what we need to feel better about.

Here are some pills for you to take, some are Placebo, some are Nocebo and some are real.

Image_9079, from series Nocebo © Richard Ansett 2015

Image_9088, from series Nocebo © Richard Ansett 2015

Image_9524, from series Nocebo © Richard Ansett 2015

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Postcard from Berlin

Having a lovely time here in Berlin.

I am here to photograph Neil MacGregor, the director of the British Museum, but today is a day off (#recce) and i have time to visit my favourite places in the world, which just happen to be in the same city. I love so much about Berlin but its public art is the most impressive.

At the memorial to the burning of the books by the Nazis at Bebelplatz, created by Micha Ullman called 'Library', i watch couples stand on the sunken glass panel and hug and kiss. Its very moving.

The space around the Brandenburg Gate is so noisy and full of tourists it is really easy to miss one of my favourite places in the world and in a way i am glad.
© Unknown

There is a small door at the side of the structure leading to the Raum der Stille (Room of Silence). It's a simple room with chairs and beautiful tapestry by Ritta Hagar.
© Richard Ansett

Me in the Room of Silence facing the tapestry by Ritta Hagar © Unknown

Now off to the Soviet War Memorial at Treptower Park designed by Yakov Belopolsky.

Selfie with sore feet at Treptower Park, Berlin © Richard Ansett

Detail from relief at Soviet War Memorial Treptower Park, Berlin © Richard Ansett

Selfie with Soviet War Memorial, Treptower Park, Berlin

The stunning socialist realist reliefs depicting the suffering and resolve of the Soviet people are beautiful and humbling, it is also home to the only Swastika on a public monument (all be it crushed under the mighty sword of socialism HURRAY!) The pink marble on the modernist archway was taken from the original Reichstag when it was routed by the Russian troops and my friend (the art director from Vanity Fair) used to slide down it as a child in the winter.

Now off to meet my friends, mentor  Boris (who just happens to be the greatest photographic artist of the 20th century #discuss) and his wife Vita at their apartment and thank goodness I brought them a gift of one of my photographs from 'The Dolls House' as it is his birthday and VITA DID NOT TELL ME so we all go out for dinner at a restaurant owned by some gangsters and pimps. We eventually got a great table but the service was terrible, no-one said anything of course!

Richard Ansett with Boris Mikhailov © Vita Mikhailov

Wish you were here. xx

Sunday, 12 April 2015


New editions for FILM IS DEAD.

Screenshot #1 of Photoshop work on image_7016 © Richard Ansett 2015
Screenshot #2 of Photoshop work on image_7016 © Richard Ansett 2015

Collecting Wild Primrose

It's that time of year when the cemetery near me is carpeted with wild primrose. I have been a bit naughty and sneakily transplanted a few late at night to my garden. More images from this series available on Richard Ansett Editions.

© Richard Ansett 2015

© Richard Ansett 2015

© Richard Ansett 2015

Wild primrose in Fortnum and Mason's bag with Qualcast hand fork from Homebase © Richard Ansett 2015