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The Nightmare RoomSean Vicary

28 May - 30 June 2013

About | Sean Vicary

Sean Vicary is an artist based in west Wales. He originally studied painting but became increasingly seduced by the possibilities of working in time-based media, his moving image pieces have been broadcast in the UK and exhibited worldwide. Recent projects have explored ideas of liminal space and identity, combining video installation with site-specific animation presented through a smartphone augmented reality browser.


“My work is primarily concerned with ideas of ‘landscape’ (internal and external) and our increasingly politicised interaction with the ‘natural’ world. I use found objects and fragments of detritus to explore this relationship, manipulating these elements in a virtual space to create animated assemblages. These act as triggers for the viewer, sometimes suggestive of a wider narrative or the hidden processes at play behind the visible.”


‘The Nightmare Room’

Animation and HD Video 2013

Audio:  Steve Knight, Ceri Rhys Matthews, Christine Cooper, Ceri Jones

‘The Nightmare Room’ is a multi-platform project that uses site-specific material, animation and augmented reality to examine ideas of transformation and the power of myth. Taking ground-breaking computer pioneer Alan Turing’s studies on morphogenesis and pattern formation as a starting point, the work explores connections suggested by Turing’s chance encounter and subsequent friendship with the young author Alan Garner. 

Writing in 2011, Garner recalled Turing talking endlessly about mathematics and biology, but they also discovered a shared common experience; both had been traumatized at an early age by the Witch’s transformation scene in Disney’s ‘Snow White’. The 3-year-old Garner had been dragged screaming from the auditorium, and Turing regularly gave seminars on the psychology of the film at Cambridge.

Garner remembers Turing’s obsession with the story, “He used to go over the scene in detail, dwelling on the ambiguity of the apple, red on one side, green on the other, one of which gave death… We discovered that we had both realized independently that quite often life and death are the same thing, beauty and evil are the same thing.”

In 1952 Turing was found guilty of homosexual activity; he lost his security clearance and was forced by the state to undergo a years course of hormone ‘treatment’ with synthetic oestrogen. He died two years later from cyanide poisoning, ending his life with a half eaten, possibly poisoned, apple by his bedside.

Garner went on to produce numerous striking works of fiction, rooted in place, myth and language. Among them is ‘The Owl Service’, a modern updating of the Blodeuwedd story. Central to Garner’s novel is a dinner plate on which the intricate floral pattern can be seen as either owls or flowers, the chosen perspective determining destruction or salvation.

‘The Nightmare Room’ combines these reoccurring themes of pattern and transformation that wind through the narrative arc of Turing and Garner’s life and work. Meadowsweet and other materials gathered from Llanymawddwy, where ‘The Owl Service’ was written and filmed, is manipulated so that shifting patterns evolve, as if mapping out the binding threads that form the fabric of our lives.

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