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the appointment

the appointment

Kate Murphy
the appointment

delusional therapy

As I descend into the darkened lower level of the UQ Art Museum to view Kate Murphy’s single-channel video installation The appointment (2009), a comforting male voice fills the space. On a video screen, a seated man writing in a notepad looks up and asks, “Where would this worry and energy be better spent?” Then he pauses, nods, and scribbles. He is a therapist, a counsellor of some sort—but he seems to be talking to no-one.

Murphy’s video is the last instalment of The more you ignore me, the closer I get video program, curated by Alison Kubler. Since March, the program has showcased video and screen-based work from emerging and established artists including Grant Stephens, Anastasia Klose and Mariko Mori. Collectively, the works question the feelings and shortcomings that come with being human. Given the program has presented work from notable new media artists, it is disappointing that it was inconspicuously exhibited in the downstairs gallery, escaping the attention of passersby. The dark underground space does, however, lend an important atmosphere of unease to the work.

This was apt for The appointment, which interprets notions of sanity and unrest. As the counsellor continues to ask questions of an imaginary client, he appears in a position of power and assumed psychological stability, after all he is not the one seeking help. However, as the work progresses and, unnervingly, his gaze doesn’t falter, I become less certain. Is he speaking to no-one—administering therapy to a void? Is he the psychologically disturbed one, his probing questions delusional imaginings.

The silencing (or absence) of the patient also unpacks traditional narrative dynamics of dialogue and plot. By presenting only one perspective, Murphy invites the audience to draw together a story from the available information—through the counsellor’s calming comments we imagine, inversely, an agitated, apprehensive and paranoid patient.

Murphy’s video subtly works on established and familiar routines of narrative and therapeutic practice, making them seem unstable and opaque. Furthermore, with certain observations that are all too familiar, The appointment gestures at the fragility of human consciousness: “[It’s a] bit like the oven, how you worry about it being left on. When has it ever been left on?”
Maggie McDade

Kate Murphy, The appointment, The more you ignore me, the closer I get, UQ Art Museum, Brisbane, Nov 2-30

Kate Murphy

Kate Murphy


In The appointment, you tap into how society uses power and authority to manage anxiety and psychological unrest. What sparked your interest in this?

I have a growing interest in psychology because my work is about observing, interviewing and directing people.

I started exploring societal anxieties while living in Ireland in 2006 and became interested in psychics, mediums and white witches. The outcome of this was the self-portrait video installation, Cry me a Future (Dublin), 2006 and the beginnings of The appointment (2009). I later worked with writer, Paddy Murphy on the research and development of 'The appointment' (2009).

I'm continuing to explore the notion of confession. The practice of having a 'confessional' in most Reality TV shows really interests me, not only in its function but also in its formal set-up and style. The ‘video diary' in particular clearly incorporates notions of traditional confessionals (not only in the religious sense but also in psycho-therapy terms). A video diary shares the most private thoughts which are specifically withheld from other members of the community and reveal true motivations for actions. This is something I considered when making The appointment. Part of the research for this work involved speaking to psychologists as well as people who were regular patients.

Your work reveals a curiosity about the workings of the mind and how this links with a sense of self. Perhaps this owes a lot to the early sensibilities of video art that played with narcissism and, ultimately, selfhood. When creating this work, did you draw on any particular influences from video art history?

Indeed, a confessional or therapeutic discourse has been identified and it has found a particularly charged expression in video art. The act of confession relates to the search for truth and what makes up the subject, so the practice of confession is self-examination.

In my work I draw on different documentary practices such as TV and film documentary, Reality TV and the home video. I continue to explore the different codes and conventions that exist within these different forms, rather than the traditions of video art. The history and theory of documentary film and the nature of portraiture are central to my work, as is the role of video in our daily lives both in the home and in entertainment.

When viewing The appointment, I found myself trying to fill in aspects of the story which were absent. How do you think your practice interacts with notions of narrative and linear storytelling?

Filling in the gaps was one of my intentions. I’m suggesting that there could be links between what we do in an appointment with what we do in a gallery. In that sense, I would like to think my practice continues to engage with a viewer in a non-linear way, with the audience being able to enter, engage, remain or return at any stage.

Video excerpt included with permission from the artist. Images from top to bottom: The appointment, 2009; Cry me a future, 2006. All images courtesy of the artist and BREENSPACE, Sydney