Michael Toke - When I close my eyes, I see numbers
Michael Toke’s new number series continues his exploration of perception and the roots of superstition and belief by examining his own and others’ irrational thoughts about rational things. Employing interviews and self-induced hypnagogic states (achieved through exercise), he has indulged the contradictory, irrational ideas and systems that everyone forms, even around the most rational of concepts: numbers. He tries to weed through superstitious standards like numerology and get at root ideas about shape, symbol and context. The works are attempts at willing his own visions and misconceptions into form, not illustrations of number personalities. He wants to know how we invent and perceive the universe, and uses art as a vehicle for learning. In the winter I stop running on the road and move into the gym. The elliptical with eyes closed and tripping beats is very cathartic.
32 minutes, and something strange happens. The awareness of your body drifts away, a flood of endorphins induces a hypnagogic state where every flash of light on your eyes produces intense visions. Within this, I see numbers.
Flashing, moving undulating scenes with embedded numbers in hierarchies of power and influence, jittering in landscape, paired in prime reason and geometric sequence. It is spectacular and I am trying to achieve this state on a daily basis and to record what I see.
It is no coincidence that I am seeing numbers: I have been thinking about them... and pattern recognition and systems of belief and B.F. Skinner. Evolution has given us a gift—the ability to see through the randomness of the universe and discern meaning—an advantage, but also an affectation. The ability to derive pattern and meaning where there is none. It is built into the architecture of our brains and I would like to explore this, talk to people about irrational thoughts about rational things; numbers.
I asked a girl how she felt about the numbers 6, and she said “oh, I don’t like it, it reminds me of a snake.” Then I asked how she felt about 9s and she said “oh, I like them.”
Do you feel odds are stronger than evens? Are even numbers feminine? Is an 8 cooler than a 7? Do you root for certain numbers without having life attachments to them? Do you find writing some numbers a chore and secretly despise them? Do you think prime numbers are awkward loners that choose their own path or exalted royalty better than common numbers? Are you more free from these numeral affectations if you are a mathematician or an accountant?
This exhibition is my opening salvo into the subject of numbers, although much of my work in the past has focused on contradictory belief systems.
The works in this exhibition are derived from my own irrational visions and beliefs, of which I have no intellectual confidence and yet still allow to guide my daily life.