The limbic system is an ancient part of the brain common to all mammals that controls instinctive drives.

The mental image of the shoal of fish suddenly flitting in a new direction, creates a visual image of how I conceptualise the limbic system affecting a group of people acting as a common body. Bound by predetermined rules, the silvery fish move together as one. External stimuli create the need for the whole shoal to move from one place to another. People also seem to shoal when the organs of the limbic systems are stimulated. Moving crowds to act this way or that – not because they really know what they want or why they are behaving that way but because they act on basic, inherent instinct, they blindly follow the trend, and the norm. There is no doubt intelligence in this as a survival strategy, but knowledge of this system has left humans exposed and vulnerable to the exploitation of those in power who want to control us and render us obedient.

Hence comes the net. The limbic Fishnet. I admit my weaknesses. Feel the puppet-like nature of the pulls here and pulls there – involuntary muscle spasms that I consciously try to control. Often the struggle leaves a wash of intermittent and mixed feeling of submission, impotence, frustration, indignation, rage, determination and hopelessness. I seek desperately to understand and to see the struggle. To capture those moments when I move involuntarily and when groups and crowds are jolted by forces seemingly outside of their control. To catch for a fleeting moment that change. To move with it and withdraw from it, alone watching it. I am not alone watching this. I’m seeing that there are many, many also watching. Each watching each other but from a distance – together and alone in their shared interest in watching for fear or inability to be aroused into joining, in purely feeling the desire to submit to the flow. Are we together or alone able to see beyond the next trend, the next big thing and look instead at ourselves, at each other and outside the net. To make some difference to the mass obedience we see as an illness today?

Inspired by the human condition and its perpetual drive to better itself, my philosophical approaches towards work and life mirrors my desire to observe and equally to submit. As an artist my work looks at shared forms of human weakness; physical, emotional and spiritual, the common traits that we share, and how the need to mask and reveal these traits are constantly battling one another.

My approach turns this philosophy into a driving force to help others better communicate their own particular mix of ideas and beliefs, creating for them an aesthetic container. Experience of collaborative and interactive working means that I recognise that there are countless right ways to do things and celebrates the uniqueness that is generated when people combine their ideas. Play and control within the flow is explored through all the work. My work can seem childlike, bright colours, soft fabrics, inviting spaces to put your hands but they are also not so innocent and therein lies the question, the trap. Sometimes sexual, sometimes commercial, sometimes spiritual, the work often draws people into a relationship with it that allows me to watch that limbic net.

For the last ten years I’ve played the game ‘choice chance and circumstance’ with my own life. Life and art are the same. I turned off the conventional external ‘art’ switch and turned on the internal one. I wanted to experience the full breadth and depth of a ‘normal’ life. I played the game and watched the results every day. Watching as the invisible but tangible boundaries and connections between me and the people who shared and influenced control of my life were drawn and redrawn – straining to try to see it all. My kids, husband, parents, colleagues, peers, friends, social media follows and followers. Adding to that the internal controls coming from memories of others who have influenced and controlled me in the past. And finally mix it all up with the obligation and desire to influence and control myself and others.

Now is the time to start looking outward again. See what lines other people draw. How they choose to influence and control their lives and environments. Now I can play with new toys – digital ones. Find out why women don’t code as often as men and how think about how equality of the sexes and a bit more human empathy and collaboration will ever be achieved if coders control us through the products they make and they are mostly men. Get the soldering iron and the sewing machine out again. Model the forces that act on us, create the limbic fishnet and share it as widely as possible so that it might show a new perspective to whoever comes into contact with it.

All content © Copyright 2022 by Maf'j Alvarez.
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