The Operating System and Liminal Lab


Chlöe Bass writes:
The following is a record of work between the Bureau of Self-Recognition and Dave Thrasher. Dave chose photography as the response medium for his work.
Dave has been working with Exercise Two for far longer than his prescribed 30 iterations, and as such we’ve been able to follow an interesting series of thoughts about the exercise itself and how it affects his daily life. Dave’s Exercise Two asked him to, “document daily moments of unreality: which is to say, if you encounter something either in the world or in yourself that seems not real, take a photo of it. This can be a moment of imagination or merely a moment of questioning.”
Dave began to submit near-daily photographs. He also wrote me on days when he was unable to photograph, or did not experience any moments of unreality. Although Dave and I had only met once prior to my giving him this exercise, it turned out to have some uncanny echoes throughout his life and experiences.

I’ve been exploring the question of what seems real and what seems not real for a while now. And how we process these things differently. For me, I’ll define the term differently depending on my frame of mind, the context of the experience or even who I’m with. Within this exercise I find myself being more discerning than I normally would be (perhaps).
I’m being more picky with the things that I photograph. I find myself thinking, ‘what’s unreal about what I’m experiencing right now will not translate into a photograph.’ Or maybe I judge my ability to photograph the experience (or object/inspiration/source of the experience) well enough. If I’m on my bike or I’m with someone or I’m in a circumstance where it may be inappropriate to take a photo, I will be more discerning. How I perceive your interpretation of the term ‘real’ might be coming into play, if only because I know I will be communicating the experience to you.

I noticed the other day that I have not yet recorded a moment of unreality in myself. I’ve only documented unreal moments/things in the world, or my surroundings. What could this mean? Does it mean that I haven’t recognized something in myself that doesn’t seem like myself? Have I gone through the last few weeks thinking, ‘Thats me. that’s me. That’s me.’?
Perhaps in this regard the work in Exercise Two has affected my understanding of self-recognition?

Now that I think of it, I don’t think I’ve taken any pictures while at work during this whole process, which is strange because at least 90 percent of it is unrealistic.
Lately, the last few days, I have not been able to loosen my interpretation of reality for a day, or even a moment. Everything is really real. This is real. This performance right here, the one we’re engaged in, is real. It is bringing up real questions and real exploration. It’s a performance, but it is as real as anything else I’ve experienced in the last 48 hours. And I’ve had a crazy 48 hours. Believe me. I’ve been in that frame of mind where everything is real, without question.
I think it’s possible the exercise has had an effect on my perspective.
Thinking about it now, it seems like when I don’t recognize moments of unreality in my day it usually means that I am having a pretty active day.  It’s not necessarily that I’m too “busy” to document the moments, but rather that I am not in the mindset, not using the outside perspective needed to recognize and then evaluate or judge the moment.

Part of this exercise is to recognize myself, including every single aspect of my self. There have been a handful of experiences that I’ve recorded where I recognize a moment of unreality in myself. A side of me reveals itself that is unfamiliar, or surprising (particularly for the circumstances). All of these were me, of course, but they were a Dave that needed that particular experience, or that particular person that I was with, to show himself.
Since we started this exercise, I have had a few life-changing experiences, immediately recognized as changing the course of my path. And yet I am still me. I am the same Dave that I was when I signed up for your project. And I will continue to be that Dave, with a few new versions of me that will reveal themselves in their own unique Dave-like way.

Doing this exercise [. . .] has compelled me to be more honest about my perceptions. I have still allowed myself to use my imagination, etc. but I have questioned the accuracy, or truth of my perceptions much, much more lately. This is the feeling of the camera in the room I was talking about. I’ve become aware of the exercise and it has had this effect.
Like I said I while back, at times I just recognize that everything is real. Every single thing. No matter how much I may want to perceive them as unreal, or can’t quite explain them or identify them in the moment, they are real. They are quite real. They may be new, or difficult to understand, hard to cope with, or amazingly impossible, or outrageously funny, but they are real.
I really hope this exercise hasn’t made me a realist.
Chloë Bass is currently living and working in Stuttgart, Germany; the work of the Bureau and its clients is international, drawn from a wide pool of participants. Learn more about Chlöe’s work at her website, here.
You can find the Bureau here:
The Bank of the Bureau of Self-Recognition ( and the Free Consultation project ( are ongoing. You are invited to participate remotely, and will be provided with instructions tailored to your personal intake form, desired medium, and so on.
Please be sure to let the artist know you are from the Exit Strata community when you contact her!

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