steve hawley


artists’ film and video

Barnum Effect 2007 5 min

2009 Lanchester Gallery Coventry

2007 L’Alternativa; 14th Festival de Cinema Independent de Barcelona

2007 National Review of Live Art, Tramway, Glasgow.

“You have a need for other people to like and admire you, and yet you tend to be critical of yourself. While you have some personality weaknesses you are generally able to compensate for them. You have considerable unused capacity that you have not turned to your advantage.”

The famous showman P.T. Barnum, believed that a spectacle should have something for every member of the audience, and used the human propensity for belief in vague statements in a mind reading act. In 1948 the effect was investigated by the psychologist Bertram Forer, who used random excerpts from horoscopes and tested them on his students, who rated the personality description produced as astonishingly accurate.

In the video, a series of statements are voiced by a narrator addressing the individual spectator, over a series of images shot in high definition video of a deserted salt pans, on the Adriatic coast in Slovenia. The seduction of the audience by the voice seems to question the seduction of the viewer by the hyperreal image itself.

Voiceover Heidi Schaefer

Camera, script, edit Steve Hawley

Barnum Effect 2007