The True Artist Helps the World by Revealing Magick Truths
July 21, to August 21, 2011
Opening at July 20, 7pm
Opening hours from Thursday to Sunday, 1pm to 7 pm
Craig Baldwin (US), Bo Christian Larsson (SE), Alice Cannava | Occulto Magazine (DE), Johan Thom (ZA), Suzanne Treister (UK), Peter Wächtler (DE)
Perhaps it is not a mistake to dismiss paranormal phenomenon, occult teachings, spiritualism, telekinesis, para-psychology and so on as mere mischief. An enlightened self-awareness that rejects these phenomena as superstition and fairy tales blinds itself to their historicity, their complex social history and the hidden driving forces of their fascination. Since the 19th century, disenfranchised by the rise of natural science and industrialisation, occult currents, relics of pre-modern worldviews and traditional images of religion, particularly the apocalyptic, have formed an ‘Underground of Europe’ (James Webb) consisting of heretical religious positions, unsuccessful social plans and rejected knowledge. Out of this complex mix a kind of ‘international occult’ has arisen.
A refusal to see enlightenment in this international movement falls short. Helena Petrovna Blavatsky’s (1831-1891) theosophical society delivered a global message of the ‘Universal Brotherhood of Humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color’ in a time of extreme racism. Aleister Crowley’s (1875-1947) central rule (‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole law’) and Magick (‘The art and science of changing the world in accordance with the will’) appear as a sophisticated and regulated emancipatory program that no longer recognise external religious and secular authorities. As a result of his experimentation with drugs and sexual collective rituals, Crowley can be described as an ancestor of the self-directed hedonism that has marked all pop-cultural youth movements of the past sixty years.
However the mystics and magicians do not, by far, unite through a rejection of modernity. They frequently used the newest technology such as radio, photography and magnetic tape in order to expand the area of rational, empirical research into unknown territory and investigate the realm of supernatural phenomena. With Jack Parsons (1914-1952) the occultists had a pioneer of U.S. space travel within their ranks. Instead of seeing the occult and spiritual as a contrast program to rationalism and materialism, perhaps it is possible, in retrospect, to read them in terms of spaces that offer the possibility of processing concepts that have become questionable: Notions of body and matter, for example, or soul and spirit, sickness and health, life and death, individuality and community, gender roles and the exploration of artistic production.
This explains the fascination of many Avant-Garde artists for these ideas, ideas that produced decisive impulses for modernist aesthetics. Hence in their search for a ‘new language’ they were offered space to experience passivity in artistic creation that author-oriented theories were excluded from. Are the thought processes of artists and mystics so different? Do they not both position the subject as an essential variable in the cognitive process and believe that through contemplation they can recognise truth?
In this exhibition various positions within contemporary art will trace occult thought throughout history and into the present.
Funded by Kulturstiftung des Freistaates Sachsen and Kulturamt der Stadt Leipzig.