We used to believe that photographs always “refer” to something beyond themselves that already exists, like an actual place, space, object or person(s). Even though this was never always true or completely convincing, such strongly held convictions have been profoundly shaken by the effects of popular digital culture. It is no longer a matter of any specific photograph itself being unreliable, so much as the whole edifice of social and cultural life, and its media platforms, being taken over by a pervading sense of doubt.
The idea and belief that photographs invoke a presence is increasingly compromised by the haunting sense of an absence. As explored in this work, a house in Germany is the site of a machinic vision, whose “consciousness” is implanted as an instrument of human vision.
The project shows the Korean shamans of the North Korean Hwanghaedo tradition in liminal moments. These are periods in which they experience ecstasy and trance because they seek contact with spiritual entities or are possessed by gods, spirits, or ancestors. They are in an intermediate position “betwixt and between” that is very difficult to describe and is in fact experienced in a manifold of ways. The shamans that came as refugees after the Korea war imported the Hwanghaedo tradition from North Korea to South Korea. The ecstatic and wild ritual practice survived in South Korea because many refugees perceived this tradition as part of their culture and identity. Among the several regional shamanism traditions practiced in South Korea today, Hwanghaedo shamanism is widely acknowledged as the one that retains the magio-religious traits that are the spiritual essence of Korean shamanism’s belief and practice.
Karen Smith (1966–2017) had long been interested in altered states of consciousness. In seeking help with her own psychiatric illness, she came across Agrippa’s works on occult philosophy and the use of spoken-word formulas for entering and exiting differential states of being. These steps over the psychic threshold are known as adorcism and exorcism – the summoning and banishing of demons or spirits. Over the course of a week in 1999, she decided to try out some of Agrippa’s techniques. She chose to be possessed and then dispossessed by the seven spirits associated with the planets of classical antiquity. She documented one ritual per day. For each action, she used the same devices – a bathtub filled with water, a lamp and an audio cassette player with a tape featuring incantations pre-recorded by a ceremonial magician. Published here are the results of these ontological experiments.
Liszi’s work creates visual signs derived from spherical forms of sacred geometry on photograms. Her camera-less images focus on Oneness – universe and us, based on the Light of the Soul. She works with her voice that creates ripples in water. Her experiments began with exploring the Bija mantras Aum, RaMaDaSa, and lastly SaTaNaMa that describes the eternal circle of life: birth, life, death, rebirth. Her experimentation led from mantra vibration in still water (life symbol) to light vibration (life symbol) as information carrier. The fundamental connection between water waves and light waves inspired extra stimulus in her experimental work. Quantity of water, shapes of bowls, colours of light, angles of light – are all various avenues of exploration. The sacred geometric angles and the variety of the wavelengths of electromagnetic vibrations created intimate, meditative space that gives birth to these unique photograms. Her initial experiments were with B&W positive papers then 5 × 4″ and 10 × 8″ B&W negative films. The orthochromatic negatives allowed her to work in safelight, which led to the creation of enlarged images mixed with other wavelengths. Thus, monochrome was reborn through colour.
An ex-voto is a votive offering to invisible forces, mainly given in fulfilment of a vow after being healed. It often takes form in the mold of the wounded member, a print that has been directly in contact with the body of the helped. This cyanotype was made with a radiography of my sick lungs, and plants I found dead in an exploited forest. In this photograph, I link the wounded wilderness – the French call forests “Earth lungs” – with my wounded lungs. Since Magic involves using analogies to weave links between a representation and its object in order to affect it, what kind of magic system is invoked when we summon action with contact prints? I tied this photograph to the terrible arsons devastating Amazonia, and more recently Australia, echoing with the disastrous impacts of global changes on the fragile balance of Earth life.
ARFR is a generally generation-transcending principle for everything living, ranging from culture to biology. It is an old Norse word believed to have its origin in Latin or Greek. It means Arv in Danish – inheritance in English. The project explores how we are affected by and entangled with the stories that come before us in social-spiritual-material-magical ways. In the words of feminist thinker Karen Barad:
To address the past (and future), to speak with ghosts, is not to entertain or reconstruct some narrative of the way it was, but to respond, to be responsible, to take responsibility for that which we inherit (from the past and the future), for the entangled relationalities of inheritance that ‘we’ are, to acknowledge and be responsive to the noncontemporaneity of the present, to put oneself at risk, to risk oneself (which is never one or self), to open oneself up to indeterminacy in moving towards what is to-come.
(Karen Barad “Quantum Entanglements and Hauntological Relations of Inheritance: Dis/continuities, SpaceTime Enfoldings, and Justice-to-Come” in Derrida Today 3.2 : 240–268)