All images: The Karen Smith Archive, Exorcism in Camera, 1999.
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.