Exorcism in Camera: An Experiment in Ontology (1999)

from The Karen Smith Archive

Exorcism in Camera: An Experiment in Ontology (1999)

from The Karen Smith Archive

Karen Smith, Exorcism in Camera. Saturday.

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.

Karen Smith, Exorcism in Camera. Monday.
Monday.
A shape familiar to the Spirit of the Moon appears in a great and full body, soft and puffy, of colour like a black obscuring cloud, having a swollen countenance, with eyes red and full of water, a bald head and teeth like a wild boar. Its motion is like an immensely great tempest of the sea. Its sign is that of a tremendous fall of rain. It discloses the secrets of the future.
Karen Smith, Exorcism in Camera. Tuesday.
Tuesday.
A shape familiar to the Spirit of Mars appears in a tall body, of irritable complexion, with a filthy countenance. Its colour is brown, swarthy or red. It has horns, like the horns of a stag, and talons like those of an eagle. It bellows like a wild bull. Its motion is like fire burning. Its sign is thunder and lightning. It brings war and pestilence.
Karen Smith, Exorcism in Camera. Wednesday..
Wednesday.
A shape familiar to the Spirit of Mercury appears in a body of middle stature, cold, liquid and moist, fair and with affable speech, in form like a magpie, of colour clear and bright. Its motion is that of silver-coloured clouds. Its sign is to bring horror and fear to the one who calls it. It raises up the low and casts down the high.
Karen Smith, Exorcism in Camera. Thursday.
Thursday.
A shape familiar to the Spirit of Jupiter appears with a pustular and irritable bodily complexion, of middle stature, with a horrible fearful motion, but with a mild countenance, gentle speech and skin the colour of iron. The motion of it is flashings of lightning and thunder. Its sign is that of men seeming to be devoured by lions. It brings merriment and laughter.
Karen Smith, Exorcism in Camera. Friday..
Friday.
A shape familiar to the Spirit of Venus appears with a fair body, of middle stature, with an amiable and pleasant countenance, of colour white or green, the upper part golden. Its motion is that of a clear star. Its sign is that of glamorous women seeming to provoke and entice the one who calls them. It inclines men to luxury and the arts of love.
Karen Smith, Exorcism in Camera. Saturday.
Saturday.
A shape familiar to the Spirit of Saturn appears with a tall, lean and slender body, with an angry countenance, having four faces – one in the back of the head, one on the front of the head and one on each side, nosed or beaked. Its motion is the moving of the wind, with a kind of earthquake. Its sign is white earth, whiter than any snow. It sows discord among men.
Karen Smith, Exorcism in Camera. Sunday.
Sunday.
A shape familiar to the Spirit of the Sun appears in a full, large and great body, sore and gross, in a gold colour, with a touch of blood, like a cockerel. Its motion is as the lightning of the heavens. Its sign is to move the one who calls it to sweat. It brings riches.

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

She chose to be possessed and then dispossessed by the seven spirits associated with the planets of classical antiquity.

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