Sunday, May 19, 2013

SÉANCE: A Group Show, Curated by Mario Vasquez - Curator Statement and Installation Views, Coagula Curatorial, Chinatown, Los Angeles, California

Coagula Curatorial
Office: (424) 2-COAGULA
Email: 88gallery at gmail dot com
977 Chung King Road, Los Angeles CA 90012
The gallery is open Wednesday thru Saturday, Noon - 5 PM and by appointment.

“ séance ( /ˈseɪ.ɑːns/) is an attempt to communicate with spirits. The word "séance" comes from the French word for "seat," "session" or "sitting," from the Old French "seoir," "to sit." In French, the word's meaning is quite general: one may, for example, speak of "une séance de cinéma" ("a movie session"). In English, however, the word came to be used specifically for a meeting of people who are gathered to receive messages from spirits or to listen to a spirit medium discourse with or relay messages from spirits; many people, including skeptics and non-believers, treat it as a form of entertainment. In modern English usage, participants need not be seated while engaged in a séance.

“The purpose of a séance is to speak with the dead. It is, in part, an attempt to make the past present, a refusal to accept that the gulf between now and then is unbridgeable. The séance argues that the past is never really gone but is always present with us. In other words, to invoke the space of the séance is to open up a complex relation to history and time.” Medium” Essay by Matthew Brower 2007.

The modern séance emerged with the Spiritualist movement at the middle of the 19th century. The Spiritualists drew on the tropes of modern technology to make contact with the dead. Their séances incorporated the telegraph in the form of spirit rapping and the photograph in spirit photography. Thus the séance is not simply a metaphor for a relation to time but also for a relation to technology”  Id.

The theme of show mediates between the literal and the figurative. The act of the séance in which a spirit of the departed is summoned acts as an analogy between what the artist summons in the image and what the viewer materializes in what is both felt and seen thus bridging the gap between spaces such as time and space, life and death, etc. 

“There must be somewhere, primordial figures, whose bodies are only images. If one could see, one would know the bond between mind and matter.” Gustave Flaubert, “The Temptation of St. Anthony” 1904. Flaubert ponders whether the gap is bridgeable.  Thus the image haunts the truth. Like the portrait of Dorian Grey, the image is always there to express what is either true or what is beneath the surface of what is perceived. The artist becomes the medium and the image becomes the portal of what is both true and what is perceived.

Robert Goodnough in his article 1951 article for Art News entitled “Pollock Paints a Picture,” Goodnough describes a ritual in Pollock’s practice. He states that, “The work of art may be called an image which is set between the artist and the spectator. A Pollock reveals his personal way of bringing this image into existence. Starting automatically, almost as a ritual dance might begin, the graceful rhythms of his movements seem to determine to a large extent the way the paint is applied, but underlying this is the complex Pollock mind.”

In Mike Kelley’s essay, “Playing with Dead Things: On The Uncanny,” Kelley describes The Uncanny as bringing to light of what was hidden and secret…” As Sigmund Freud in his essay “The Uncanny” states, “It is undoubtedly related to what is frightening — to what arouses dread and horror; equally certainly, too, the word is not always used in a clearly definable sense, so that it tends to coincide with what excites fear in general.”

Massimiliano Gioni in his essay for the 2010 Gwanju Biennial states, “We know that images can deceive, but the magic of the image lies precisely in its apparent transparency and sincerity. Whether created as a substitute for an absent lover - from the silhouette in Pliny's legend to video calls on the new iPhone 4 - whether it is a religious image that connects us to God, the image is magical because it mediates between the world of the living and that of the dead, between divinity and the earthly sphere, between what we have and what we miss. “

Gioni concludes by stating, “Here lies the paradox of images: we fight death with images, figures, and effigies, but when the image becomes real, when the immortal turns into the undead, the consolation we longed for in images turns into disgust, anger, and fear. That is perhaps the drama of being human, not wanting to be alone and yet wanting to be alone and yet wanting nobody else to be like us.”

The artists in this show act as mediums who attempt to bridge gaps that the artists themselves perceive between the seen and the unseen.

Roni Feldman
The paintings of Roni Feldman bridge the gap between viewer and subject by forcing the viewer to be active in the viewing of the work. The subtlety of color, monochrome black, hides the images of both the famous and infamous as the viewer approaches. However as the viewer moves across the canvas, the subject, the people of the past and present are revealed. In Eastern Orthodox tradition, Icons are both a window and an object. The icon acts as a window to the heavens and to where the saints and God exists together. Feldman’s works are a secular window where images of the famous and infamous live forever and summoned by the artist.

Laurence McNamara
In Laurence McNamara’s paintings, the image also hides within the color and composition of the canvas. The images are apparitions. They have no names nor are they identifiable by the viewer. The viewer is invited to, “an exploration of emotions, desire and fantasy. Who and what is portrayed is only the indirect subject of these paintings; the emotions they evoke are much more consequentive. A constructed and fictional other without context, identity or agency creates an opportunity to more clearly examine the projection of emotion. The constructed otherness functions as a field for the projection of emotion and engagement with fantasy.”

Kathleen Melian
In an essay by Donald Britton entitled, “The Dark Side of Disneyland,” Britton describes that behind the façade of sweetness and cheeriness, “one finds evidence of a profoundly morbid preoccupation with death, violence, and human decay. Disneyland confronts us so frequently with images depicting death and its terrors that, though the images themselves are never really terrifying (except to small children), they are clearly crucial to what this particular Magic Kingdom is all about” Kathleen Melian’s paintings portrays children boarding a ride on an amusement park or a landscape that portrays a dark and menacing place where horror is present. The works are a meditation of horror and amusement, life and death, and in the end leaves the viewer with an open ended questions.

Francesca Gabbiani
“I’m very inspired by the idea of the cursed poet,” she says. “And, of course, Edgar Allan Poe, Alice in Wonderland, even films like Pan’s Labyrinth [2006].” This isn’t the first time Gabbiani has fallen for the creepier side of cinema. A previous series of paper works concentrated on interior scenes loosely taken from ’60s and ’70s Italian horror films like those of Dario Argento, and the carpeted hotel hallways from Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining (1980). “Interiors and mirrors are very similar,” Gabbiani says. “At first they are very easy pictures to look at. But the more you stare, the more an uneasiness settles in. It’s funny—I’m very inspired by horror movies, but film really only entered my work when I moved to Los Angeles.”

Sean C. Flaherty
One of the aspects of a séance is the gesture or act that summons the desired spirit. Sean Flaherty’s video explores the relationship between film and gesture. The work is a study of repetition and horror. Subjects are both the antagonist and protagonist as a scene and a moment from the 1925 film Phantom of the Opera never ends. Both subjects never complete their acts, only gestures in an endless loop as both convey horror and abjection. 

Elizabeth DiGiovanni
Elizabeth DiGiovanni describes her work “Now and Then” by stating, "Many paranormal researchers believe that certain settings can act like a sort of substrate, which retains a “recording” of the events that once took place there. These spirits retrace the same gestures, the same emotions, the same paths time after time after time. "Now and Then" collects the residue of the spirit realm and traces it's connection to memories, which when stuck on repeat, become repetitive obsessions that become engraved in the non-physical realm as well”

Center for Tactical Magic
In “Ghost Machine” the Center for Tactical Magic, documents a performance in “the streets of Tbilisi, Georgia (which) are haunted by a palpable past, an ever-shifting present, and an unknowable, yet all too predictable, future.”  A Soviet-era Jeep is placed in front of the former Institute of Marxism building, which is now being converted to a luxury hotel and shopping center, (the antithesis of the Marxist ideology). “An eerie mix of moans, groans, growls, and howls blares out across the city from the public-address loudspeakers mounted atop of an antique Soviet-era military vehicle. As it creaks and rumbles down the main thoroughfare of Rustaveli Avenue, the Ghost Machine gives voice to the competing anxieties and many restless spirits gathering in the shadows.  These sonic emanations intervene in the aural landscape and provoke the living with uncanny reminders of what has been and mysterious manifestations of what yet may be. Like the city itself, the bashed and battered truck appears to have lived many lives, having died and been resurrected more than once.  Now it is invoked to meet a new set of challenges.”

James L. Marshall
James L. Marshall is an artist whose work explores themes including the uncanny, the occult and modernism. For this show Marshall utilizes cinematic references to consider the darker side of minimalism and modernist art. Something is wrong with the purity that minimalism conveys, and Marshall uses this language to express present day fears and anxieties.

Matthew Carter
According to Amy Pederson and Matthew Carter, “These works are literal manifestations of quotes by Zak Bagans, a supernatural investigator and reality television personality on the Travel Channel show Ghost Adventures. The premise of this show is to prove the existence of ghosts through a series of overnight investigations in supposedly haunted places. Bagans and his team proceed to patronize and bully ghosts, with their own over-the-top showmanship. Their macho performance and narration fill in the blanks for the viewer and suggest the possibility of something tangible in the pursuit of the paranormal. Bagans's militaristic and authoritarian style allows viewers to feel a shared sense of victory over death and the unknown. Carter makes Bagans's language concrete and uses his hyperbole as a template for producing material form."

Glenn Kaino
Glenn Kaino is a conceptual artist who has previously engaged in a deep exploration of magic, at one time working and studying with some of the best magicians around the world.  For this show Kaino has contributed work that explores the relationship between art and magic, based from a work entitled "Expert at the Card Table," by S.W. Erdnase. Written at the turn of the 20th Century, “Expert at the Card Table” referred to simply as Erdnase (or even, The Bible), is an extensive book on cards and magic. The author S. W. Erdnase is a pseudonym whose identity has remained a mystery for over a century. As a detailed manual of card sharps, the book is considered to be one of the most influential works on magic or conjuring with cards. Every great magician, from Houdini to David Copperfield, has studied, and has signed the original copy, which is located in the library of the Magic Castle in Hollywood, California.  Kaino has taken the illustrations from the book and has created a double helix; a DNA strand which may be found in every magician, but also a magical lineage that might be shared with artist and the public alike, as one cannot visibly bear witness to this secret connection to the past, present and future.

Sue De Beer
In regards to her video work “Silver and Gold” Sue de Beer states the following:
“…this film was a seance of sorts - trying to reconstruct a lost photograph - an image of an intimate moment that wasn't mine. I saw a photo many years back of my grandmother as a young woman brushing her hair in front of a mirror. It looked like the photo was taken in the evening - she must (sic) have been in her early twenties. I think my grandfather took it - it had an intimate feeling to it - black and white. I looked for it a year or so ago and asked around and the photo is lost - seems like it must have been thrown out by accident. The film moves forwards in time, to things she may have seen (or might not have), to places she might or might not have imagined in the moment it was taken.

I like to do this sometimes in crowded rooms, or at a party. Watch someone when they don't know I am looking, and try to imagine their greatest love affair, or see twenty years of their life unfold in the way that they walk across the room.

Its kind of like a seance, but I am the witch.” 

Christy Roberts
Christy Roberts' work explores identity, agency, and the unconscious in this work about her adolescence. When Roberts was a young teen, she joined a cult. The interview between Roberts and her mother (the Police Captain investigating the cult in the city Roberts attended middle school) explores her interest in the occult in relation to her parents' police authority, blurring the line between fetish and power, the unconscious and metaphysics, fear and desire. While her séance table sculpture (which includes a homemade Ouija board and crystal ball) represents a literal and cliché representation of occult rituals, appearing to be "dripping with darkness", the photograph of her at 13 years old, taken for an 18 year old "cult leader" is a reminder of the real and predatory nature of those who build belief off of naiveté and repression. As a skeptic of the of the rituals and beliefs which once held so much power over her, Roberts now uses a critical approach to draw comparisons between a lack of agency and belief in the ability to metaphysically manipulate one's personal life, either through the Occult, or through other religious or metaphysical rituals.

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