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Works from the Hallucinated Archive (Bonington Gallery, 27 Sept – 16 Nov, 2019)

3 Sep

‘Works from the Hallucinated Archive’ has been comissioned for the foyer and vitrines at Nottingham Trent University’s Bonington Gallery, running from Sep 27 until Nov 16 alongside the final iteration of Legion Projects‘ touring exhibition ‘Waking the Witch‘.

Robert Holcombe -Telekinesis Series (The Golden Dawn) (c.1956)

Artists:

Aslı Anık

Arianne Churchman

Maryam Hashemi

Robert Holcombe

Chloe Langlois

Z.K. Oloruntoba

Works from the Hallucinated Archive brings together material by six artists (five real, one fictional) working across a range of media, approaches, traditions and degrees of initial scepticism. They all share an interest in ideas around folklore, spiritual(ist) belief and art as psychic manifestation or transmission.

The vitrines and foyer are occupied by works from the fabricated archive of an entirely fictional British artist, Robert Holcombe (1923 – 2003). Gathered into an exhibition that might be read as a scholarly contribution to a previously unknown (and wilfully esoteric) chapter in the story of Post-War British Art. Or perhaps a fiction exploring ideas of authenticity, class and cultural identity by ‘restoring’ to our attention a figure who might plausibly have existed but failed or refused to fit the standard narratives and frameworks of his time.

This archival fiction is further layered and complicated by its deployment as a framing device for a group of works by five other artists, mostly contemporary, sometimes hallucinatory in effect, and all real. Their shared fascinations with altered states, fringe beliefs, folklore and ritual, play against their own (and our) ingrained sceptical instincts with humour and a strong awareness of absurdity.

After all, whatever the precise nature of any particular psychic or paranormal phenomenon might be, such subjective experiences plainly share conceptual ground with the transformative, healing and wish-fulfilling objectives of art itself. Just as a fiction is a very literal kind of alternate reality, a song a form of spell-casting or invocation, and any film or photograph in existence a very literal kind of ghost.

The artworks and fictional ephemera featured in Works from the Hallucinated Archive should work together as something that exists between a curated group show and a single installation to generate a kind of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ rabbit-hole: a Holcombe-style collage portal into a parallel world that may already exist within the familiar yet often nightmarish one we currently inhabit.

Artists:

Asli Anik - unfucking your head is a delicate game that involves a lot of squid (2017)

Aslı Anık is a therapist by profession and her richly detailed ink and felt-tip drawings seem designed to transform psychological and emotional states into miniature visual universes densely populated with natural and architectural forms, organic and geometric patterns, and such symbols as birds, squid, candles, DNA strands, foxes, mice, brains, foetuses, towers and masks. Simultaneously decorative and cartoonish, absurdly humorous and intense, Anık’s drawings consciously reference a wide range of conventions associated with Outsider art, folk painting, psychedelic animation, traditional pattern and Tarot design, while continually opening into their own imaginary and psychic spaces.

Arianne Churchman - We Entered Through the Chime Line - Green Vibrations (2019)

Arianne Churchman draws on British folk traditions and customs to create hybrid works incorporating performance, sound, costume, film and sculpture to explore themes of magic, invocation and ritually induced altered states, staging her artworks in forms and contexts that evoke the humour and amateur inventiveness of both real and imaginary vernacular folk cultures. The work included here, ‘We Entered Through the Chime Line’ (2019), creates a quasi-medieval contemporary ritual out of songs and subjects adapted from the work of Ruth Lyndall Tongue (1898 – 1981), an English folklorist who claimed the special status of ‘chime child’ and gained notoriety for crossing boundaries between authenticity and outright fabrication in such notable contributions to the field as her 1968 book ‘The Chime Child, Or Somerset Singers’.

Maryam Hashemi - The Oracle I (2018)

Maryam Hashemi’s work is rooted in her wartime childhood in Iran and the imagery of her paintings often layers the everyday with dream-like and absurd events, figures and symbols. She studied Graphic Design at Azad University in Tehran, held her first solo exhibition in 2001 at Haft Samar Gallery and was selected for a group show of Iranian female painters in Brussels the same year. She returned to the UK in 2002 and has since exhibited widely. She discussed some of her working methods in a BBC 2 documentary, ‘Making Art’, during 2014, and has recently worked more consistently with improvised live-painting, dance and storytelling, while also practising as a Tarot reader and psychic, sometimes in the performative identity of The Oracle, sometimes under her own professional identity.

Robert Holcombe is an entirely fictional British artist (b. Leeds 1923, d. Exeter 2003) whose fascination with collage was first discovered in 1944 during convalescence from injuries sustained while serving as a naval radio engineer in Malaya. He attended the Slade between 1948 and 1951 and until his retirement in 1988 worked as a planning officer in the city of Leeds. Although he did not exhibit publicly during his lifetime, he frequently worked in series, creating variations on an array of industrial, mythic and biological themes. The current exhibition focuses on works presenting evidence of altered states and fabricated paranormal, folkloric and archaeological phenomena, including works from ‘Telekinesis’ (1953 – 1967) and ‘The Tarot Series’ (1971 – 75).

Chloe Langlois - Here Goes Literally Nothing (Telepathy Channeling Performance, 2018)

Chloe Langlois has a background in painting but currently works mainly in performance and video, making work centred on mysticism, fringe belief and the invocation of visionary figures. Using her own props and costumes she gleefully engineers situations that incorporate mistakes and radical deviations from approximate scripts to, in her own words: “embrace the joyful chaos of working without rehearsal, live, in one take.” Influenced by comedy, medievalism and religious art, interested in the energy that comes from devotional intent or altered states of consciousness, her most recent works have taken the form of green-screen psychodramas like ‘Messages from the M11’ (2019) and the improvised participatory telepathy demonstration of ‘Here Goes Literally Nothing’ (2018), from which the ‘channelling devices’ featuring portraits of Jerry Garcia, Pauline Oliveros and Austin Osman Spare included here are drawn.

ZK Oloruntoba - Ink on fabric image from Esther Warner Dendel, African Fabric Craft (1974)

Z.K. Oloruntoba [aka Chief Zacheus Olowonubi Oloruntoba (1934 – 2014)] was a Nigerian artist, herbalist and healer noted for using dreams to channel communications and healing energies between the world of the living and both the traditionally conceived and personally imagined Yoruba spirit realms so often portrayed in his paintings. He studied in the early 1960s with leading Osogbo School artist Twins Seven Seven (1944 – 2011) but the two later had a public disagreement and Oloruntoba moved on to work independently from his studio in Ibadan. In the 1970s he travelled to New York and worked extensively with Jazz musician Ornette Coleman, designing record covers and artwork for a range of releases on Coleman’s own Artists’ House label. ‘The Kernel Breaker’ (1974) dates from this phase of his career – an image painted in vegetable dyes on cloth representing a dreamed spirit that manifests and exists somewhere between traditional Yoruba iconography and Oloruntoba’s own imagination.

Wayne Burrows: Works from the Hallucinated Archive (Bonington Gallery Vitrines, Sept 27 – Nov 16, 2019). PV on Sep 26, 5.30 – 7.30pm: free, all welcome.

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Love Witch Cinematic Happening (Nottingham Contemporary Playlist, 27 Oct 2017)

29 Oct

LW

On Friday I put together a loop of cut-up visual footage and played records for the Nottingham Contemporary Halloween party, this year built around a screening of Anna Biller’s The Love Witch and live music performances by Cacator & The Sirens (a first outing for the all-new, and excellent, ‘haunted radiophonic girl group’ project of Louise O’Connor, Aimee Neat & Rosanna Gould) and Toy. Decor was by Kashif Nadim Chaudry. The track-list that follows is as complete as I can remember. The only record that wasn’t actually played (but is included here anyway) is the final one: it was all cued up to be the night’s final flourish but the closing time overtook it. A few songs can be heard, accompanied by some of the visuals used on the night, in the playlist here.

Nina Simone: I Put A Spell On You
Rosemary Nichols: Once Upon A Time
Dick Hyman & Mary Mayo: Moon Gas
Frog: Witch Hunt
Don Ralke: Black Panther
Nina & Frederik: Elizabeth I & II
Lake Ruth: The Inconsolable Jean-Claude
Dana Gillespie: Foolish Seasons
Margo Guryan: Love
United States of America: Coming Down
Bob Stone: Hang Cool Teddybear
Vampire’s Sound Incorporation: The Lions & The Cucumber
Brigitte Bardot: Saint Tropez
Birds’n’Brass: Fritzy Baby
Tina Harvey: Nowhere To Run
Crystal Fountain (Wendy & Bonnie): The Night Behind Us
The Lollipop Shoppe: You Must Be A Witch
Fuzz Against Junk: Ballad of the Hip Death Goddess
Proud Mary: Follow Me
Eclection: Violet Dew
Chiyo Okumura: Love Thief
Happy Day Choir: California Dreaming
Margo: The Spark That Lights The Flame
Leslie-Ann Beldamme: The One I Love
Francoise Hardy: Le Temps Des Souvenirs
Joan Baez: The Magic Wood
Sounds Inc: Taboo
John Barry: Vendetta
Dick Hyman & Mary Mayo: Space Reflex
Poppy Family: No Blood In Bone
Buffy Sainte-Marie: He’s A Keeper Of The Fire
Francoise Legrand: Attends Moi
Susan Aviles: Eine Schone Welt
Carolyn Hester Coalition: The Journey
Julie Felix: Snakeskin
Sarofeen & Smoke: Witch
Melanie: People In The Front Row
Jun Mayuzumi: You And The Sun
Graham Bond: The Magician
The Felines: The Sneak
Pandoras: Haunted Beach Party
April March: Sugar
Poppy Family: Free From The City
Alan Tew Orchestra: Light Flight
Baker Street Philharmonic: Daydream
Shocking Blue: Love Buzz
Pete Moore Orchestra: Catwalk
Martin Denny: Incense & Peppermints
Ennio Morricone: Svolta Definitiva
Mandingo: Black Rite
Rafaella Carra: Rumore
Demis Roussos: Let It Happen
Donna Summer: I Feel Love
Jane Weaver: I Need A Connection
Belbury Poly: Scarlet Ceremony
The Soundcarriers: This Is Normal
Lal & Mike Waterson: Bright Phoebus

Telekinesis: Ghost Pornography & Fabricated Phenomena (Watch-It Gallery, May 13 – 28)

4 May

Telekinesis Flyer [Ghost Pornography (Silver), 1980]

Robert Holcombe: Telekinesis: Ghost Pornography & Fabricated Phenomena (1953 – 1980)

Private View: Saturday 13th May 2017

6-10pm

Open by appointment until 28/5/17

Watch it Gallery
18 Granville Road
South Woodford
London, E18 1LD

Tube: South Woodford, Central Line

E: watch-it@outlook.com

Web: http://watch-it-gallery.blogspot.co.uk/

Robert Holcombe is an entirely fictional British artist (b. Leeds 1923 – d. Exeter 2003) whose fascination with collage was first discovered when he began cutting up magazines and rearranging the parts whilst convalescing from injuries sustained in 1944, during active service in Malaya. He was a radio engineer, a contemporary of Richard Hamilton and Eduardo Paolozzi at the Slade School of Art and, from 1955 until 1988, a planning officer in Leeds. Although Holcombe did not exhibit publicly during his lifetime, he made most of his work under two pseudonyms – Gene and Michael Harrison. His works are generally marked by a fascination with consumerist excess, inscrutable apparitions of surgical, sexual, supernatural and folkloric symbols inside modernist interiors, or unsettling disturbances of ordinary space.

Telekinesis Series (1953 – 1969)

Most of the modified magazine photographs and private snapshots making up Robert Holcombe’s Telekinesis Series were created in the mid 1950s, though examples exist from as late as 1969, and other works in the series are fabricated to resemble photographs of an 1880s or 1920s vintage. The motivation behind the whole body of work seems to have been both an interest in the unreliability of photographic evidence and a basic fascination with the telekinetic and other supernatural phenomena the images themselves blatantly fabricate evidence for. Holcombe explicitly cites the notorious Cottingley Fairy photographs, taken by ten year-old Frances Griffiths and sixteen year-old Elsie Wright around 1917, as a key influence on his visual approach to making these works.

Ghost Pornography I – IX (1980)

“I suspect Ghost Pornography began from an observation that the way fabrics were represented shifted noticeably in fashion photographs and advertising at some point during the early 1970s, when rather distinctive kinds of suggestion began to appear in the folds and rumples of clothes and bed-sheets in the pages of magazines. Before this, sex is attached to products in relatively transparent ways but, after 1970, a shift occurs, with sexual cues coded into the products themselves. Was I seeing things, or was this a marketing progression, from the selling of products as mechanisms linked to the achievement of sexual fulfilment in the world, to selling them as things invested with sexual desirability in their own right? From the perspective of today, when the game has moved to another level entirely, these subliminally labial folds and phallic bulges in clothes and beds seem almost innocent: the ghosts of sexual desire coded into the fabrics so often used to make the likenesses of ghosts. Hence, the notion of the ghost in these images as a purposefully animated bed-sheet, as much a matter of Scooby Doo cartoons as the uncanny qualities generated by actual hauntings. These nine Ghost Pornography images, formalised on a grid of chromatic variations, cut several ways. They are simultaneously, I hope, a slightly unsettling joke; uncanny; perhaps even genuinely (if marginally and a bit perversely) pornographic though any true suggestiveness is only ever really imagined by the viewer in response to the title…”

[Robert Holcombe: Letter to Cy Albertine, November 1998]

From: Robert Holcombe’s Telekinesis (c.1954 – 1957)

6 Jul

Telekinesis II (1955)

“The game begins when the children, in whatever numbers are available when the desire to play takes hold, form a circle and focus their collective attention on a point in the ground at the dead-centre of their gathering. Each child then imagines the ground opening, mentally invoking a wound or vulva, a mouth or eye at that single point in space. Once the correct degree of focus is achieved each child in turn joins with the song that will slowly grow in volume and force as it passes repeatedly around their human circle, sometimes in the form of an elaborate but instinctively formed round, sometimes as a massed single chant as all the voices present merge into one:

Open, open, turn this earth to mouth,
Show coral lips and ivory teeth,
Cleave this ground to bring forth life,
Slice this stone with a surgeon’s knife.

When the required mass of vocalisation and psychic focus is accomplished a slowly expanding oval will appear in the air, its appearance not unlike a shadow’s penumbra surrounding a brighter central area. Witnesses have variously described this initial apparition as alike to a tiny nebula or cellular form hovering an inch above the ground, its circumference widening at an even rate. After a few moments this portal – for this, it is said, is what has been conjured – reaches its maximum dimensions, as determined by the numbers within the circle, then raises itself to conclude a smooth ascent somewhere around the average waist-height of those comprising the circle that has invoked it. It remains stabilised at this height for as long as the chant is sustained…”

 

Telekinesis [The Forest] (c.1954 - 1957)