Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Art and psi/Arte Y psi/Art et psi/Kunst Und Psi

Academic journal article The Journal of Parapsychology

Art and psi/Arte Y psi/Art et psi/Kunst Und Psi

Article excerpt

We are experiencing a veritable explosion of interest in psi phenomena, not just from an evidential viewpoint, but as cultural and experiential events to be discussed from historical, artistic, and other perspectives (see also the two reviews by the first author in this issue of the journal). In this essay we concentrate on the relationship between the arts and psi, mostly leaving aside the vast and complex area of automaticity in creative endeavors, although some instances such as the case of Fredric L. Thompson, who suddenly started drawing sketches similar to those of a dead artist, straddle both realms (cf. Gauld, 1982).

One of the links between the arts and psi has been the depiction of ostensible parapsychological events as artistic materials. In the last few years there have been many exhibits on this theme, including The Edge of Reason in Norway and Blur of the Otherwordly in the USA, and the works by Kathleen Rogers, Susan Mac William (2011), and other artists, including reputed interviews of dead artists through mediums (see http://www.physicsroom.org.nz/log/archive/14/artafferdeath/). Noteworthy was the exhibition The Perfect Medium in the venerable Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, which displayed photographs of mediumship seances and purported ghostly phenomena, most of them evidently fraudulent (e.g., of ghostly faces or faeries cut out from magazines, see also Jolly, 2006), but also some arguably paranormal ones. Foremost among the latter are the "thought-photographs" of Ted Serios, which have not been explained away by the critics and were not duplicated by "The Amazing Randi" despite his offer to do so (see Braude, 2007, and his chapter in the catalog to the exhibit, Cheroux, Fischer, Apraxine, Canguilhem, & Schmit, 2005).

The most impressive exhibition, fruit of the collaboration of dozens of museums and galleries from 13 different countries, comes from Europe. L'Europe des esprits ou la fascination de l'occult 1750-1950 (see the catalog edited by Pijaudier-Cabot & Fauchereau, 2011), traced the influence of spirituality, occultism, and related topics on important artists of the Romantic, Symbolic, Abstractionist, and of course, Surrealist schools (see also Choucha, 1992; Waldo-Schwartz, 1977). The artists discussed in the exhibit catalog include Brancusi, Kandinsky, Klee, Mondriaan, and many Surrealists, part of a very long and impressive list. To them we can add one of the most eminent architects of the 20th century, Le Corbusier, whose art reflected his interest in Freemasonry (Birksted, 2009).

A related thread has been the manipulation of consciousness to deliberately induce altered states and perhaps even psi phenomena, as in the art of Susan Hiller, who recently had a one-person show at the Tate Gallery (see below). Along these lines, Levy (2012) has described how a number of past and contemporary artists have devoted themselves to meditation and shamanic practices as a source for their inspiration.

Although not the focus of our essay, we should also mention that ostensible psi phenomena have been central not only to B-class horror films but to very substantial artistic creations, among them the novel The Emperor of PortugaUia by 1909 Nobel prizewinner Selma Lagerlof; Andre Breton's Nadja, considered one of the greatest books in French literature (discussed later on); George Eliot's The Lifted Veil, on a character who experiences telepathy and precognition; Andrei Tarkovsky's Solaris, based on Stanislaw Lem's novel, on the telepathic communications between a sentient planet and visiting astronauts; the poem The Changing Light at Sandover partly "channeled" through a Ouija board, which earned James Merrill a Pulitzer and a National Book Award (see also the discussion on Ted Hughes below) ; the acclaimed play on precognition Time and the Conways byJ. B. Priestley; and the excellent opera The Medium by Gian Carlo Menotti. Also related are works that depict a sense of an interconnected and/or occult order of the world, including the masterpiece Arcana by Edgar Varese, one of the most important composers of the 20th century; and choreographies by some of the founders of modern dance, among them Rudolf von Laban, who created modern dance notation, and Mary Wigman. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.