Art Statements, Art Basel, Basel, Switzerland
Conjuring Form, 2008
Art Statements, Art Basel
For his solo presentation at Art Basel, Switzerland, Dane Mitchell commissioned a self-described witch to craft a portal to the spirit world in order to call up the ghost of Anna Göldi, the last person executed in Europe for witchcraft.
Within the art fair booth a museum cordon delineated the zone of activation in which the portal is held, or placed, offering a moment or point of connection between the spirit world and the physical world. The conjuring of a portal to the spirit world is difficult to reduce; it hovers and churns around the material facts we see in the exhibition. Like an idea or an aura, it emanates from, and conversely, binds to the work, and although cordoned-off, the question of how abiding are the laws of portals to those of the gallery remains.
Working with practitioners skilled in the art of ‘other ways of knowing’ to produce portals to other dimensions opens up a zone of invisible activity and indeterminate possibilities that occur in a state of reciprocity between the gallery atmospherics, the materials set within it, and the viewer (or breather) who confronts it, in an interplay between ‘mystic states’ and ‘corporeal techniques’.
In its reception, the project elicited the polarities of anxiety and sceptical disdain. In this climate, Dane Mitchell might be seen to evade the critical responsibilities of the artist to communicate a social position — despite the specific and tragic circumstances of Anna Göldi’s death — and give voice or shape to something other than the polarity within which it is seen. Such a diversionary strategy might mean it is up to us to concur whether this strategy of designed malfunction — how can this be? — has a core or essential relationship to the subject of either belief, museological disclosure, or the role of art to communicate something of social or political clarity.
Just months after Dane Mitchell’s exhibition at Art Basel, the Swiss parliament acknowledge Anna Göldi's case as a miscarriage of justice. Fritz Schiesser, as the representative for Glarus in the Swiss parliament, called for Anna Göldi's exoneration, which was granted 226 years after her death, on 27 August 2008 on the grounds that she had been subjected to an illegal trial: “the murder of an innocent, deliberately, and with all the pomp of holy Justice”.