2016

 

IndwellingBiennale of Sydney, The future is already here - it's just not evenly distributed

 

Art Gallery New South Wales & Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, Australia

1/32

Remedies for Remembering (Al) and Forgetting (NaCl), 2015/2016

homeopathic remedy, bulk liquid containers, spray pumps

dimensions variable (each container 120 x 100 x 110 cm)

Courtesy the artist; Hopkinson Mossman, Auckland; and RaebervonStenglin, Zürich

This version was created for the 20th Biennale of Sydney

 

Remembering and Forgetting Venn, 2015

brass

540mm (diameter) x 19mm 

Courtesy the artist and Jan Warburton, Dunedin

 

Structural Formula, Water Molecule, 2015

brass

1000mm x 500mm x 19mm

Courtesy the artist and RaebervonStenglin, Zürich

 

Untitled, 2016

Aluminium, salt

1000mm x 762mm x 762mm

Courtesy the artist; Hopkinson Mossman, Auckland; and RaebervonStenglin, Zürich

I have employed the practice and protocol of homeopathy as a vehicle for exploring the relation between material substances (such as atoms and the body) and immaterial substances that transcend the molecular (such as thought-forms and spirit), as it offers a framework for a productive (mis)understanding of a material universe and of how meaning might be inscribed in objects.

 

Invented in the late 1700s by German-born physician Samuel Hahnemann, homeopathy is based on several main principles:

 

1. ‘Like cures like’ — whereby a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in a healthy person will cure similar symptoms in a sick person. This is akin to the Law of Similarity — ‘like produces like’ — which is a major thread of ‘sympathetic magic’, or magic based on imitation or correspondence, which infers that effect is produced through imitation. 

 

2. Through something akin to contagion, dilution results in potency. 

 

3. Water can contain memory. The concept of ‘water memory’ suggests that in the low concentration generated by dilution, water ‘remembers’ the substances mixed in it beyond any molecular trace — they are conjured in it.

 

The active principles of correspondence, contagion and conjuring operative in homeopathic practice each allow for a way for spirit, or though-forms to penetrate beyond (sculptural) material boundaries.

 

Homeopathic material ‘logic’ suggests a kind of magical, spiritually active thinking; the mystifying and spurious union between dilution and potency is an inversion of logic and cannot be explained rationally. It suggests a type of contagion of material operating beyond physical laws. We may not be able to give physical evidence of effect, or even determine presence; but with homeopathy and sympathetic magic alike, a part is seen to be the same as the whole and psychic contact results in contagion:

 

Each object contains, in its entirety, the essential principle of the species of which it forms a part. Every flame contains fire, any bone from a dead body contains death, in just the same way as a single hair is thought to contain a man’s life force. 

 

The Law of Contagion was developed by James Frazer in The Golden Bough as a major thread in the definition of sympathetic magic. The law suggests that ‘contact results in contagion’; that is, whatever is done to a material creates an effect on those who come/came into contact with it. Although contagion suggests that the contact is physical, it is not necessary. Proximity is enough.  

 

Similarly, contagion suggests a mode of transference of an idea that can detach itself from an artwork and attach itself to the viewer or environment. Additionally, contiguity suggests that, through proximity,the inverse also occurs, whereby ideas accumulate around and are gathered by an artwork. I liken this to a kind of swarming, where a conglomeration of invisibly manifested complexities hover and churn around a work, dispersing from and gravitating towards it — ideas emanate from the work and bind themselves to it. 

 

Conjuring can be viewed as a sociological tool of analysis and a constituent part of modern life. Magic — routinely described as the antithesis of the modern — is also something that is very much at home in modernity; indeed, it is widely acknowledged that magic belongs to modernity. In The Golden Bough, Frazer modernised the practice of magic by equating it with the inconceivabilities of science, suggesting magic to be ‘bastard science’; a description we might extend to homeopathy. Modernity does not, however, lay the only claim: having a trajectory into our past, magic is ‘the foundation of the whole mystical and scientific universe’. 

 

A. F. Gordon, in Ghostly Matters, suggests that ‘Conjuring merges the analytical, the procedural, the imaginative and the effervescent’. In this sense, conjuring becomes a lively and excitable space, giving precedence to physically marginal objects, suggested outcomes and conceptual structures that sit below the surface. Conjuring advances a form of cognitive doubt and might describe how ‘that which appears absent can indeed be a seething presence’, Much like the homeopathic principle in which potency is gained through dilution, the diluted art object gains presence through visually diluted means. 

 

Conjuring enunciates a form of conceptual practice. It offers a way to engage the viewer with an idea that sits at the threshold of perceptibility — yet, at the same time, it questions perceptibility by allowing for the possibility of an imagined, delusional, hallucinatory and illusory experience to take place.

 

To conjure-up something unseen does more than allude to the fact that something is missing — it demonstrates it. That which appears to be invisible, or lurking in the shadows, announces itself as present through absence, yet not through representational means, but by presentation itself. That is, conjuring produces a material effect through a seemingly absent material, as in homeopathy.

Dane Mitchell ©  2020