In the Eggshell: An Esoteric Working Group is a free (donations accepted) 4 week transdisciplinary seminar and reading group that aims to redress modern art by turning to how the sciences, religious beliefs, and occult traditions provide a better articulation of modern art. Dialogue is opened up between practitioners in fields of study that traditionally engage infrequently. This allows for conceptual, theoretical, methodological, and imaginative intervention and integration from across disciplines as a means of addressing the art historical discourse on the topic of the ‘spiritual dynamic’ in modern art
Each session will last 1 hour, consisting of a brief introduction followed by group discussion on select readings circulated in advance of each session.
You do not need formal training in this particular subject area to join the series. Participants should come seeking knowledge, as eager contributors from diverse backgrounds.
The Group is currently not meeting. Stay tuned for updates.
Fictional prereading: The Library of Babel by Jorge Luis Borges
Session 1. Blank Spaces on the Maps of Learning: Complex & Mixed Disciplinary Worlds. This session will serve as an informal introduction to the lecture series and its thematic approach rather than chronological, with a focus on the historical use of the terms science and occult. We will think about the complexity of occultism as historical phenomenon and the history of exclusion in textbook and museum narratives when addressing the spiritual dynamic in modern art, a recurring theme in the series. We’ll read texts by Egil Asprem, Wouter J. Hanegraaff, and H.P. Blavatsky.
Session 2. Front Line Shifts: Writing the Spiritual Perspective in Modernist Art History. This session is concerned with the historiography of the spiritual dynamic in modern art. We’ll look at how slowly the study of spirituality in modern art emerged in art historical scholarship and examine the ways in which art history grapples with the writing and inclusion of esoteric, occult, and spiritual themes. We’ll read texts by W.D. MacColl, Sixten Ringbom, Maurice Tuchman, and Kenneth E. Silver.
Session 3. A Spiral in Our Minds: Art History’s Vertiginous Gaze on Hilma af Klint. This session examines the public reception of Swedish artist Hilma af Klint, paving the way for a fresh albeit complex (re)examination of the spiritual dimension in modern art. We will focus on exhibition essays and art criticism written on af Klint in both Europe and North America.
Session 4. New Forms of Art Historical Writing: Analytical Tools & Interpretative Models. Our final session looks to how methodological intervention can perhaps address fundamental elements left out of the art historical discourse. We’ll discuss Jeffrey Kripal’s Superhumanities and the empirical-imaginary, the importance of transdisciplinarity, the concept of “occulture” as an analytical tool, and consider more innovative and ‘unusual’ concepts in the writing of art history. Thus, collectively, we will explore alternatives and new vocabularies that might pave the way for a more nuanced and spiritually significant approach to the writing of modern art with spiritual, esoteric, and occult themes. We’ll read texts by Jeffrey Kripal, James Elkins, and Nina Kokinen.
©2021 Emily Leon