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In the Eggshell: An Esoteric Working Group

Where we are vs where we should be.

If you’re interested in joining In the Eggshell sessions beginning June 2023, please email desertsuprematism (at) gmail (dot) com with a self-introduction and why you’re interested in the Group. Serious inquiries only! Participants must commit to attending no less than 4 out of the 5 sessions.

Each session will last 90 minutes, consisting of a 30 minute opening lecture followed by group discussion on select readings circulated in advance of each session.

In the Eggshell: An Esoteric Working Group is a free (donations accepted) 5 week transdisciplinary Working 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.

You do not need formal training in this particular subject area to join In the Eggshell sessions. Participants should come seeking knowledge, as eager contributors from diverse backgrounds.


Fictional prereading TBD

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. The start of a two-part session 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. We’ll read texts by W.D. MacColl, Sixten Ringbom, and Maurice Tuchman.

Session 3. Front Line Shifts: Writing the Spiritual Perspective in Modernist Art History, Part Two: This session continues to examine the ways in which art history grapples with the writing and inclusion of esoteric, occult, and spiritual themes, engaging with more recent examples. We’ll read texts by Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Kenneth E. Silver, and David Morgan.

Session 4. 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 5. 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, Wouter J. Hanegraaff, and Nina Kokinen.

©2021 Emily Leon

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