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In the Eggshell: An Esoteric Working Group

Where we are vs where we should be.

Group 2 begins September 24, 12:30p MT-January 2022. If you’re interested in joining September sessions or as a future participant, please email desertsuprematism (at) gmail (dot) com with a self-introduction and why you’re interested in the Group. Serious inquiries only!

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

In the Eggshell: An Esoteric Working Group is a 5 month 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 fundamental elements left out of 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.

Sessions:

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’, thinking 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 these sessions. 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 in art history, engaging with more recent examples. We’ll read texts by Daniel A. Siedell, Kenneth E. Silver, and David Morgan.

Session 4. New Forms of Art Historical Writing: Analytical Tools & Interpretative Models. This session looks to how methodological intervention can perhaps address some of the fundamental elements left out of the discourse, as well as open the way to a more divergent and nuanced discourse around modern art with spiritual themes. We’ll discuss 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. We’ll read texts by James Elkins, Nina Kokinen, and Barbara Maria Stafford.

Session 5. A Spiral in Our Minds: Art History’s Vertiginous Gaze on Hilma af Klint. Our final session concludes with an examination of 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.

©2021 Emily Leon


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