My work investigates a space where technology intersects with unconscious desire. Spirit Mediums in particular fascinate me because I believe the apparitions they appeared to materialize, open up new ways of conceptualizing the moving image.
The installation is a reenactment of ten séances held between 1910 and 1914 with the French medium Eva C. These events were extensively documented by prominent scientists and researchers from the Nobel Prize winners to Houdini. The photographs fascinated me, the utter strangeness of the phenomena; the “ectoplasm” extruding from the medium’s body, the odd materialized faces. Without ever wishing to explain them away, I dreamed about what events might have surrounded their production, psychologically. I wished to represent a whole other economy of “moving images”.
Eva’s career began in Algeria where the phantoms she produced were clearly an embodiment of European fantasies of the exotic orient.. Several years later she appeared Paris, holding séances for a select audience of savants. The wealthy researchers treated Eva with the utmost condescension. Yet somehow she operated outside the social rules. I suggest her lovers included Arabs and women, her séances were extravagant artistic not to mention sexual performances.
I think of the séance as a model for a new form of storytelling that includes the audience, its circle extending from the virtual sitters to the real viewers who find themselves drawn into a private drama.
Since the advent of classical cinema, we think of moving images as opening up a window onto another world. However at the end of the nineteenth century virtual images were thought of differently. A key concept that links together the phantasmagoria, the stereoscope and the medium is that they all created apparitions that appeared to co-exist with the observer in real three-dimensional space. I used 3D technology to conjure up illusionary figures that appear to inhabit the same space as the viewer.
The original photos come from “The Phenomena of Materialization: A Contribution to the Investigation of Mediumistic Teleplastics” by Baron von Schrenk Notzing, 1914.