Artefact 2017 – The Act of Magic

Group Exhibition

21.02–09.03.2017: STUK, Leuven, BE

“The concept of magic is fundamentally ambiguous—no one is sure what they are talking about when they are talking about magic; its definition is always changing. (…). To solve magic is to solve anthropology.” –Dr. Graham M. Jones, Professor of Anthropology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Artefact: The Act of Magic explores how we can understand magic and the magical in contemporary society. This inherently ambiguous concept evokes notions such as illusion, enchantment and awe, but is equally related to a deeper understanding of magical powers, the occult or supernatural, rituals and animism. It calls forth a range of interpretations on a continuum from pure illusion to a deep belief in a parallel world full of magical powers.

In present-day society however, both the instrumentarium as well as the vocabularium of magics is being used in other contexts as well. In complex systems that rule society, magic becomes a strategy and a tool to deceive and manipulate. The links between magic and the military, politics, financial systems and science & technology are prevailing as these systems have increasingly become black boxes to the large majority: intransparent, impenetrable, distanced. In the context of the military, political and financial systems, for example, magic is often consciously deployed as a diversion tactic, intended to increase the elusiveness of a system by ascribing a magical trait to it. This is apparent in for instance offshore constructions, high frequency trading algorithms, etc. In the context of technology, the term “haunted technology” or the so-called “ghost in the machine” is more prominently used with the increased ubiquity of smart technology, robotics and the internet of things. In these instances, magical enchantment is replaced by a feeling of unease with the uncanny, which attracts and repels at the same time.

The artists in The Act of Magic shed light on the way in which magic and the magical has permeated all layers of our everyday life. From poetry to activist strategy, from magical object to black box, from benign illusion to deception and manipulation, from New Age self-help advertisement to spiritual vision: the artworks throughout the exhibition incite magical thinking and reveal a passage to another world.

With work by: Troika (D, D, F), Verena Friedrich (D), Jens Brand (D), Eric Arnal Burtschy (FR), Marjolijn Dijkman (NL), Suzanne Treister (UK), Centre for Tactical Magic (US), Shana Moulton (US), Melanie Bonajo (NL), Tim Etchells (UK), Jonathan Allen (UK), Hollington & Kyprianou (UK,GR), Liz Magic Laser (US), Goldin+Senneby (SE), Femke Herregraven (NL), Tobias Revell (UK), (FR), and BCL (AT/JP)

Curators: Karen Verschooren (STUK) & Ils Huygens (Z33)