Transcending Here | Miruna Dragan & Noxious Sector | July 9 to August 5, 2010

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The artists in Transcending Here offer alternative interpretations of what it means to be in the world.

Miruna Dragan’s The Fertile Void, is an on-going series of actions on golf courses – a context rich with numerous political and environmental implications – upon which the artist’s work poetically responds. Dragan will bring her two most recent installments in the series,The Fertile Void V: The Cloud of Unknowing and The Fertile Void VI: The Cloud of Forgetting inside the gallery this summer, which is based upon the anonymous 14th century Christian mystical text called The Cloud of Unknowing that proposes one should spiritually reside on a plane between two strata: “the cloud of unknowing” above, forever obscuring an understanding of God, and “the cloud of forgetting” below, elevating believers above the finite and terrestrial.  

Noxious Sector brings their “formalized forum for informal inquiry” to Calgary, with Magnetically Inclined. This project is an exploration of the relationship between cognition and high-powered rare-earth magnets, based upon the neuropsychologist Dr. Michael Persinger’s apparatus, the “god helmet”. Taking artistic liberties with both his method and context, Magnetically Inclined seeks imaginative social application of magnetic stimulation for creative, humorous, and speculative inquiry.


'Now you ask me how you can destroy this pure awareness and feeling of your own being. Perhaps you think that if it were destroyed all other hindrances would also be destroyed; and if you think that, you are correct' – from ‘The Cloud of Unknowing’[1] 

TRUCK goes supernatural: ‘Transcending Here’ creates a dialogue between the skeptic and the sorcerer, suggesting that ‘what is sacred is ungraspable’ (and, perhaps, beautiful and a tad irreverent).[2]

Miruna Dragan's 'The Fertile Void' presents two video works from her 'Cloud of Unknowing' series. The name is taken from an anonymous 14th century Christian text (that has inspired everyone from Aldous Huxley to The Gorillaz) that posits an approach to spiritual life by suggesting people live in an interstitial space between the unknowable (God, heaven) and the known (the trappings of earthly, more humanly concerns). Though the book shares tropes with other Christian texts (‘The Rule of St. Benedict, Thomas a Kempis's 'The Imitation of Christ') that encourage ‘a complete absence of self assertion’ (thereby making it easier to penetrate God’s ‘cloud of unknowing’), it’s more ponderously philosophical than prescriptive, a utopian approach to spiritual fulfillment.[3]

This utopian ideal reflects Dragan's decision to film on golf courses (everywhere from Romania to the Banff Springs Golf Club), perhaps the most perfect of manufactured landscapes – pristine and beautiful, yet wholly constructed and sterile, imposing a fictional landscape onto an already existing one. Dragan's cloud (composed of hexagonal balloons) drifts over the bright, coolly manicured greens like a milky, bubbly mass, the two entities effectively creating their own cosmology. As Dragan says, it’s 'irreverent yet spiritual, reinvigorating that sterilization by putting some magic back into it.’

For a more brain-buzzing approach to the unseen, The Noxious Sector Arts Collective (Ted Hiebert and Doug Jarvis) present ‘Magnetically Inclined.’ The Collective's work takes a cue from Dr. Michael Persinger's 'god helmet,' a contraption that (so the doctor believed) allowed one to gain greater cognitive ability from magnetic powers within the earth by placing strong magnets around the head and ‘attaching’ oneself to their surroundings. (Though Persinger suggests a strong blast to the temporal lobes, the collective has opted on lower-intensity magnets over a longer duration.)

Magnetism has held an interest for dabblers in esoteric magic for centuries, where it was believed that ‘there was a universal magnetism (or “fluid”) circulating in the substance of the nerves which made the human body analogous with a magnet.’[4] By attaching themselves to urban environments, the Collective explores a closer communion with both their bodies and surroundings, while providing a critical look at pseudoscience in its various iterations.

Not without a hint of danger, however. As Hiebert comments, after the collective’s recent Calgary trip: ‘It might be partly due to the environment, the magnets, or the festivities that inevitably occur when visiting places… (but) I still have a bit of a headache from last weekend.”

 

BRYN EVANS

[1] Progoff, Ira. ‘The Cloud of Unknowing.’ New York: The Julian Press Inc., 1969.

[2] Bataille, Georges. ‘The Absence of Myth: Writings on Surrealism.’ New York: Verso, 2006.

[3] Radice, Betty, editor. ‘Early Christian Writings.’ London: Penguin Books, 1987.

[4] Nataf, André. ‘Les maitres de l’occultisme.’ Hertfordshire: Wordsworth, 1991.