|Francesco Ponte, photo album, 1920s, photography and mixed media on cardboard, Courtesy Delmes & Zander, Berlin / Cologne|
EVIDENCE OF ECSTASY
Laying on of Hands, Francesco Ponte, Ted Serios
November 27, 2015 – January 22, 2016
Opening: Friday, 27.11., 6–9 pm
After attracting considerable attention at Delmes & Zander in Berlin, the exhibition Evidence of Ecstasy is now brought to the Cologne. The exhibition offers a look into spiritual performance and its artistic documentation. Ecstatic states are captured on photography and film, as are out-of-body experiences and states of trance.
In the occult circles en vogue in the mid-19th to early 20th century, photography played an important role. So-called spirit photography strove to make the invisible and inconceivable visible. This was the case with the work of Francesco Ponte: In the 1920s, the Puerto Rican dentist created a unique album of spirit photographs. During a series of séances his medium Carmen Wey, a housekeeper, was seated in a cabinet behind closed curtains. When the curtains opened, impressions of invisible ghost
hands and feet became visible. Ponte cast and subsequently photographed these impressions. His pictures are reminiscent of the surrealist photographs by Hans Bellmer or Jean Fautrier. Others show ectoplasm, in spiritualist circles considered the substance of choice for the manifestation of spirits. Ponte ornamented the 25-page photo album carefully by hand. His album was meant to move his children to continue their “Papi's” spiritualist legacy. The result is a rare and touching testimony of spiritualist photography.
|Laying on of Hands, untitled, 1960's, Vintage Print, 9 x 9 cm, Courtesy Delmes & Zander, Berlin / Cologne|
The impressive collection of anonymous photographs Laying on of Hands, dating back to the 1960s, documents the ecstatic states of an African-American community: Children and adults are photographed in trance, some lying on the floor, many with their hands in the air, others with closed eyes. The participants lay hands on one another, perhaps as a gesture of spiritual healing. The photographs' perspective transports the euphoric mood. Unlike the work of Francesco Ponte, the photographs of Laying on of Hands do not serve as evidence of the spiritual, but rather as documentation.The expressive body serves as testimony to the metaphysical process.
But as much as the photographs reveal, at the same time they veil, intrigue, pose questions, and remain testimonials of a mysterious reality. As in the photographs and the film, the bodies themselves function as a medium, becoming open to the Other in their state of trance and embodying the absent. In the last decades much attention has been paid to the phenomenon of spiritual art. The comprehensive exhibition The Perfect Medium: Photography and the Occult at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (2005) for example, testifies to this as much as the exhibition In the Realm of Phantoms: Photography of the Invisible curated by Andreas Fischer and Veit Loers at Museum Abteiberg, Möchengladbach (1997-1998).
In the mid-1960s, Ted Serios (1918–2006) demonstrated hauntingly his ability to mentally will images [so-called “thoughtotographs”] onto photographic film before the running film camera. During sessions of intense physical and mental concentration he was able to produce a variety of images onto celluloid. His powerful performances challenge the evidentiary value of film.
A documentary film on Ted Serios' performances is part of the exhibition Evidence of Ecstasy and will be shown at the newly opened space Vosberg (Roonstr. 108, 50674 Cologne, Wednesday through Saturday from 1 – 6 pm, www.vosberg.cologne). This film is shown with kind permission of the Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene e. V. in Freiburg im Breisgau.