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Prof. Dr. Marco Pasi, University of Amsterdam ‘“Witchcraft with Capital W”: The Magical Art of Chiara Fumai’

  • 2021-05-25
  • 18:00
  • Zoom

The presence of occult or esoteric elements in contemporary art has become quite visible in recent years, and can be observed in the work of artists featured in major international art events such as Documenta or the Venice Biennale. One can find references to a broad variety of occult materials in these works, and especially to currents and authors from the 19th and early 20th centuries, such as Spiritualism, Theosophy, Anthroposophy, and Aleister Crowley’s Magick and Thelema. Among the artists who have made a strong impact on the international art scene while using these materials, one of the most significant is certainly the Italian Chiara Fumai (1978-2017). Especially after exhibiting at documenta 13 in 2012, her work began to attract international attention. Her tragic, untimely death in 2017 did not make interest in her work fade away, quite the contrary. An important retrospective exhibition dedicated to her work is now touring across Europe, going from the Centre d’Art Contemporain in Geneva to the Centro Pecci in Prato and then on to other important venues. Fumai’s work is full of references to magic, witchcraft, occultism, and spiritualism. This is combined with a very strong feminist discourse inspired especially by 1970s radical feminism (Valerie Solanas, Carla Lonzi). The juncture between radical feminism and the occult operated by Fumai is fascinating and requires some reflection. To what extent is Fumai’s work paradigmatic for the whole occult trend in contemporary art? And what is the occult doing in contemporary art anyway? This lecture will address these questions by casting a glance on Fumai’s intriguing, thought-provoking work.

This lecture series is organized by Chloë Sugden, Jonas Stähelin and Prof. Dr. Andreas Kilcher at ETH Zürich, Switzerland, as part of the SNSF project, "Scientification and Aestheticization of 'Esotericism' in the long 19th century".

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Aesthetic and Scientific Epistemologies of the Occult in the XIX Century

ETH Online Lecture Series, Spring 2021

We invite you to the Spring 2021 edition of our ongoing lecture series, as we continue our enquiry into aesthetic and scientific epistemologies of the occult during the long nineteenth century. On Tuesday evenings in May, through our second online series, we present approaches to the subject that combine methodologies drawn from art history, religious studies, media theory, anthropology and science studies. In our first lecture, anthropologist, Ehler Voss will take a look at the opposing views of two Californian magicians by relating them to nineteenth-century debates surrounding the credibility of magical practices. In the second lecture, with an approach similarly grounded in religious anthropology, Erin Yerby will investigate the role of the body as medium in the American Spiritualist tradition, which she contextualizes within broader Protestant-inflected iconoclastic tradition. In our third lecture, art historian, Victoria Ferentinou will explore the influence of esoteric discourses on artistic theory and practice of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her focus will be on the painting and theory of the Greek symbolist, Frixos Aristeus (1879-1951). Finally, in the fourth lecture, historian of religion, Marco Pasi will consider the presence of occult-related themes in the oeuvre of the late contemporary artist, Chiara Fumai (1978-2017).


Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Prof. Dr. Ehler Voss, University of Bremen

“Magic Tipping Points. On Deceptions and Detections.”

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Dr. Erin Yerby, Rice University

“The Body as Spectral Shape: Spiritualist Mediumship and Anglo-American Iconoclasm.”

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Prof. Dr. Victoria Ferentinou, University of Ioannina

“‘Colours are Things’: The Visionary Art of Frixos Aristeus.”

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Prof. Dr. Marco Pasi, University of Amsterdam

“‘Witchcraft with Capital W’: The Magical Art of Chiara Fumai.”

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