“Spooky Action at a Distance (Artes Mechanicae and Witch‘s Cradle)"

With Amélie Brisson-Darveau, Andreas Marti, Conor McFeely, Mareike Spalteholz.

Both at the opening and at the finissage, there will be a sound intervention, Lointain (2015) by Brandon Farnsworth, Benjamin Ryser and HannaH Walter.

Curated by Gabriel Gee (TETI) and Dimitrina Sevova (Corner College).

The exhibition is organized by Corner College in collaboration with the TETI group (Textures and Experience of Transindustriality).

An accompanying program of talks and screenings will be announced shortly on the Corner College website.

This exhibition brings together works by Zurich-based artists Amélie Brisson-Darveau, Andreas Marti, Mareike Spalteholz, and the Northern Irish artist Conor McFeely that explore and question the technological premises on which our human societies are built.

Curatorial text by Gabriel Gee

Air travel, digital technology and web interfaces have all contributed to a drastic acceleration of time-space compression in the past fifty years. To an ever more mechanically-mediated physical experience of the world, digital interfaces and electronic fluxes have added a surface of virtual layers on which additional and seemingly infinite new connections to reality are made. Design and engineering increasingly cooperate to define the imaginaries of the present, as science provides the tools to establish the aesthetics of the future. In this context, artistic practices can benefit from reversing the terms through which the creative industries have taken hold of our everyday environments. The category of the mechanical arts devised in the medieval period provides a fruitful ground to operate this reversal. First defined by the scholar Johannes Scotus Eriugena in the 9th century and popularised at the turn of the 12th century, the artes mechanicae underlined the contributions of practical arts such as agriculture, metallurgy, but also medicine and architecture to the shaping of the world. In recognising and exploring the practical mechanics of creation, contemporary aesthetics can find a path to unsettle the dominance of remote design agencies. The works selected and made for this exhibition by the four artists look at the mechanics of creation through both their mechanical and vital components. They explore the entanglement of mechanical apparatus with subjective and unconscious investments. Through this exploration of creative alchemies positioned in between scientific and aesthetic interrogations, “Spooky Action at a Distance (Artes Mechanicae and Witch‘s Cradle)” aims to reflect on the contrasted nature of human experience in the age of ‘human robots’, as well as to the ground on which aesthetic can exist and develop in this increasingly digital and virtual period.

Curatorial text by Dimitrina Sevova

Magic is an art of radical immanence, but immanence is precisely what has to be artfully created, the usual regime of thinking being that of transcendence that authorizes a standpoint and a judgment, the art of magic has been disqualified, prosecuted.
(Isabelle Stengers, The Cosmopolitical Proposal)

Magical criticism as a manifestation of the highest stage of criticism.
From Walter Benjamin’s note “Criticism as the Fundamental Discipline of Literary History,” in his diary The Destructive Character (1931)


With this exhibition we are trying to perform and materialize a new agency or to re-work the agential conditions of possibilities, as they bring creativity, criticism and resistance both to the practices of art and to daily life. Through these agential conditions, magical criticism is a practice of diffraction and agential separability, to be understood not as separation but as deviation, as making new connections and new commitments. My curatorial proposal is to follow here Karen Barad’s concept of quantum mechanical entanglement, where “diffraction can be a metaphor for another kind of critical thought,” which can be employed in the practices of Arts as well, to provide new insight into the notion of performativity, and how it matters.

In the collaboration on this exhibition with co-curator Gabriel Gee, who gave the initial drive with his idea of Artes Mechanicae, as a result of which we bring on display the works of Amélie Brisson-Darveau, Andreas Marti, Conor McFeely and Mareike Spalteholz, my curatorial effort is to engage the context of the project with feminist thought and practices through which we can activate the aesthetic perception and polemic discussion between the spectators and the art objects, and the space created through their relational structures. Another idea that troubles me is how an exhibition and art practices can be infused with magical criticism (Walter Benjamin), and how they can be a way to approach agency, e.g. the agency of unknown witch actants (Isabelle Stengers) or agential realism (Karen Barad). In the chemistry of magical criticism, the agents or catalysts are the critical mass that link the artistic practices to realism and materiality without being directly part of the art objects. They embody and embed their ability to manipulate objects in the performative aspects of traveling fluxes of matter and culture. Through artist practices and their art objects, the Arts’ actants can empower the spectators to feel and sense what it means to stay with the trouble. (Donna Haraway)

Talking about the materiality of art practices and the actants of magical criticism brings us to the idea that discourse did not start with language, but with material forms, as in Foucault’s prison-form. In this fashion, the artists critically incorporate in their installations in the exhibition industrial forms like moving images, elements of interfaces and of their ideological superstructures as well as historical materials from technological apparatuses and scientific and cultural dispositives, re-enacting collected parts in a new network of relations, where the material production and the performative stream of non-semiotic signs and characters trigger new agency. This is thus an expression of radical empiricism that can engage the spectator with phenomena and their material performativity, as in what Rosi Braidotti calls double vision. Which means that an exhibition produces both aesthetic relations and alternative forms of knowing, and opens towards perceptions of the oppositional consciousness or counter rationality and its micrologics, where one can abandon and reject the dualistic tradition and its practices of making such oppositions, between critique and creativity, or analytics and aesthetics.

In times of the Anthropocene and Capitalocene, their dispositives and synthesis of power-knowledge, science-technology, labor-capital have reached their limit, and their crisis cannot be overcome by just re-thinking them. New relations may arise by casting the spell of magical criticism and activating the new agency of witch actants in the ecological, social, and cultural environment. Let’s call our exhibition proposal a visionary alternative constructed by situated objects, knowledge and concepts in-between art, aesthetics, politics, and science. In this proposal, magical criticism and agential realism are practices of combination driven by subjectivity, creating self-organized patterns of cultivating differences. My wish is that the context may embrace Stengers’ cosmopolitical proposal, where one can take a feminist perspective seriously, as a feminist engagement with the subject matter, with the curatorial, with art practices and the space of the exhibition, inspired by a speculative feminism that provides the ground for a new materialism – i.e., a radical materialist metaphysics within material thought and the materiality of the art practices, that makes critical thought perform and take shape in its practical expressions in the entanglements of the materialized objects. In our dystopian non-localization we must create a situation in which one can grasp the fatal hinge between science and capitalism, which produces the techno-scientific knowledge economy and increased militarization. Some hope may come from an ethos of care, which is a matter of care, created with care.