Maybe One Must Begin with Some Particular Places
With Maybe One Must Begin with Some Particular Places S.M.A.K. presents an overview of the work of Joachim Koester (°1962, Copenhagen). His artistic practice is founded on a complex web of docu-fiction in which personal, historical and journalistic enquiries fuse with fictional narratives. In his work, Koester focuses on gaps and ambiguities in the writing and reading of history, its eccentric protagonists and its stories and myths.A selection of more than twenty works from the last thirteen years shows up a quest for expressions of vanished histories of this sort, not only by way of physical locations, but equally by way of the immaterial dimensions of human existence. In works such as Nordenskiöld and the Ice Cap (1999-2000) and Message from Andrée (2005), for instance, he starts out from a literal geographic exploration of Greenland and the North Pole in order to rewrite the forgotten history of expeditions to these regions. In Morning of the Magicians (2005) and One+One+One (2006), Koester shows how his expedition to the remains of the ‘Abbey of Thelema’, a commune in Sicily led by the occultist Aleister Crowley, not only concentrated on physical remnants, but also delved into the history of the occult and shamanist rituals.
The artist’s preoccupation with the human body and its ‘terra incognita’, its subconscious, comes increasingly to the fore. In My Frontier is an Endless Wall of Points (2007), for instance, Koester explores the work that Henri Michaux did while under the influence of the drug mescaline, and in Tarantism (2008), by choreographing uncontrolled, compulsive movements, he examines the performative language of the human body and the knowledge that gestures can reveal in a state of trance. The human body is still at the heart of his latest work too. We can see them as personal interpretations of traditional spiritualist and shamanist rituals. Maybe One Must Begin with Some Particular Places (2012), for instance, is based on the experimental theatre that Jerzy Grotowski developed in the seventies, inspired by anthropological research in Mexico and elsewhere, and Of Spirits and Empty Spaces (2012) is built up around the writings of John Murray Spear, an American spiritual activist who, during the Industrial Revolution, organised sessions with the aim of developing a more user-friendly sewing machine by communicating with spirits.
By making strategic use of editing, archiving and storytelling, Koester illuminates and complicates historiography. Films, photographic series and installations about pioneering expeditions, esoteric movements and psychedelic experiments form parallel storylines with one common factor: tracking along the boundary of the unknown.
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