- Technologies of Intuition
When asked how the play would have been different if Hamlet had followed his first instinct (i.e. to avenge his father's murder by killing his uncle), Dr. Gerd Gigerenzer, director of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and author of a new book entitled Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious responded: ' . . . the play would have been shorter and probably fewer people would have been killed.'
Instinct and intuition are the subjects of this volume assembled and edited by artist and art historian Jennifer Fisher. Early in her introduction, she is very forthright in her thesis, saying that while artists often rely on what she calls the 'extra-rational' to understand and produce their work, there is 'a delicate balance . . . between clairvoyance and fantasy, foreknowledge and wishful thinking.' Her collection of essays and artists' projects – very well illustrated with examples of artists' works – present and discuss an impressive array of highly charged artworks of a decidedly 'other-worldly' nature.
Fisher has been immersed in these areas of research and artistic production for a number of years, with a focus on the affective as a source of both inspiration for artists as well as providing content for the art that is made. She also readily connects these practices to feminism, describing them as 'disciplines and practices of intuitive agency.' In this anthology, she applies a rigorous definition, drawing on the dual root meanings of intuition as both the act of looking within and what protects or guards. With this in mind, it is useful to consider the timing of this book. This is in the first decade of a new millennium and already we are bruised and raw with fear and paranoia. The collective future can look foreboding and dark, and it is little wonder that Fisher has found theorists and artists who look to the realm of the spiritual for comfort and succour.
Seeking either to practise or study a kind of 'centred spirituality,' the art practices on view in Technologies of Intuition are diverse in their depth and choice of expressive material (or in some cases immateriality). The anthology begins with Serena Keshavjee's coherent overview of spirit photography with its direct connections to spiritualism, mesmerism, and hypnotism – all manifesting in an earlier millennium-turning era. Zoe Beloff continues the discussion of spirit photography, drawing out the erotic nuances of the activity and adding a clear description of her own interactive video installation, The Influencing Machine of Miss [End Page 436] Natalija J. (2001) wherein the viewer participates in the psychic and physical torture of a young schizophrenic student in Vienna in 1919. The story is based on a case history of one of Freud's followers, Vincent Tausk. Alexandra Kokoli offers a dense and ultimately satisfying analytical description of the automatic writing works of the British artist Susan Hiller. And Jo Applin offers a wonderfully readable meditation on the 'lost women' of minimalism such as Lee Bontecou, Yayoi Kusama, and Niki de Saint-Phalle. She employs Mel Bochner's term when he says of Eva Hesse's work, 'I always felt there was something "haunted" about her work. Maybe it's haunted by all those lost "contexts" of the 1960s.'
There are engaging artists' projects in this volume also. Fisher interviews artist Chrysanne Stathacos, who provides a straight-ahead description of making aura photographs in India, Japan, and Canada. Stathacos is refreshingly open about her interest in purchasing a camera that purports to capture the human aura: 'I wanted to see what an artist could do with this kind of technology' and confessing that although she can't interpret the colours that come out on the film, this is what the viewers really want to know. Two artists' projects do their work to ensure that there is no aura (pun intended) of the sanctimonious allowed in the proceedings: Bev Pike's hilarious, fully illustrated Tarot for Organizing Women seeks to mitigate the exigencies of female emancipation and the abbreviated glimpse of Frances Leeming's meticulous and subversive collage animation Genetic Admiration both serve their purpose well.