Documents of Contemporary Art: Magic


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Documents of Contemporary Art: Magic


Edited by Jamie Sutcliffe

Part of the Documents of Contemporary Art series of anthologies which collect writing on major themes and ideas in contemporary art.

"Magic, witchcraft, shamanism, and their modern offspring have been percolating in the background of the culture world for more than a generation now: hordes of young artists have declared themselves witches or shamans. Jamie Sutcliffe opens the lid of a Pandora’s box of source texts, letting loose the spirits of a tangle of traditions for our illumination and pleasure. Bravo!"

-AA Bronson, artist and healer

"Wild writing on wild thought! This is a crucial, far-ranging primer for all those who have never considered themselves modern. A thrilling bricolage text that posits magic as a radical curriculum, galvanic DIY-ism, queer spirituality, a haven for the deviant and deemed, a recipe for cosmic connectedness, a form of anti-colonial politics, a hex on self-serving theocratic and technocratic mendacities."

-Sukhdev Sandhu, Director of the Colloquium
for Unpopular Culture, New York University

From the hexing of presidents to a renewed interest in herbalism and atavistic forms of self-care, magic has furnished the contemporary imagination with mysterious and often disorienting bodies of arcane thought and practice. This volume brings together writings by artists, magicians, historians and theorists, that illuminate the vibrant correspondences animating contemporary art’s varied encounters with magical culture, inspiring a reconsideration of the relationship between the symbolic and the pragmatic.

Dispensing with simple narratives of re-enchantment, Magic illustrates the intricate ways in which we have to some extent always been captivated by the allure of the numinous. It demonstrates how magical culture’s tendencies toward secrecy, occlusion, and encryption might provide contemporary artists with strategies of remedial communality, a renewed faith in the invocational power of personal testimony, and a poetics of practice that could boldly question our political circumstances, from the crisis of climate collapse to the strictures of socially sanctioned techniques of medical and psychiatric care.

Tracing its various emergences through the shadows of modernity, the circuitries of ritual media, and declarations of psychic self-defence, Magic deciphers the evolution of a ‘magical-critical’ thinking that productively complicates, contradicts and expands the boundaries of our increasingly weird present.

With newly commissioned texts by artist Anna Zett, artist David Steans, and writer Mark Pilkington.

Artists surveyed include Holly Pester, Katrina Palmer, Ithell Colquhoun, Monica Sjöo, Sophia Al-Maria, Jack Burnham, Jeremy Millar, Susan Hiller, Mike Kelley, Morehshin Allahyari, Center for Tactical Magic, Porpentine Charity Heartscape, Travis Jeppesen, Linda Stupart, Caspar Heinemann, Elizabeth Mputu, Faith Wilding, David Hammons, Ana Mendieta, Henri Michaux, Kenneth Anger, Benedict Drew, Mark Leckey, Robert Morris, Jenna Sutela, Haroon Mirza, Zadie Xa, Saya Woolfalk, Ian Cheng, Tabita Rezaire, Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, Elijah Burgher, Pierre Paulo Pasolini, Sahej Rahal.

Writers include Charles Fort, Victoria Nelson, Gary Lachman, Yvonne P. Chireau, Randall Styers, Isabelle Stengers, Alan Moore, Ebony Elizabeth Thomas, Simon O' Sullivan, Lucy Lippard, Louis Chude Sokei, Patricia MacCormack, Æ, Annie Besant & C.W. Leadbeater, Michel Leiris, Aimé Césaire, Austin Osman Spare,  Erik Davis, Mark Dery, Elaine Graham, Jeffrey Sconce, Giulia Smith, Esther Leslie, Alice Bucknell, Gary Zhexi Zhang,  Hannah Gregory, Kristen Gallerneaux, Mahan Moalemi, Jamie Sutcliffe, Gregory Sholette, Aaron Gach, Eugene Thacker, Diane Di Prima, Allan Doyle, Emily LaBarge, Lou Cornum, Joy KMT, Scott Wark, McKenzie Wark, Phil Hine, Jackie Wang, Sean Bonney.

Jamie Sutcliffe is a writer, curator and co-director of Strange Attractor Press. His essays, reviews, and interviews have been published in Art Monthly, frieze, Rhizome, The White Review and others.

Paperback, 240 pages, 210 x 145 mm

ISBN 978-0-85488-290-8

First published 2021

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