" The spirit does not distinguish between the real and the unreal. Our daily activities can be influenced by the past or the present as much as by dreams. The images that are essential to our psyche can be pure products of our imaginations. "
Working in the murky zone between conscious and unconscious, dream and reality, the artist Joachim Koester explores vast fields of knowledge, ranging from Haitian ritual to esoteric séances, and including yoga, use of Peyote and other hallucinatory experiences. As a result, he creates works that blur the line separating the documentary and the fictional, proposing the audience to explore mental journeys on which they undoubtedly would never embarked. This exhibition at the Palais de Tokyo allows the visitor to discover films evoking John Murray Spear's esoteric séances or Jerzy Grotowski’s research on the superior consciousness of the actor and the “reptilian brain.”
From Haitian rituals to esoteric séances
In two films, he evokes Jerzy Grotowski (1933-1999), a Polish writer and theater director who attempted to rediscover the actor’s heightened awareness through exercises in flexing the spinal cord, inspired by Haitian rituals and by yoga. Grotowski was referring to Paul D. MacLean’s definition of the “reptilian brain”, a sedimentary, almost unconscious layer of the human brain, responsible for bodily movements and basic needs. Another film uses John Murray Spear’s esoteric séances as a starting point. This 20th-century American activist and spiritualist attempted to access the designs for a sewing machine prototype through a choreography created in a state of trance.
An exhibition with an extension
For the “cerebral” part of the exhibition, the artist invited two art historians, curators and researchers, Lars Bang Larsen and Yann Chateigné Tytelman, to conceive an extension of the exhibition. In it, they present a group of archival documents borrowed from their research on the “nervous system,” exploring possible relationships between art, science, and the counter-culture. Joachim Koester suggests that we (re)discover a constellation of figures and ideas, as he outlines a reflection on the physiological relationships between the body and the spirit, and evokes esotericism, mysticism and conspiracism. Adopting a subjective stance towards the document, he invites the visitor to immerse himself/herself in the interstice between fact and fiction.