Press release, June 2019
Empedocles' Ghost – an exhibition about exploring science and mysticism's forgotten relationship
Curated by Sean Noyce
KRÆ syndikatet and Noysky Projects presents Empedocles’ Ghost, a week-long exhibition and series of performances featuring works that explore the relationship between science and mysticism. Empedocles’ Ghost is a collaboration between artist-run galleries KRÆ syndikatet of Copenhagen and Noysky Projects of Los Angeles. Empedocles’ Ghost is Noysky Projects’ first off-site, international exhibition, which opens at Warehouse9 in Copenhagen.
Scholars have ruminated on the connection between science and spirituality for thousands of years, applying folk pedagogy to explain the complexity of the world. The Greek philosopher Empedocles was one of the first to formalize this concept, stating that the foundation for all matter consisted of earth, wind, fire, and water. Respectively, Buddhist, Egyptian, Babylonian, Hindu, and Chinese scholars also drew connections with the four elements, emphasizing the universal nature of this concept.
But with the widespread implementation of the scientific method, science and religion separated, leaving folk practices like alchemy and esotericism to decline precipitously. The fallout from this schism has fostered the rise of literalism, pitting the definitive logic of science against the ascribed doctrine of religion. Many of the works in Empedocles’ Ghost reconnect the fields of knowledge with that which is mysterious: Melissa Walter mines from her work as an illustrator for NASA, referencing near-fictional concepts like string theory, dark matter, and gravitational lensing, while Michael Carter’s interactive sculpture based on the methods of the ancient Egyptian harpedonaptai (“rope stretcher”) aligns the earth-bound viewer to the celestial bodies with great precision. Some link the technology of today with the supernatural: Sean Noyce’s video projection renders data visualizations from sound frequencies of an ancient Greek funeral song, while Jenalee Harmon’s laminated transparent sequential photographs are an ode to time, space, speed, and technology of the Futurists that subtly allude to the hidden entities behind those forces. Others reference Empedocles’ contribution to science and philosophy: Debby and Larry Kline’s large format pen and ink drawings of the four elements contain the visual language of illuminated manuscripts, while Samuel Scharf’s sculpture alludes to Empedocles’ himself, who was said to have committed suicide by throwing himself into Mount Etna; Scharf playfully invites viewers to toss a period-styled sandal into a ring of cobblestones, loosely referencing the active volcano.
About the artists
Sean Noyce’s Funeral Procession merges the technology of today with the mysticism and rituals of antiquity. Sampling a modern recreation of an ancient Greek funeral song, Noyce stretches the recording over 100 times so that the audible moments are abstracted to haunting drones and chimes. The recording is then imputed into a program that Noyce has written, rendering visualizations from those sound frequencies. The video projection references the fleeting moment when the spirit leaves the body as it travels between the transitory plane between the living and the dead.
Debby and Larry Kline’s The Alchemist is part of a large-scale installation devoted to the living cycle of trash. The main character is both ancient and modern. His garb is based on Han dynasty (206 BC–220 AD) jade burial suits. Through a contemporary translation, he has become a sleek superhero, emblematic of industry. The Alchemist shapes our world by creating value added products from raw or recycled materials, though his tendency towards overproduction is often to our detriment.
We have created many drawings detailing his journey. The drawings in this exhibition are based on the alchemical principles of the four elements (earth, air, water, and fire).
Samuel Scharf’s sculpture alludes to the ancient Greek philosopher, Empedocles, who was credited as one of the first to theorize that all matter consisted of the classical four elements of earth, air, water, and fire. Empedocles was said to have committed suicide by throwing himself into Mount Etna so that the people would believe his body had vanished and he had turned into an immortal god.
Scharf playfully invites viewers to toss a period-styled sandal into a ring of cobblestones, loosely referencing that dramatic moment at the volcano.
Michael Carter’s Solar Alignment reconnects the viewer to the hidden forces, properties, and geometries that bind the universe. Not unlike a neolithic earthwork, Carter’s interactive sculpture positions the earth-bound viewer with the sun using technology of the ancient Egyptian harpedonaptai (“rope stretchers”). As the viewer grounds themselves near the square patch of soil at the corner of the Euclidean triangle, they are positioned in alignment with path of the sun, represented as a golden disc perched high up in the gallery. Solar Alignment stresses the importance of hidden affinities and shared experiences that affect us on a deep, visceral way, and have inspired higher thinking for several millennia.
Jenalee Harmon’s photographs represent the liminal space between two distinct moments in time: the one that has just passed and the one that is yet to come.
Meticulously produced and staged, her works are inspired by the theatrics of performers, magicians, illusionists, and trick photographers of 20th century cinema. Harmon’s sequential photographs exemplify a world in constant motion – an ode to time, space, and speed of the Futurists, machine learning and technology of artificial intelligence, and the mystery and intrigue of the supernatural.
Melissa Walter visually explores concepts concerning astronomy and astrophysical theories. Walter has worked as a graphic designer and science illustrator for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory and as a team member of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Her experience has inspired her to visually articulate wonders of the Universe, such as black holes, supernovas, neutron stars, dark matter and more recently, dark energy. Walter’s use of sound, dramatic optics and lighting within her sculptural installations embed a transcendent quality to the experience of her work while infusing cosmic energy into ordinary materials such as ink and paper. She translates and materializes the intangible knowledge of the Universe into an aesthetic physical reality for a personal experience.
Camilla Reyman work within the fields of abstract painting, sculpture and installation art. She investigate the thought of consciousness being as a kind of matter and that matter might have agency of its own. Camilla prefer working with materials made by non-humans: plants, silk, dirt, bees wax, organic pigment etc, and sees her works as collaborations where her artistic intentions and the materials themselves create the final outcome on equal terms. “I am interested in how materiality has been perceived through out human history: how it is surrounds us in everyday objects, how it has been and is used in shamanic practices and how it is researched in science and dissolved in quantum physics.”
Alexander Holm GiVa1G is a wooden usb drive amulet holding a number of files documenting an exploration of hollow oak trees collected in the southern forests of Norway in summer 2017. The drive includes sound, images and video, aswell as 1 hour of music based on these files. The material were collected in company with biologist Ross Wetherbee, and are originally thought to serve the Norwegian University of Life Sciences's research on the fading numbers of hollow oaks in Norway and the impact they have on local biodiversity as well as our time's global mass extinction. The files on the amulet captures a specific process, which goes as follows: When an oak tree is 2-3 hundred years old a goat horned beetle eats halfway trough the tree into the core of the trunk to eat it’s marrow. The beetle carries a virus that infects the tree to let it die slowly over the following 4-9 hundred years as a hollow grows inside it. As time passes the hollow hosts an increasingly huge number of plant and insect species which only exist in the conditions of the tree. The files points towards a specific time and place: Scandinavia around 1st millennium. Covered in forest – “Trees Of Life”. Norns sitting at the foot of Yggdrasil spinning the fade of humanity. A dragon slowly eating the roots. A squirrel bringing messages from the dragon to an eagle. The eagle sits in the crown watching over middle earth. On it’s beak sits a hawk waving its wings, pushing the winds. Somewhere else four deers are resting, eating off the crowns leaves.
Nymphaea/Åkande by Daughters of the 12th house (Naja Ryde Ankarfeldt & Elena Lundqvist Ortíz). Growing from a society that sees the human as outside, beyond or above nature, we initiated an exploration of the nature that is closest to us: our own bodies and the space surrounding. By very concretely placing our bodies directly on paper as templates and tracing the outlines of our limbs in different postures. Through the union and crystallization of our two practices and bodies, a new body emerges, that appears as an inversion of the Vitruvian Man. Rather than reproducing the narrative of anthropocentrism, and the white male human form as the measure of all things, Nymphaea re-figures the human as always entangled with other species. Using this method we want to craft another story of the human. The work is influenced by spiritual practices in a secularized society, in an attempt to re-integrate spiritual and material worlds. The project is part of an ongoing research and collaboration, where we use tarot and astrology, and more concretely investigating the 12th house, which represents the mystical and unknown dimensions of life. Initiating our collaboration we drew the tarot card “Philosopher of Stones”, more commonly known as “Page of Pentacles”, as a guide for our composite energy. The card renders a human in a lotus position that is also used as template for Nymphaea.
Katya Usvitsky’s sculpture explores concepts of birth, growth and decay through the process of alchemy. Using women’s pantyhose as her primary material – a vestige from Victorian-era corsets and garter belts that constrict the female body – Usvitsky allows the materials to blossom, infusing her sculpture with energy that give the materials a new life, outwardly reminiscent of biological processes including cell division, mutation, and replication. The mysterious transmutation of the piece can be observed in the bell jar, as the piece is on the verge of becoming too large for its vessel.
Naja Ryd Ankarfeldt and Elena Lundquist Ortíz (DK).
Michael Carter (US).
Jenalee Harmon (US).
Alexander Holm (DK).
Larry and Debby Kline (US).
Sean Noyce (US).
Camilla Reyman (DK).
Samuel Scharf (US).
Katya Usvitsky (US)
Melissa Walter (US).
Alexander Holm & Mads Kristian Frøslev (DK).
Family Underground (DK).
Opening reception: Thursday, July 4, 5-8 pm.
Exhibition period: July 4-11, 2019.
Schedule of events:
Thursday, July 4, 5-8 pm:
Sunday, July 7, 4-8 pm:
Performances by Morblod (‘Motherblood’); Alexander Holm & Mads Kristian Frøslev (DK); Mycelium (DK); and Family Underground.
Monday, July 8, 5-8 pm: Talk about the forgotten relation between science and mysticism, lead by curator and artist Sean Noyce (US); art-theorist Astrid Wang (DK); and participating artists Camilla Reyman (DK), Katya Usvitsky (US), and Melissa Walter (US).
Thursday, July 11: Closing reception.
the Syndicate of Creatures – KRÆ syndikatet
We are KRÆ. We are creatures. We are a syndicate of established and young visual artists, writers, musicians, performance artists, art historians and philosophers. While the capitalistic autocannibalism devours our nature, feasts on all living creatures and living growths; while we humans becomes a bottomless gap of insatiable needs, in a splintered world, where reflection hurts as the world is spinning in the wrong direction; we turn into disturbing creatures – we become KRÆ – creatures identifying with critters and growths, emerging as beings of the earth.