Keeping an Aion the world
VISUAL ART:THE CURRENT SHOW in the Project Arts Centre gallery space offers you a chance not just to see an exhibition but also to take part in an experiment. Perhaps it’s the influence of the Science Gallery’s modus operandi, which usually entails a high level of interaction for the visitor. (The science gallery has been nominated for the European Museum of the Year Award). The current show, Love Lab: The Science of Desire(running until March 12), requires you to fill in a consent form and incorporates participation in a research project that will generate publishable results – so long as you are aged 15 or older.
You don’t have to sign anything to get into The Aion Experimentsat the Project, but those attending are requested to be prepared “physically and mentally”, given that the gallery “will be charged with biofield energy”. What, one might ask, is biofield energy and what is the nature of an Aion experiment? There are several artists involved in the show, which was organised by Pádraic E Moore, a writer and also a notably industrious and inventive curator – he recently oversaw the tribute to underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger, An Invocation of My Demon Brotherat the IFI, as part of film festival. As that suggests, Moore, who is still in his 20s, is drawn to the alternative and unorthodox.
In fact he was one of the artistic group, The Defastenists, who espoused an alternative view of pretty much everything in the contemporary world, and whose good-humoured utopianism had an engagingly dandyish air about it – not a bad description of Moore, as it happens.
The Aion Foundation, as outlined by him, sounds like a very alternative outfit. Their first experiments “took place in Northern Europe in the 1930s”, involving a diversity of scientific disciplines “including physics, chemistry, psychology and sociology”. The aim of its intermittent experimental programme has been to develop an understanding of “body-oriented energy”. Experiments have usually been sited at sites “charged with naturally occurring biofield energy”. Hidden human potential, the Foundation argues, is wrapped up in this unrecognised energy, and ignoring it, plus other “fundamental truths”, may leave us vulnerable to self-destruction.
Unsurprisingly, several of the historical figures who Moore names as being associated with the Aion Foundation stand somewhere outside the mainstream in different ways. They include the brilliant inventor Nikola Tesla, whose real achievements in electromagnetism and electricity are often overshadowed by the more outlandish side of his character. Then there’s the controversial sexual behaviour researcher Alfred Kinsey, the radical psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich, whose speculative theory of orgone energy sounds very close to the Aion idea of “bio-field energy”.
The same is true of the healer and pioneering abstract artist Emma Kunz, who came across a chalky rock, which she dubbed Aion A, and for which she claimed considerable therapeutic powers. She is not alone in such claims: the powdered stone is apparently available in Switzerland for medical use.
Moore claims that artists like Kunz have played a role in Aion research, and he intends that those whose works he has gathered together in the Project contribute as well. They make up an eclectic grouping. Ciaran Walsh is a young Irish sculptor, based in Germany, who has a long-term interest in the theories of Wilhelm Reich, among others, especially his ideas of concentrating and producing energy in unlikely contexts. Hence Walsh’s use of workaday, functional materials in pieces that themselves have a practical, functional air.
Sam Keogh is also a young Irish artist and in a way he too shows a penchant for transforming ordinary materials into something else entirely. His Sacrilegious Totemis a fantastic cluster of enormous crystals that turns out to be, when you consult the list of ingredients, composed of all manner of stuff, from glitter and tape to tinfoil and cardboard, with not a crystal included. It’s a bravura piece.
Takeshi Murata is based in New York and his work, a rhythmic, psychedelic abstract video animation has a retro, flower-power gentleness about it. It’s a quietly hypnotic piece of work.
Ulf Rollof is Swedish and has spent a great deal of time living and working in California and Mexico. He’s a lively, resourceful artist who seems to work largely outside the conventional commercial framework. His work explores the interface of the mechanical and natural worlds. The piece he shows here, Stretchers, consists of three stretchers, fashioned mainly from copper piping and fluorescent tubes.
With its intimations of recuperation and energy it could be a tribute to Joseph Beuys, someone whose work would be quite at home in the exhibition.
A summery looking photograph features two figures in water. It’s drawn from the Morris/Trasov Archive, an ongoing collection documenting various art practices and aiming for a creative collective creative consciousness. It was established by Michael Morris and Vincent Trasov some years ago. One other contributor, Robert Watkins, will provide an audio work for a closing event at 7pm on Friday April 9th. It consists of a recording of low frequency audio signals generated by the Solar Wind as it reaches the Earth.
Moore includes written testimony from several participants in previous Aion experiments. The show is in itself an artwork, bringing together several strands of activity that share a concern with, or a desire to achieve, some form of magical, transformative leap. The experiment tests whether the magic takes place and, whatever the actual status of the Aion Foundation (as a visitor you can decide that for yourself, on the basis of what you take from the exhibition), Moore’s aim is to open up rather than close minds.
He succeeds very well and the show is particularly interesting the context of Temple Bar’s ambitious series of events re:public, an ongoing public forum on the current state of the relationship between the arts and society (until March 13th, see gradcam.ie), and the Science Gallery’s Love Lab.
Aion Experiments, Project Arts Centre Gallery, 39 East Essex St, Temple Bar Until April 10 (gallery closed April 5)