17 February - 21 April 2017
In 1986 Jean-Michel Basquiat painted To Repel Ghosts. Holding the opening of an exhibition with the same name on Friday, February 17th, 2017 at 17:00 conjures up the ‘apotropaic’ power of the word. An exhibition, dedicated to ghosts just could not do without such opportune powers.
For many years I have hunted down and collected photographs of ghosts. These pieces now form the core of this show that provides a kaleidoscopic picture of this uncanny environment. The show includes early examples of this type of work dating back to the late Romantic period and nineteenth century before bringing us right up to date. The variety of documents exhibited, including photographs, books, paintings and installations, whether they be the ingenious fruit of a renowned artist or the experiments of an outlandish eccentric (more often than not they are anonymous works), are all animated by the same passion for the unknowable and that feeling of awe inspired by what is dark and unexplainable.
In order to make sense of such a variety of exhibits, I have organized the material into three large sections, dedicated respectively to early (with an occasional foray into the modern period), postmodern and contemporary material. The exhibition begins in 1860 with the work of Eugene Thiebault and Eduard Isidore Buguet and culminates with that of Chiara Fumai in the present day. Each piece in the show is an image that has either been reproduced, manipulated, reconstructed, enhanced using sophisticated visual trickery, or is trapped in the perpetual dialectic between true, plausible and false. They are the offspring one of the most common creative processes, where reality is transformed into an extraordinary event, and a silent object into a work of art. At the same time this process, defined by some using the religious term ‘transubstantiation’, legitimises the presence in an art gallery of so many documents that are not directly artistic. On this occasion the ectoplasm of so much of the spiritistic tradition gives rise to a sculpture and an installation. It is no coincidence then that the documents in all three sections should be categorized according to the rules of science: initially by those of a blunt ‘positivist’ nature (which explains the frequent reference to Lombroso, Richet, or Curie); later the rules become less experimental and more inductive, as revealed by latest aesthetic sciences which are used as a hermeneutical principle in the post-modern and the contemporary sections. Then we move on from the mysterious origins of spirit photography (with its many masters, radical pioneers and genuine stars) to an analysis of artistic sleight of hand (described so wonderfully by Enrico Imoda in the seminal book on the subject, Fotografie di fantasmi; or in the many experiments carried out to shed light on the supposed powers of Eusapia Palladino) right up until the ‘auratic’ sessions organized by the Parisian Paul Fleury in the 1940s and 50s to verify the existence of occult energies that animate matter.
The exhibition then takes us into the 1960s where the highly skillful Gustavo Rol and the medium Fulvio Rendhell bring paranormal and spiritualism into the realm of pop. Both world-famous figures at the time, and still much discussed today, each is present in the form of rare photographic documents and videos as well as showcasing some even rarer contributions.
The exhibition draws to a close with Chiara Fumai’s installations La donna delinquente (the delinquent woman) and Trappole per fantasmi (ghost traps), which explore the contemporary relationship between spiritism and art. This artwork was produced and documented photographically by Turi Rapisarda and Simona Galeotti.
The exhibition To Repel Ghosts is a bold attempt to probe this immense territory and serves as a brief introduction to the complex history and symbolic world of ghosts. It will include a detailed guide to help visitors understand more about events, places and biographies, and fathom the extraordinary accounts of spirits.
The exhibition is the third chapter of the series Guido Costa Projects has dedicated to the Immaterial. It will remain open to the public until 21 April 2017.
The exhibition includes work and photos by John Beattie, Richard Boursnell, Eduard Isidore Buguet, Craig and George Falconer, Paul Fleury, Chiara Fumai, William Hope, Frederick Hudson, Enrico Imoda, F.M.Parker, Turi Rapisarda and Simona Galeotti, Fulvio Rendhell, Gustavo Rol, William Shew and Eugene Thiebault.
Special thanks to the following people for lending the work on show: Keith De Lellis, New York; La Lumiere de Roses, Paris; Alexandra and Fulvio Rendhell, Rome; Giovanna Demeglio, Torino; the artists Chiara Fumai, Turi Rapisarda, Simona Galeotti and all the collectors who would like to remain anonymous.