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Conference

 Re-writing the Future:
100 years of Esoteric Modernism & Psychoanalysis

A Multi-disciplinary Conference
30 May – 1 June, 2019
Brunnenburg Castle & Schloß Pinzenau, Merano, Italy

In recent times, it has come to light that many revered artists, writers, poets, philosophers and performers have held esoteric world views or underpinnings. Several recent art exhibitions worldwide have highlighted this: Black Light in Barcelona, retrospectives of Leonor Fini and Leonora Carrington in New York and Mexico City, respectively, Mystical Symbolism and the visionary works of Hilma af Klint at the Guggenheim, all in just the past year.

The field of psychoanalysis itself first began as an esoteric discipline – exploring previously uncharted territory with relatively few individuals meeting weekly at the home of Sigmund Freud. Some of Freud’s occult explorations were quite overt, as he conducted thought experiments with his daughter Anna Freud and close colleague Sandor Ferenczi late into his life. Though Freud intentionally steered the public persona of psychoanalysis away from any occult leanings, his personal work with the esoteric went on well into his twilight years. Carl Jung also explored his own psyche in secret for decades as he created his masterpiece The Red Book, which was only discovered after his death and released publicly in recent years.

The Zeitgeist of the time is reflected in a myriad of ways: the innovative writing of T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway; poetry of H.D.; automatic drawings of Austin Osman Spare; spirit drawings of Georgiana Houghton; accidental poems of Tristan Tzara; noise concerts of Luigi Russolo; collages of Hannah Höch; montages of Man Ray; the expressionism of Wassily Kandinsky; and early experimentation with film and photography. W.B. Yeats taught a young Ezra Pound theosophy. Piet Mondrian studied theosophy as well. The surrealists touted the theories of psychoanalysis, exploring dreamwork, automatic writing, synchronicity and chance.

It is notable that so many cultural heavyweights, who are held in such high regard, deemed it necessary to keep their esoteric views and occult explorations hidden from the world. Clearly they felt these ideas would not be acceptable at that time. And they were probably right, as many of those figures who were more open about their views, were often shunned, denied or had aspects of their work ignored outright. It begs the question: why does society accept some aspects of the mind, but not others?

At our current moment of cultural crisis, it makes sense to look back over the past 100 years; to reflect on the cultural Zeitgeist before the First World War – the very same time period and cultural and intellectual epicentres that birthed the field of psychoanalysis, the Dada movement and Der Blaue Reiter. Much like our times, upheaval and change were in the air. The arts and sciences were booming, as was philosophy, media and technology. Interest in theosophy, Eastern philosophies, occult and esoteric belief systems was on the rise. Society’s accepted values and consensus worldview were put into question; the status-quo challenged, refined and reformulated for a modern era.

Keynote speaker: Siegfried de Rachewiltz, grandson of Ezra Pound.

Submissions: please send an abstract of 500 words or less and a brief bio to sinclairvanessa@gmail.com by December 31, 2018.

 

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