Contemporary artists reply to Nineteen Twenties ghost media images

Contemporary artists reply to Nineteen Twenties ghost media images
23 March 2024 J.W.H

In July 1923, a British writer Arthur Conan Doyle got here to Winnipeg to present a public lecture entitled “Evidence of Immortality” as a part of a 40-city North American tour that attracted large audiences.

Doyle, commonly known today as the author who created Sherlock Holmeswas also spiritualist — a part of the circles of people that profess and study the religious belief that the souls of the dead can influence living people.

On Doyle's first night in Winnipeg, he and his wife Jean Leckie Doyle were invited to attend the event led an investigative session by physician Thomas Glendenning Hamilton and his wife and colleague Lillian Hamilton, a trained nurse.

In Dr. Hamilton's darkened séance room, as Doyle later wrote, he he experienced a table of sunshine rising into the air.

Hamilton's legacy includes an incredible collection of pseudoscientific photographs related to his research into paranormal materializations. They aren’t any longer accepted as scientific, they’re higher analyzed as art.

New scientist collection of essays and art exhibition, The Undead Archive: 100 Years of Ghost Photographyfrom the University of Winnipeg used an art historical perspective to put these amazing photographs within the context of visual culture.

Levitation of Hamilton's telekinetic table, 1926.
(University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections), Provided by the writer (no reuse)

“Mental Strength”

Doyle told how the table clanged by itself without anyone sitting on it touching it. In an easy it was quiet. Then:

A moment later I felt like a restless dog in a kennel, jumping, thrashing, hitting the supports and finally jumping out at such a speed that I quickly moved out of the way

The Hamiltons and Doyles agreed that the table had been moved invisible force, psychic forceand that it was a message from a disembodied (disembodied) personality that had survived death.

The psychic force, some scientists believed, would emanate from the middle's body and manifest as organic plasma called ectoplasmthrough which spirits could communicate.

Doyle kept up thus far with the Hamiltons' research. According to the Hamiltons and Jean Leckie, Doyle even revealed himself as a “transcendental personality” two years after his death: materializing in fluffy ectoplasm in a photograph taken by Hamilton in 1932.

A woman is seen with a fluffy substance coming out of her nose and an image of a man can be seen in it.
Hamilton's photograph of Doyle manifesting as a “transcendental personality” in ectoplasm, 1932.
(University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections), Provided by writer (no reuse)

An expression of mourning

After the losses of World War I and the 1919 influenza pandemic, it was not unusual for North Americans to attend seances as an expression of mourning, as historians Felicity Hamer and Esyllt Jones reported.

Read also: Spiritual photography captures love, loss and longing

Interestingly, Hamilton rejected the favored religion of spiritualism, criticizing it as a cult. He presented his research as scientific and emphasized his mastery of photographic technology.

Between 1923 and 1935, using an elaborate array of cameras and lenses, Hamilton got down to capture “mental power” on glass plates in his laboratory.

He published a whole lot of photos of spinning tables and the ectoplasmic extrusion of cell plasma from the bodies of female mediums.

Photographing light-sensitive ectoplasm was difficult, so Hamilton's cropped images of centers surrounded by organically shaped material were enlarged his status as a scientist.

Camera wall.
Hamilton's camera collection circa 1930.
(University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections), Provided by writer (no reuse)

Inspired by “Ghostbusters”

Hamilton's paintings were exhibited and widely distributed. They were there too praised by researchers, including two researchers who found themselves in celebrity audiences argument with the magician Houdini after he claimed to have disproved his magic, and Samuel Aykroyd, the great-grandfather of actor Dan Aykroyd. The younger Aykroyd Hit from 1984 Ghostbusters introduced ectoplasm into popular culture.

During the interwar period, some scientists were open to the concept of invisible forces (also generally known as psychic force or life force) and their research was based on outdated scientific theories, including the “etheric universe” and “vitalism”.

Hamilton's paintings gained international recognition after they were digitized in 2001 within the Archives and Special Collections of the University of Manitoba and located on the Internet by artists intrigued by the grotesque aesthetic of bodily excretions.

“Archives of the Undead” exhibition.

Hamilton was aware of the shabby nature of his photos and described them as “monstrously extraordinary”.

But he saw too ectoplasm as a vital molding material, capable of making infinite forms and shapes.

The expose, The Undead Archive: 100 Years of Ghost Photographyon the University of Winnipeg's Gallery 1C03 and the University of Manitoba's School of Art and Archives and Special Collections similarly focuses on artistic interpretations of this mysterious substance.

The exhibition I curated presents 25 contemporary artists responding to Hamilton's ectoplasm and images. The works include time-lapse movies showing ectoplasm transforming one after the other into recognizable shapes Shannon Taggart and one next to it Grace Williams. Williams animated an old photo of ectoplasm being expelled, while Taggart stitched together still shots of a up to date medium (Kai Muegge) extruding ectoplasm in 2018.

“Spiritual Ectoplasm” (2011) Grace Williams.
Character seen with a ghostly translucent substance coming out of his mouth.
“Kai Muegge's Medium Emits Ectoplasmic Hand” (2018), Shannon Taggart.
(Shannon Taggart), Provided by writer (no reuse)

Hamilton was never in a position to film the ectoplasm because of the poor lighting within the séance room, so these movies give us a way of the theatricality and intrigue of an early twentieth century séance.

Invisible, repressed spiritual work

Some artists put themselves within the role of media, imitating the body language of a trance state. Erica DeFreitas uses crocheted doilies as an alternative of ectoplasm, drawing attention to the invisible working media used to support parapsychological investigators.

A figure with crocheted flowers emerging from its mouth.
“Teleplasmic Study with Napkins” (2010), Erika DeFreitas.
(Erika DeFreitas), Provided by writer (no reuse)

KC Adams, Anishinaabe, Ininew and British artist based in Manitoba researched and created virtual reality graphics for the exhibition entitled Ininewa investigates suppressed funeral rituals suppressed under the Indian Act.

Pandemic and oblivion

IN The art of ectoplasmJones writes that it was only in March 2020, because of the Covid-19 pandemic, that our society thought of influenza pandemic of 1918–1919.

À lire aussi: Why 'Scream' went viral again

IN InfectionTeresa Burrows creates a temple-like installation Dr. Theresa Tam, Canada's Chief Public Health Officer using a rapid antigen test to capture this.

Photo of a woman surrounded by collages.
“Contagion” (2020–23) by Teresa Burrows.
(Teresa Burrows), Provided by writer (no reuse)

In Burrows' photo, Tam looks up as if in a trance and is surrounded by green beads imitating the COVID-19 virus. At the start of the pandemic, Dr. Tam consistently appeared on national television and social media like a soothsayer dishing out warnings.

Winnipeg as a 'mental center'

A century ago, as Winnipeggers were recovering from the 1918-19 influenza pandemic, Doyle presented what appeared to be proof that life continues after death.

After visiting the Hamiltons of their séance laboratory, in a July 5, 1923 letter to Lillian Hamilton, Doyle described Winnipeg as a “psychic center,” in some ways predicting Winnipeg's lack of status as “Chicago of the North”, offering another nickname.

The idea of ​​Winnipeg as a supernatural place was taken up by artists and authors, as exemplified by the filmmaker Guy Maddin My Winnipegin addition to exhibition artworks, most of them created throughout the Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns.

As we emerge from the pandemic, it’s value remembering the experimental screenings of Hamilton after the pandemic and wondering: what form might our mourning take?

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  • J.W.H

    About John:

    John Williams is a Reincarnationist paranormal Intuitive freelance writer...he is living proof of reincarnation existence, through his personal exploration, he has confirmed its authenticity through visits to the very lands where these events transpired.

    Through guided meditation/s using hemi-sync technology he has managed to recollect 3 previous lives to his own, that go back to the Mid to Late 19th century.

    JWH - "You are the GODS! - Inclusion of the Eternal Light of Love and you shall never die”.

    “Death is Just the Beginning of Life”