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"Transformation through Darkness"

Italian anthropologist Ernesto de Martino would write in 1959 that magic is
one of the “mechanisms by which we face ‘crises of presence’ in our
modern society.” Taking this proposition seriously, I would like to engage
with magic as a practice for attuning to the darkness of the present and
working with and through it. In the early Renaissance, thinkers such as
Marsillio Ficino considered magic an unquestionable method of critical
practice. Magic simply meant a sense for the proper arrangement of the
elements into favorable con gurations to one’s will, intent, or constitution -
despite the treacherous circumstances of the cosmos. The magical thus
takes the very sensorial conditions of thought into deep consideration.
Under what constellation of the stars does a certain decision or action take
place? What foods shall one eat in which season that will appeal to and
encourage one’s abilities? What natural e ects tell us about the state of a
certain concern? Without attention to these aspects of embodiment and
perception, proper thought - that is, philosophical discourse - cannot take
place. And so, magic here suggests an art of living, as a mechanism to face
the crisis of embodied nitude. Magic becomes a practice for sensing
knowledge in much of what the Moderns consider non-knowledge: the
sensual, the corporeal, the intuitive the symbolic, the oracular, the riddle,
the secret, the incommunicable. We will consider the advice of Ficino for
the “sagacious life” as proscribed in his De vita libri tres (1489) as a mirror
for thinking earnestly through the environmental conditions we each
require or will for manifesting our critical capacities. The various crises of
thought that confront us as personal and political subjects inevitably
demand a response, o en in the form of our creative expression. And yet,
under what conditions does such expression occur, do certain environments,
habits, or scripts inform its quality?
—Ashkan Sepahvand is an artistic researcher. His performative discourse practice engages with
how knowledge-forms are sensorially translated and experienced, taking shape as publications,
installations, exhibitions, and interdisciplinary collaborations. Previously, he has worked as a research
fellow at the Schwules Museum*, where he curated the exhibition "Odarodle - an imaginary
their_story of naturepeoples, 1535-2017," and Haus der Kulturen der Welt, where he co-edited the
publication "Textures of the Anthropocene: Grain, Vapor, Ray" (The MIT Press, 2015). In 2010 he
co-founded the institute for incongruous translation with Natascha Sadr Haghighian, a framework
for their collaborative, long-term investigations, including "seeing studies" (2010-2012) and "Carbon
Theater" (2016-ongoing). Since 2013 he organizes the technosexual reading circle, an informal
platform for collective study, with gatherings, workshops, and seminars in Berlin, Beirut, and Tehran.
His work and writings have been exhibited at dOCUMENTA (13), Sharjah Biennials X and 13, Gwangju
Biennale 11, Ashkal Alwan, and ICA London, amongst others. He is currently a Guest Lecturer at the
Hochschule für Künste Bremen. He lives and works in Berlin.
Basel, 15.05.2019