Lea Porsager has made numerous spiritual journeys into the aesthetic. And vice versa. Her most recent venture took her to Lithuania, where she found a clairvoyant medium working with so-called thought forms. Thought forms or T-F are a kind of visual depiction of our thoughts which, like auras – and early modernist art – can only be deciphered by those in the know. The thought forms will adopt contours and colours of greater or lesser beauty depending on the purity of your thoughts. Lust and greed look one way, piety and goodness another.
At the exhibition How To Program and Use T-F Porsager presents a thought form shown to her by the Lithuanian medium; a so-called type 3 “resistant thought form2. Exactly what it represents is not entirely clear, but this is not the key point anyway. Porsager appears to be mainly interested in thought forms as transmitters of consciousness and awareness. Thought forms are supposedly living entities animated by the one idea that generated them, made of the “finer kinds of matter”, as described in Annie Besant’s and C.W. Leadbeater’s primer on the subject, Thought Forms, from 1901. Being alive, yet immaterial, they can easily move through time and space, linking up different minds. Brilliant masterpieces by great artists supposedly convey particularly strong and beautiful thought forms.
At Porsager’s exhibition, then, it is quite natural that the esoteric thought forms should be juxtaposed with art history and information technology, which also links up minds across time and space, albeit in less mysterious ways. Remarkably, the exhibits are placed directly onto the floor, perhaps in order to ground the many ethereal phenomena addressed by Porsager: telepathy, information transferrals, satellites, and the transference of visual imagery. The approach suggests that here, spirituality does not go hand in hand with a quest for self-help or personal improvement; rather, it is about art as a top-tier negotiation between form, gravity, and immateriality. The best example is provided by how the artist translates her thought form, T-F (type 3), from the “finer kind of matter” into a heavy, sculptural object. She has taken the classical route of the sculptor, modelling the clairvoyant medium’s vision in clay, casting it in bronze, and turning it out of iron. The small exhibition catalogue includes a claim stating that in this manner the T-F forms a counterpoint to conventional and materialistic thought forms as well as to the mind sprawl of information technology.
The result of the translation process from thought form to sculpture is nevertheless an immediately identifiable art object with a surprisingly modernist look; it might have been lifted straight out of some Brancusi gallery. The most rebellious gesture made by these objects resides in the fact that they have not positioned themselves in a state of controlled harmony on plinths and bases; rather, they lie scattered on the floor, thrown there with aggressive energy as if by a poltergeist.
The connection between alternative spirituality, technology, and aesthetic forms is essentially fascinating. On the one hand because Porsager has invested herself so completely in the project. She has sought out and inscribed herself in the main centres and historical wellsprings of the realms of the alternative, from the Alps – as in her Documenta project about Monte Veritá – and halfway into Russia. On the other hand she delves down into hidden aspects of our concept of art, letting them haunt us in nightmarish ways. Perhaps the main lesson that Porsager’s sculptural objects can offer is a reminder that we have, in our retreat from modernism, entirely suppressed how the modern concept of art had strong roots in the occult, in mysticism, Buddhism, alchemy, and the more esoteric aspects of psychoanalysis: basically in a critique of society. The revolt waged by conceptual and Pop art against the spiritual project of modernism was not anti-aesthetic, as is often claimed, but anti-esoteric.
Of course it takes more than simple fascination and identification with the critique of civilisation posited by aesthetic spirituality in order to create a critical art project based on agendas other than the familiar discursive and pragmatically political. The exhibition at Fotografisk Center mainly demonstrates that Porsager is still in the process of exploring some very extensive and underexposed connections between divergent thought regimes. At present she is still translating between the realms of spirituality and aesthetic form without seeming to make a specific point in doing so. Hence, the knowledge and narratives accumulated in the exhibition remain of greater interest than the visual profits reaped by the spectators who receive the transmissions. But there is undoubtedly something greater on the way.