Dinca — contemporary art blog

Hocus Pocus… ABRACADABRA!!! (2007) a Projector Performance by Kerry Laitala

Hocus Pocus… ABRACADABRA -Documentation of an Expanded Cinema Work, Kerry Laitala,

Media used: 2 16mm projectors for loops, 35mm slide projector; video projection, and stereo soundtrack on CD, thanks to: Neal Johnson

Hocus Pocus…. ABRACADABRA!!!
A Projector Performance By Kerry Laitala-2007

“Hocus Pocus… ABRACADABRA!!!” pays tribute to spirit photography EVP recordings (electronic voice phenomenon recordings), and the Phantasmagoria that originated much earlier, in the 18th century. The title “Hocus Pocus” is a phrase used in conjuring and originates from the ridicule of the church and Transubstantiation.

The necromancers (magic lantern showmen), of the 18th century used magic lantern slides to bring forth illusions of the spirits of the newly and distantly departed. In terms of the history of the technologies that bring projected images to the audience, the magic lantern is the grandfather technology to the cinema.

The spirit photographers of later times concentrated their efforts in this direction as well, although not usually using the same techniques. Both had economic interests in mind, although many of the spirit photographers engaged in this pastime to attempt to prove the existence of life after death and these photographs were used as evidence of the need that people had to connect with the departed, and became propaganda for the spiritualist movement as proof of life after death.

Hocus Pocus… ABRACADABRA is a true hybrid performance piece in terms of concept and the technology used. Intertwining live sleight of hand illusions and the magical evocation of past spirits, Hocus Pocus… highlights the intersection of these two types of spectral displays. Hocus Pocus… ABRACADABRA!!! is an expanded cinema séance that evokes ephemeral visages of the dearly departed who cast an intoxicating spell.

In the first half, these eerie forms are accompanied by disconnected voices of uncertainty and longing. The second half of the performance uses the resonance of the glass harmonica to vibrate in the ether surrounding the skulls of spectators.

As a conjuring device, the magic lantern’s widespread use for many different functions exemplifies its importance to our evolving understanding of this technological history. Laitala evokes this spooky atmosphere using similar devices and strategies to re-create these spectral displays. In the performance, the first screen becomes a vehicle whose incantation incites the second (rear screen) to spring to life with several visages from the past.

Athanasius Kircher, Benjamin Franklin, Maya Deren and Nikola Tesla, are but a few of the illustrious spirits who make their presence known amidst thunder cracks and lightning flashes on the undulating rear screen.

On a more universal level, it is very common for human beings to want to have one last communication/contact with their departed loved ones and this need is addressed with this revealing performance.

Hocus Pocus… Abracadabra!!! Won the Chris Holter Visionary Film Award from the 2007 Madcat International Women’s Film Festival.

Hocus Pocus… Abracadabra!!! was later invited to be a part Francis Ford Coppola’s Gala opening of his Magic Lantern Museum (The Rubicon Estate Centennial Museum). This DVD is a document of the performance on October 10th, 2007.”

Visit Kerry Laitala’s website here.

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