dOCUMENTA (13) June – September, 2012

Extraordinary Popular Delusions (2012) for dOCUMENTA (13) addresses issues relating to energy cycles and economy, taking the sun, petroleum and the production of images as its point of departure. A custom-built projector projects an image of the sun—the earth’s ultimate source of energy. The projector is in the style of one of the oldest historical magic lanterns, the first projection apparatuses, which were lit by burning flames and used for such divergent purposes as entertainment and education, propaganda, and spiritual séances. The novel experience of looking at projected images was a spectacle that at the time could create the illusion of an apparition. By using petroleum, an outcrop of the earth, to light the lantern, a metaphorical and material relationship between the source of light and the projected image is established —projector and image become a self referential energy system. Hinting at various cycles that also relate to economy, like the “secret cycles” of finance, sunspot cycles and stock-market prices, or Georges Bataille’s concept of general economy, an interrelatedness of natural and economic sciences is addressed.

The installation also includes a suite of screen prints and a video. The video, titled Non-Conservation of energy (and of spirits), is a transcribed dialogue between Johannessen and a clairvoyant medium where the artist asks questions addressed to a collective scientific consciousness and more specifically the late Danish physicist Niels Bohr. The dialogue is presented as subtitles to an imageless video, and the answers from the spirits are in the form of knocking sounds.

The diagrams illustrate concepts of energy and cycles. The energy cycle and A message from the spirits are based on visual sensations the medium got as answers to Johannessen’s questions in the séance. Non-conservation of energy is a simple graph illustrating production and destruction of energy. Universal 11-year cycles is an abstracted graph in which all frequencies seemingly fit with the 11-year sunspot cycle, a cycle that is said to influence and connect events on earths, from the growth of trees and crops through business cycles to mass excitement and revolutions.