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Magic: Whitechapel Documents Of Contemporary Art Series

Jamie Sutcliffe
MIT Press
14.6 × 21 cm
240 pp
Contemporary Art

From the hexing of presidents to a renewed interest in herbalism and atavistic forms of self-care, magic has furnished the contemporary imagination with mysterious and often disorienting bodies of arcane thought and practice. This volume brings together writings by artists, magicians, historians, and theorists that illuminate the vibrant correspondences animating contemporary art’s varied encounters with magical culture, inspiring a reconsideration of the relationship between the symbolic and the pragmatic.

Dispensing with simple narratives of reenchantment, Magic illustrates the intricate ways in which we have to some extent always been captivated by the allure of the numinous. It demonstrates how magical culture’s tendencies toward secrecy, occlusion, and encryption might provide contemporary artists with strategies of remedial communality, a renewed faith in the invocational power of personal testimony, and a poetics of practice that could boldly question our political circumstances, from the crisis of climate collapse to the strictures of socially sanctioned techniques of medical and psychiatric care.

Tracing its various emergences through the shadows of modernity, the circuitries of ritual media, and declarations of psychic self-defence, Magic deciphers the evolution of a “magical-critical” thinking that productively complicates, contradicts and expands the boundaries of our increasingly weird present.

In 2006 London’s famous Whitechapel Gallery and MIT Press formed an editorial alliance to produce a new series of books. Documents of Contemporary Art combines several features that do not often coincide in publishing: affordable paperback prices, good design, and impeccable editorial content. Each volume in the series is a definitive anthology on a particular theme, practice, or concern that is of central significance to contemporary visual culture. The artists and writers included in these books, like the guest editors who conceive them, represent the diversity of perspectives, generations, and voices defining art today.

  1. Magic

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