01-Vojtech_Frohlich-PostmixVojtech Frohlich – Postmix

02-Vojtech_Frohlich-PostmixVojtech Frohlich – Postmix

“Crisiswave”. Psychospiritual crisis and
the obsessive production of images

The story of “Doktoro Esperanto (Doctor Hopeful)”, Ludvík Lazar Zamenhof, a Russian physician of Jewish descent, who in 1887, after many mishaps, published a textbook on an artificial language called simply International Language, would merit its own TV series.
As a young student growing up in Bialystok (today a Polish city that at the end of the 19th century was part of the Russian Empire), he was distressed by the sheer intensity of misunderstanding and conflict between the Polish, German, Russian and Jewish communities. He regarded this as not only an innately human attribute, but also the consequence of the fact that each group spoke its own language. And so at the end of the 1870s he began working on a “universal language” that would remove the obstacle represented by the diversity of tongues. The dream of a single common language was not born in one of the great metropolises of the West, in a centre of one of the vast colonial empires in which the local population was obliged to accept not only the culture and religion but also the languages of its rulers. Instead, it arose in the large, ill–defined region of “Central Europe”, in which for centuries the influences of Romance and Germanic culture, Slavonic elements, Christianity in all its guises and Judaism had intermingled.

03-Barbora_Kleinhaplova-We_The_People..Barbora Kleinhamplova – We Are People Who Know Flexibility Has Widespread Benefits

04-Martin_Kohout-Solo_Show-(w.Linda_Spjut)Martin Kohout – Solo Show (w.Linda Spjut)

The rapid spread of Esperanto from the last decade of the 19th century to the First World War was undoubtedly partly due to the fact that it was a language unencumbered by ideology or a religious or nationalist agenda. However, this very factor also represented a kind of glass ceiling, a barrier beyond which it was not possible to progress in a world in which the differences and boundaries of competing centres of power had never disappeared. The blow delivered to the universalist ambitions of Esperantists by the two world wars was in a certain regard fatal. Within the context of the post–war hegemonic competition of global superpowers, national languages took precedence over the neutral (and therefore forever suspect) Esperanto.

05-Richard_Nikl+Martin-KohoutRichard Nikl and Martin Kohout

06-Richard_NiklRichard Nikl

07-Richard_NiklRichard Nikl

At the same time that Zamenhof was refining his concept of a universal language while studying medicine in Warsaw and Moscow, Frederic William Henry Meyers was introducing the term “telepathy” to the burgeoning dictionary of psychology.
A co–founder of the British Society for Psychical Research, Meyers was fascinated by the deep components of the psyche (one of his influences being Jung’s theory of the collective unconscious). He was convinced that the “subliminal self” was to be found in the deep unconscious, and that this was the source of paranormal experiences. Telepathy, the “transmission of impressions (perceptions), images, ideas, etc. from one person to another without the mediation of our known sensory channels”, was one of these phenomena. It is perhaps unsurprising that the phenomenon of telepathy caught the imagination of parapsychologists and those interested in the occult and the supernatural, rather than the professional community of psychologists and psychiatrists. Nevertheless, the concept of telepathy has a place in clinical practice and these days is cited, for instance, as one of the symptoms of a psychospiritual crisis.

09-Deanna_Havas-Subway_HollowDeanna Havas – Subway Hollow

10-Vojtech_Frohlich-PostmixVojtech Frohlich – Postmix

11-Puppies_Puppies-BonelesssPuppies Puppies – Bonelesss

In the Czech Republic people afflicted by psychospiritual crises are given assistance by the civic association Diabasis. On the organisation’s website we find the following description of such a crisis: “… a difficult period in the life of an individual that is manifest in the form of episodes of unusual experiences that include changes of consciousness, perception, emotion and thinking. During these experiences the hitherto customary boundaries of the experience of self are dramatically exceeded, with the frequent occurrence of transpersonal (extending beyond the customary barriers of the perception of self) or spiritual experiences. A psychospiritual crisis takes place when the narrative and manifestations of the personal development of an individual are overly intense and he or she loses control over their experiences and the patterns of behaviour they had hitherto been able to rely on.” [1]

12-Barbora_Kleinhamplova-We_The_People...Barbora Kleinhamplova – We Are People Who Know Flexibility Has Widespread Benefits

13-Vojtech_Frohlich-PostmixVojtech Frohlich – Postmix

14-Sara_Magenheimer-Seven-Signs...Sara Magenheimer – Seven Signs That Mean Silence

One section of the organisation’s website is given over to the personal testimony of sufferers, in particular the “story of JT”, published on 17 August 2011, which begins as follows: “I arrived in Prague in February 1999 with the feeling I was on the cusp of personal and professional success. Having acquired an MBA with flying colours, I was about to begin work with one of the most prestigious international firms offering consultancy services in the sphere of management and sales. This position made me one of the top earners in the Czech Republic and provided me with an entrée to VIP circles. I was 25 years old and at last the years of hard work were beginning to pay off. Everything I had always wanted was within reach. I was as happy as I could be and had no idea whatsoever that in a few short years I would experience a psychological crisis of such depth that escaping or avoiding it was unimaginable.” [2]

15-Ales_Cermak-Addiction_Without...Ales Cermak – Addiction Without The Consequence

16-Peter_FrielPeter Friel

19-Peter_Friel-Bumper_no.5Peter Friel

20-Peter_FrielPeter Friel

21-Deanna_Havas-Den_Hot_Machen+Tribius_EggDeanna Havas – Den Hot Machen + Tribius Egg

After this introduction there follows the life story of a manager who since childhood had carefully progressed from one goal to another, until his success and happiness was pulled up short by a crisis. To begin with he was paralysed by a fear of women. Next, on the basis of a letter from a friend, he became convinced he might be homosexual. “I had never previously given it any thought, but over time simply the possibility that I was gay prevented me from functioning in the world. I found myself obsessively wondering what the world around me thought of me, whether I was genuinely gay, and how in heaven’s name I could find out for sure.” This crisis gave rise to hallucinations, altered states of consciousness and “fireworks going off in my head”, and these led the narrator into the arms of a psychiatrist who, predictably, prescribed psychotropic drugs. Finally the narrator found his way to Michael Vančura from Diabasis.

The story has a happy end, though one that leaves the critically minded reader in a state of confusion. So was this psychospiritual crisis suffered by a successful manager not so much the consequence of the periodic crises of late capitalism, but a symptom of repressed sexuality? It is certainly a marginal story, possibly even fictitious. So why concern ourselves with it? For the simple reason that it is difficult not to perceive it as significant. Especially because it was the first and, at the time that Diabasis won support for its activities from the Vodafone Foundation, only published illustration of how a psychospiritual crisis takes place. Where did the imagination of our psychiatrists come unstuck? And what about our managers? How many of them internalised the consequences of the financial crisis in such a way that the result was a panic–stricken fear of an unavoidable coming out?

22-PWR_Studio+Ales_CermakPWR Studio + Ales Cermak

23-Jan_Zalesak-Crisiswave...Jan Zalesak – Crisiswave… (Telepathy or Esperanto ? Brochure)

24-PWR_Studio-The-TouchablesPWR Studio – The Touchables

In 2009, when Czech many politicians were still pretending that the crisis did not relate to us (only then to begin, following the example of their British friends in the Conservative Party, to compete for the most ruthless application of the policy of austerity), the Danish group Superflex made a film entitled succinctly The Financial Crisis. [3] The action is divided into four “sessions”, through which the viewer is accompanied by the calm, yet somehow weary voice of a hypnotist. At the start of each session (The Invisible Hand, George Soros, You, Old Friends) we are asked to close our eyes, after which we are led into deeper and deeper layers of our unconscious. We see the invisible hand of the market, which to be begin with controls everything with a lightness of touch, which then becomes heavier and heavier until the market collapses and people have nothing to eat. This hand is ours… We see George Soros skilfully conducting his transactions on the stock market. We see ourselves as George Soros. And then suddenly something happens, our instructions arrive too late or can’t be carried out. We’ve nowhere left to go… We see our own home, where we live the good life. We leave our house and travel to work, where we’re happy. There’s an envelope on the table: we’ve been sacked. The house, credit cards, lifestyle… everything has vanished.
We’re standing in front of the house that only recently still belonged to us. We enter the house and hear the voices of old friends. It’s George Soros and the invisible hand of the market. Now we realise we don’t need them, and we can wake up happy and satisfied. The film, shot for the Frieze London art fair at the peak of the financial crisis, takes aim at its intended audience with merciless sarcasm. To accept its premise means accepting our own defeat. However, this is simply the first layer of interpretation. In the second the sarcasm is no longer aimed at the film’s audience but at artists themselves, at art, which during times of the most serious crises offers the relief of catharsis and the consolation of absolution. Today we can see that the therapy took effect. Everyone lost something, but now they’re no longer sure what it was. Everyone is happy and contented once again.

25-Irina_Lotarevich+Micah-Hesse2Irina Lotarevich + Micah – Hesse2

26-Micah_Hesse-LWACMicah Hesse – LWAC

What caused the financial crisis of such magnitude in 2008 was not simply the greed of bankers and the speculative character of modern markets, in which portfolio managers behave as though they were playing poker. It was also the superfast computers, on whose calculating capacity the financial world now stands and falls. Computers controlled by programs, the first versions of which (programs controlling mechanical looms) appeared at the end of the 19th century, i.e. at the same time as Zamenhof was designing his universal language and Meyers was connecting telepathy with the deep unconscious. Programs and programming languages entering instructions on the Man–machine interface were invented at the same time as Esperanto and telepathy, and though at first sight their abstractness would seem to set them apart, in fact they have a lot in common. Like Esperanto, programming languages seem free of any a priori ideological content. From the moment it was created Esperanto had to come to terms with the competition represented by existing languages, which in the 19th century formed the cement binding together the nation states being constructed and helping to maintain colonial order. Programming languages have no such competition. They can be filled with any content, adapted to suit any purpose. These became the “genuine Esperanto”, and bear the brunt of the responsibility for the fact that we live in a globalised world, even though for most of us the operations of these programming languages are as mysterious as paranormal phenomena.

27-Irina_LotarevichIrina Lotarevich

28-Irina_LotarevichIrina Lotarevich

The profound integration of our lives and computers driven by programming languages has resulted in many concepts originally created to describe areas of our cognition and psyche being smoothly transferred into the sphere of digital technology. These days we speak of “communication”, “memory” and the “intelligence” of computers, and even of the “digital unconscious” or “digital animism”. Over the last fifty years there has been a revolution on the human–computer interface, the consequences of which we are only now beginning to appreciate. A turning point in this development was reached in 1989/1990, when the power bloc led by the Soviet Union collapsed. The way was opened for neoliberalism to achieve a genuinely global level, and at the same time the development of computer networks transcended the phase of experiments in the military and scientific spheres and the history of the internet began to be writ. It’s difficult to say what since that time has expanded more quickly, whether it be speculative capital, which after the relaxation of restrictions in the banking sector in the United States and Great Britain in the mid–1980s was able to run riot in the world and inflate and burst bubbles (for the most part property, though not exclusively), or the internet and computer technology, which during the last quarter of a century was effectively integrated into all mechanisms containing circuitry of some kind. However, for every slump we can speak of a synergetic effect. During the period of the much talked about financial crisis, which demonstrated clearly that neoliberalism would not disappear even though it had lost all legitimacy, the development of the internet and the capacity of computer networks approached the dystopian vision of the Skynet from Cameron’s Terminator to such an extent that we should perhaps sit up and start worrying. In fact, however, everyone is calm. Connected to social networks and microblogs they work on their profiles, on their virtual personas, whose symbolic capital, with a little luck, they dispose of even in the real world.

29-Martin_Kohout-Easy_PeasMartin Kohout – Easy Peas

30-Peter_FrielPeter Friel

The combination of economic (financial) globalisation and technological advances in the sphere of computers and the internet has created the conditions for the existence of a universal language of contemporary art. The use of English and identical hardware and software allows artists around the world to do the same thing at practically the same moment. The inkling that when something occurs to me it has simultaneously occurred to many other people somewhere in the world has become a certainty. We are all drawing on the same resources. When we open a browser we release ourselves from the shackles of our individual memory, from the unique structure of potentially accessible records, in order to avail ourselves of access to a shared memory, which, though it undeniably expands our consciousness, has the effect of flattening everything out. Though the individual, highly complex structure of thought and memory represents a barrier for digital telepathy, this can be effectively debilitated by a sufficiently long time spent online in a state of attentive distraction.

31-Parallel_Practice+Martin_KohoutParallel Practice + Martin Kohout

32-Martin_Kohout-Easy_PeasMartin Kohout – Easy Peas

When at the end of the film The Financial Crisis our guide snaps his fingers for the last time, we are supposed to wake up to a new world, happy and contented. However, the world does not want to return to the old routines (to which exactly?) and refuses to make any sense. It is difficult to adapt to a reality that has ceased to make sense. Could it be that we find ourselves in a state of collective psychospiritual crisis? Was not the inundation of swirling colours, the gleaming gamboges and sparkling sapphires, the vermilions and chartreuses and rouges, the sunbursts and moirés that around the start of our decade began to swamp first blogs and quickly afterwards galleries, fairs and glossy magazines in ephemeral waves of seasonal styles the symptom of a collective hallucination transmitted telepathically from continent to continent? The rapidity with which these bewitching images began to fill up the blogosphere and social networks was stunning. However, astonishment should not cloud our judgement, it should not prevent us from seeing that this does not involve the production of autonomous subjectivities (which is what we would expect from art), but more the manifestation of what is these days a subjectivity perfectly controlled by the frenetic speed of automated systems. It’s not like it was in A Clockwork Orange, in which the resistance of the hero is broken by an overwhelming deluge of images. These days there is no need for an all–seeing apparat that punishes dissenters. The instrument of control is not the consumption of images but their production. However, this productive overdrive does not result in autonomous subjectivities, as might appear from a glance at the millions of profiles and blogs, but a global hallucinating body without organs.

33-Vojtech_Frohlich-PostmixVojtech Frohlich – Postmix

34-Puppies_Puppies-Shrek_Is_Love...Puppies Puppies – Shrek Is Love, Shrek Is Life

Notes :


curated by Jan Brož w/:
Aleš Čermák, B. Kleinhamplová, Deanna Havas, Irina Lotarevich, Martin Kohout, Micah Hesse, Peter Friel, Puppies Puppies, PWR Studio, Richard Nikl, Sara Magenheimer, Vojtěch Fröhlich

Essay: Jan Zálešák
English translation: Phil Jones

April 2nd – May 10th
@ Center for Contemporary Art Futura