PhD Researcher, Canterbury Christ Church University & Independent Artist / Curator
Experimental Séance: Writing and Performing a Fictional Disembodied Entity
A workshop event inspired by mediumship research carried out by a group of Canadian researchers, led by George and Iris Owen in the 1970s. The Owens were interested in the entities encountered in séances. The group experimented with the séance format with little success until they decided to co-create a fictional character, ‘Philip’, developing a personality and life story for him, with the aim of contacting Philip through séances. Their experiment was successful: Philip took on a life of his own, communicating with the Owen’s group through table movements, raps and noises.
Inspired by the Owen’s experiments, this workshop leads participants through a series of group exercises designed to co-create and communicate with a fictional character, using drawing, writing, automatic techniques and roleplay. Exercises draw upon surrealist writing games, mediumship and séance strategies as well as experimental theatre techniques, and are collaborative and open-ended.
The exercises are informed by a diverse set of theoretical concerns encompassing the ontology of thought forms, imaginary friends and other fictional entities; the status of nonsense (delire) in its various manifestations; the unconscious as it manifests itself through techniques drawn from art and psychotherapies, and the nature of imagination and play.
Participants need no formal expertise in art, creative writing or theatre, but an interest in theory is good, and a readiness to experiment as a group is essential. A belief in the reality of spirit entities is not required, although an open-minded attitude is encouraged.
The workshop addresses the conference themes of transformation (making a ‘Philip’ out of nothing); the transhuman (is ‘Philip’ as more, less or other than human?); the transpersonal (working to co-create a ‘Philip’ as a group) and the transdisciplinary (blending humanities research with techniques of performance and art).
Julia Moore is a PhD researcher at Canterbury Christ Church University. Her research investigates the role of intuitive methods inspired by mediumship development and surrealist games in academic practices of reading and writing. She is also an artist with a practice encompassing film and video, collaboration and automatic techniques. Recent works include Experimental Séance parts I and II (2014/2015).
Nicholas Morgan is an independent artist and curator based in London. He has performed self-written pieces at the Battersea Arts Centre (2014/2015), is co-creator of Action Pulpeuse, a monthly performance event, and (in 2003) performed at What work does the artwork do, a symposium with the conceptual art group Art & Language.