Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Call for Papers - alchemy and magic

Call for Papers

Twice Upon a Time: Magic, Alchemy and the Transubstantiation of the Senses’
26 – 27 June, 2014
To be held at CFAR, The School of Art, Margaret Street, Birmingham

Under the illusive cloak of magic, the curiosity of alchemists introduced a means for experimentation into the innate properties of materials.  The transformation of raw matter into precious metals, the combination of hot sulphur and wet cold mercury to birth the philosophers stone; to bring the inanimate to life, to miraculously vanish and conjure the body as well as providing a basis for the laws of substance based on sensory interaction and its potentiality. The scientific practices of today echo this inherent desire for material transformation, yet Western tradition remains cautious of unreasoned sensorial data, treating it with illusory trepidation. While this paradigm has proven an efficient methodology, it has installed a discriminatory partition between that which can be rationalised or mathematized and that which is ‘only’ sensory. These energised and sensate transformations mark the beginning of a new challenge against tradition, returning to curiosity, experimentation and the intensity of the senses away from conventional modes of thought.

The Centre for Fine Art Research (CFAR) and the Research Centre for Creative Making (S.T.U.F.F.) based at the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (BIAD), have joined forces to welcome papers/performances/exhibition installations that respond to magical and alchemical practices, in all their forms; including but not limited to the origins of alchemy and its contemporary relevance in science, magical performance, illusion, automata, the sensory in artificial intelligence and radical thinking in relation to concepts of time. We invite artists, scientists and philosophers to explore again the threshold between these paradigms, dwelling on curiosity and the tradition of scientific questing. By re-visiting the alchemist’s vision, we are looking for a renegotiation of the very boundary that separates the shifting representational referents in the traditional image of magic; seeking a way to extend the concept of transformation of the same (metamorphosis), rather than re-defining a realm that is allegedly beyond rationality and linguistic articulation.

Please send abstracts of no longer than 500 words to Grace.Williams@bcu.ac.uk along with a short bio.

Abstract Deadline: 25th April 2014

Speakers will be invited to have their papers peer-reviewed/ published in the forthcoming issue of the research journal Z?t?sis, due out in September 2014.

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Grace Alexandra Williams
Practice-led PHD Candidate, Fine Art
Centre for Fine Art Research, CFAR
Birmingham Institute of Art & Design, BIAD

T: @GraceAWills

Sunday, September 15, 2013

A new interview with me about my work on Philip K. Dick

Occult Sentinel - Ted Hand - PKD and the Western Esoteric Tradition

Podcast Outline

Here are some tentative titles I brainstormed for a podcast miniseries to review my research.

Spiritual Alchemy and Science Podcast (main theme[s] in parentheses)

#1 historiographical problem (hard truth: not an esoteric meditation)

#2 spiritual alchemy or spiritual alchemies (good news: many ways to learn from religious aspects)

#3 do secular alchemy studies downplay religious aspects? (scope choices don't necessarily mean marginalizing)

#4 intro 16th-17th century flowering of spiritual alchemy (armchair metaphor vs. lab practice as meditation)

#5 Khunrath, Maier, and Fludd (visual treatments turning alchemy into a religion?)

#6 Alchemical Transmutations of Christian Cabala (when Alchemy met Renaissance magic...)

Monday, August 26, 2013

General Review of Muslim Chemistry

Until the time of Jabir, chemistry was 'without form and void'. The solid technical knowledge of the craftsmen was lost in the vapourings of occultists, and if there were any men with a more reasonable view of chemical science, its aims, its objects and its methods, we find no record of them. By the efforts of Jabir and Razi, the two Muslim chemical geniuses, much of the vast accretion of unbridled speculation was cleared away, and chemistry first began to take shape as a true science. Experimental fact was at last informed with the beginnings of reasonable theory, while on the practical side a workmanlike scheme of classification was evolved and a divide range of substances was carefully investigated and systematically characterized. The common laboratory methods of distillation, sublimation, calcination, reduction, solution and crystallization were improved and their general purposes well understood.
...
Chemistry, in the work of the great chemists from Jabir to the time of Avicenna, was concerned chiefly not so much with alchemy but with concrete technical matters such as the development of apparatus, the preparations of, and the study of their reactions. The development of chemistry in the period, although almost entirely empirical, was of great importance in that a new high level was attained in the accumulation of chemical data.

(read more)