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HOUSE Berlin : Jeff Cowen : Séance


HOUSE Berlin presents the exhibition Séance. Derived from the old french word “seoir” (to sit) for a session or gathering, a “séance” implies the existence and presence of the many. Séance comprises a selection of artworks dealing differently with themes of metaphysical, transcendence, the subconscious, and death, forming a frame of reference around works by artist Jeff Cowen (*New York, 1966).

In the realm of contemporary photography, Jeff Cowen’s work stands as a mystic medium, bridging the visible with the invisible, and the present with echoes of the past. His painterly photographic practice, deeply ingrained in the history of photography, surpasses the traditional boundaries of the medium, exploring the ethereal aspects of time, memory, and spiritual resonance.

Photography, spiritualism, and the occult have an intertwined history. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the spiritualist movement, séances, and interest in the supernatural coincided with the rise of photography. Even some of the surrealist practices, which contained an influential openness for alternative or “magical realities”, are rooted in spiritualism. The surrealists Breton and Apollinaire were often given credit for automatic writing, but in fact the original progenitor of this technique was spiritualism.

Transcendence in Cowen’s work is evident in his ability to transform ordinary subjects into profound, almost otherworldly experiences. His photographs are not mere representations; they are invitations to a deeper realm of existence. Through a meticulous process of manipulation and layering in his laboratory, Cowen coaxes the invisible aspects out of his subjects—their aura and spirit.

A séance is a way of addressing unresolved matters, seeking knowledge, and acknowledging the influence of the past. It is a bridge between the now and enigmatic bygone times, offering a form of dialogue and understanding of what has transpired to change the present.

As 2024 marks one hundred years since the emergence of Surrealism, Séance examines the art movement’s lasting impact on the mediums of photography and moving image.

Text by Juliet Kothe


Jeff Cowen with works by Hans Bellmer, Joseph Beuys, Anna & Bernhard Blume, Claude Cahun & Marcel Moore, Maya Deren, Paul Éluard (Pseud. Didier Desroches) with Dora Maar & Man Ray, Germaine Dulac, Rudolf Koppitz, Albert Leo Peil, Sigmar Polke & Christof Kohlhöfer, And Margaret Raspé.

Until June 14, 2024
HOUSE Berlin
Friedrichstrasse 112 B
10117 Berlin, Germany

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