'Twice Upon a Time: Magic, Alchemy and the Transubstantiation of the Senses' 26 – 27 June, 2014

full name / name of organization: 
Centre for Fine Art Research, School of Art, Birmingham Institute of Art & Design
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To sit 'upon' time, as in the English tradition of 'once upon a time' conjures the illusion of a linear singularity of forward motion. To accept such an understanding, although once conventional, now seems wholly outdated. In an age where time travel is no longer a delusion of magical thinking and the sensory human body is so closely replicated in the new automata of artificial intelligence, a reconsideration of the eternal return to a present that is past, invites a re-staging of a story ready to be told twice.

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 Centre for Making (CFM), based at the Birmingham Institute of Art and Design (BIAD), welcome papers 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 300 words to Grace.Williams@bcu.ac.uk along with a short bio.

Abstract Deadline: 18th April 2014

Speakers will be invited to have their papers published in the forthcoming issue of the research journal Zētēsis, due out in September 2014.