[-empyre-] December 2008 on -empyre- soft-skinned-space: Pharmakon Library, introducing Kristen Alvanson

Christina McPhee christina at christinamcphee.net
Sun Dec 7 07:39:35 EST 2008

In december =empyre= turns to magic, spells, recipes, antidotes,  
talismans, poisons-- in short, 'pharmakon'.

A library of pharmakons is assembling under the influences of some  
artists and writers who've been giving me  images and text for a  
virtual (and physical) library.  The first launch was at the New York  
Art Book Fair last October.   http://www.christinamcphee.net/pharmakon_library/index.html

Please welcome Kristen Alvanson as our first guest-- she is writing  
from Iran.  We're having some server issues with COFA (not related to  
Iran, just to linking our pages to Sydney)-- so in the meantime I 'm  
just forwarding on her opening comment.

Kristen Alvanson (born in 1969 in Minneapolis) lives and works in  
Shiraz, Iran. She attended The Cooper Union for the Advancement of  
Science and Art in New York and holds a degree from Sarah Lawrence  
College. Alvanson has exhibited in shows in both the United States and  
the Middle East. In 2008 she participated in group/solo shows in  
Tehran, London, Istanbul and Belgium, including a solo exhibition of  
her work at Azad Gallery in Tehran and participation in the  
International Roaming Biennial of Tehran. Her writing and artworks  
have been published in Collapse: Journal of Philosophical Research and  
Development, New Humanist, Frozen Tears III, Cabinet Magazine and  


  Kristen writes,

"I've always been interested in the occult not as a mystic reservoir  
for solely personal experiences but as a map for occluded socio- 
political currents which are essentially collective. A number of  
people have said that the drawings and paintings I was doing while I  
was in New York had a strong occult line running throughout and I have  
to agree. But it wasn't until I was researching middle-eastern  
talismans about three years ago that I began using 'spells' in my  
work. It started with a project called 'Maskh' which was 100 drawings  
dealing with my metamorphosis – not in a narrative manner but in a  
cartographic way. I saw spells as occult maps for certain concrete  
socio-political processes which surface in the domain of collective  
desires; spells show transitions and metamorphoses of these desires  
from the collective to the individual sphere. That's why spells  
usually incorporate themes like abrupt transformations of identity and  
possession. Middle-eastern spells are mostly created in the form of  
diagrammatic bodies formed by abstract components such as numbers,   
letter curvatures and geometric elements which are ideal skeletal  
frames on which to build new spells. The spells I created for the  
Maskh series mainly had to do with the events leading up to my leaving  
the US and moving to Iran in 2006.,  , Once in Iran I continued to  
work with spells. I was able to see current examples of Persian  
calligraphy around Shiraz (in books, on walls and other places) as  
well as see many examples of old talismans. I was able to actually use  
locally made Persian ink which is a much richer and darker substance  
than what I could find in the US. I also learned how to work with  
Persian calligraphy pens which created so many types of lines. These  
pens create such limitless forms of curvatures and lines which I think  
are perfect for narrating the transitions of desires and  
transformations of identity through different expressions of intensity  
and ink tonality. Most Iranian calligraphers use the pens and ink in a  
very traditional way,  but I tried all sorts of techniques with the  
pens…for example,  scraping and using them on hard paper opposed to  
traditional glossy surfaces. I worked on a second 'installment' of  
maskh drawings and over the past couple years I've continued to work  
with spell making. The 'Poison-in/Poison-out' drawings I created for  
the 'Pharmakon' project is a continuation of this work.,  ,  ,  
Best,  , Kristen"


Christina McPhee

DANM Digital Arts and New Media
Porter Faculty Services
University of California at Santa Cruz
1156 High Street
Santa Cruz, CA 95064

001 805 878 0301
skype:  naxsmash

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