World Receivers. Mediumistic Art in Theory and Practice 1850-1950
Fri, January 25, 2019, 9.30am–8pm
Sat, January 26, 2019, 9.30am–1pm
Lenbachhaus, Georg-Knorr-Saal
Admission free

Independently of each other, Georgiana Houghton (1814–1884), Hilma af Klint (1862–1944), and Emma Kunz (1892–1963) developed abstract imagery highly charged with meaning. The artists saw themselves as receivers of messages that only they could perceive. Their artworks resulted from their spiritual experiences and their communication with a higher world. With their works, all three strove to make visible the laws of nature, the spiritual, and the supernatural.

Their self-perception as mediums allowed the artists to attribute the creation of their images to external sources. This gave them the freedom to overcome social, cultural, and aesthetic boundaries.

John Whitney (1917–1995), James Whitney (1921–1982), and Harry Smith (1923–1991) also endeavored to use artistic means to visualize spiritual worlds and cosmic principles. In California during the postwar era, they produced abstract films, which-like the works of Houghton, af Klint, and Kunz-pose new challenges to art theory in their dual role as aesthetically convincing works of art and instruments for gaining higher insight.

The symposium explores how mediumistic practice can expand a traditional concept of art and alter the definition of abstraction. It brings together international experts to discuss this phenomenon from historical, art historical, feminist, and media-theoretical perspectives. The symposium thus pursues a methodological approach, which does not consider the genesis and rise of artistic abstraction as a purely formal innovation, but rather seeks to interpret it in terms of the contexts of its emergence.


Simon Grant (London), Massimo Introvigne (Rome), Walter Kugler (Basel), Lars Bang Larsen (Stockholm), Hanne Loreck (Berlin), Marco Pasi (Rotterdam), Lea Porsager (Copenhagen), Raphael Rosenberg (Vienna), Pascal Rousseau (Paris), Robert Stockhammer (Munich), Daniela Stöppel (Munich), Julia Voss (Berlin)


Karin Althaus, Lars Bang Larsen, Marco Pasi, and Sebastian Schneider

The complete program can be downloaded here.
Further information on the exhibition here.