Kennesaw’s ‘Medium’ exhibit transcends metaphysical boundaries

Shana Robbins' ritual mat for communication wth the spirit world -- photo by Alex Patton

“Medium,” a collection of multimedia work curated from Atlanta-based and international artists, explores the symbolic impact of the ghost story in modern society.

Hosted at Kennesaw State University’s Zuckerman Museum of Art, the exhibit features work by self-described creative conduits, neo-shamans and modern spiritualists, who believe that their artistic talents are a bridge between the spirit realm and the physical world. The artists are inspired by communication with spirits of nature, deceased loved ones and even their own interpretation of God or a higher power. Many of them say that their art is created not by their own hands, but by spiritual forces using them as a physical catalyst for the creative process — they are not always fully in control of the work that comes out of them.

“A ghost story gives us all this safe space of assurance where we let our imaginations go a little bit and talk about deeper issues,” says ZMA curator Justin Rabideau. “Oftentimes, ghost stories are actually about deeper topics within something that feels unsafe or maybe exciting. We were really interested in bringing together artists that could allow these conversations to happen but also leave room for people to talk about their own ghost stories.”

Much of the artwork is used to communicate feelings which are difficult to discuss publicly, such as the loss of a loved one, a traumatic experience, racial tension or sexual insecurity.

“The way that the museum has created these exhibitions is by bringing works together that spark conversations,” says ZMA Outreach Manager Anna Tucker. This is an opportunity where we can have tough conversations, and if people are experiencing things where they feel unsure how to approach it or unsure how to express it, this is a safe space to do it.”

Shana Robbins, alternative spirituality

Shana Robbins is an Atlanta-based visionary artist, neoshaman and professor of art at Georgia State University. Her multidisciplinary work draws inspiration from years of studying and practicing Earth-based rituals and communication with what she calls the “non-visible spirit realm.”

Robbins’ exhibit in “Medium” is a video installation called “Culture Creatures,” a collection of short videos featuring Robbins herself performing symbolic rituals while wearing hand-made costumes meant to represent spirits of the Earth.

 

“Tree Ghost” by Shana Robbins — photo by Alex Patton

“The ‘Culture Creatures’ in the video installation are emissaries in collaboration with nonhuman beings, technocultural formations, and the natural world,” Robbins says. “They affiliate themselves with a kind of ‘spectral ecology’ in which things are constantly coming in and out of being, pointing to humanity’s fragile interdependence with the life-sustaining ecosystem of the planet.”

Robbins’ extensive work as a professional fashion model shows in her hand-made costumes and body control. “In that world, I learned the art of shapeshifting, constantly adapting and changing the way I looked according to each new pattern or situation,” Robbins says.

Shana Robbins — photo by Alex Patton

Lacey Prpić Hedtke, self-reclamation

Lacey Prpić Hedtke is a photographer, zine writer and spiritual medium, as well as the artistic director of Minneapolis-based Art Shanty Projects. Hedtke’s project, “Ectoplasm Selfies,” is a series of black-and-white photographs of subjects posing with a spectral substance called “ectoplasm.” Popularized in the spiritualist movement of the late 1800’s, ectoplasm is thought to be the physical manifestation of either one’s own spirit or a foreign spirit possessing the body.

The “ectoplasm” in the photographs, made from Earthly materials such as cheesecloth, gauze or egg whites, is created by the subjects of the photos to represent an internal or hidden aspect of themselves. When the ectoplasm emerges from the mouth or other bodily orifice in the photos, the subject is allowed a symbolic external expression of whatever they are keeping inside. Most of the subjects of the photos are members of Minneapolis’ LGBTQ+ community, who were invited by Hedtke to produce their own ectoplasm selfies.

Lacey Prpić Hedtke, from the Ectoplasm Selfies series, 2016-2017. Courtesy of Lacey Prpić Hedtke, in collaboration with Maria Molteni


Several examples of Hedtke’s “Ectoplasm Selfies,” as well as her recently-published zine, “We Believe in Infinite Intelligence: A 21st Century Guide to Spiritualism,” can be viewed and purchased in the museum. Also available is “Medium: Paranormal Field Recordings and Composition 1907-2017,” a vinyl LP by artist Ben Coleman, which contains recordings of paranormal activity provided by the United Kingdom’s Society for Psychical Research, along with music compositions and a sonic catalog of the exhibit.

“Medium: Paranormal Field Recordings and Composition, 1907-2017” and “We Believe in Infinite Intelligence: A 21st Century Guide to Spiritualism,” for sale at the ZMA

The Zuckerman Museum of Art rotates its exhibits every fall and spring semester. The exhibits generally feature multidisciplinary work around a central theme, made by students, Atlanta-based artists and nationally-recognized artists. Entry is always free.

The “Medium” exhibit will be in the ZMA until Dec. 3, 2017.

492 Prillaman Way, Kennesaw

(470) 578-3223

Tues.-Sat.:  10 a.m – 5 p.m.

Sun.: 12 p.m – 5 p.m.

Mon.: Closed

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Alex Patton

Alex Patton is a journalist and a student at Kennesaw State University. When he isn’t writing about music and entertainment, he spends most of his time cooking, watching cartoons and over-analyzing the secrets of the universe. He is a freelance writer for the Cobb County Courier.