At the exhibition at de Appel as part of Episode 1 – Masquerade, Joachim Koester’s work film Tarantism (2007) was presented alongside the photographic series titled Morning of the Magicians (2006).
Joachim Koester explores the the body and mind ‘released’ momentarily from all control and conforming mannerisms in his film Tarantism. Tarantism is a particular condition (observed in southern Italy) which results from a bite of the wolf spider, known as the tarantula. The bite causes numerous symptoms in the victims: nausea, difficulties in speech, delirium, heightened excitability and restlessness. The bodies of the bitten are seized by convulsions that previously could only be cured by a sort of frenzied dancing. Joachim Koester’s interest in Tarantism is tied to its original promise: a dance of uncontrolled and compulsive movements, spasms and convulsions. In the film he has utilized this idea to generate the movements of the dancers. In six individually choreographed parts the dancers attempt to explore this grey zone: the fringes of the body or what might be called the body’s ‘terra incognita’.
Koester links this piece with a review of his series Morning of the Magicians which testifies of the fact that the history of the occult is also a history of the obscure. The historical figures of this ‘occult’ are not easy to trace. Real identities are typically veiled by disguises and pseudonyms making the artist doubt if these people ever actually existed. One of those figures, the British Aleister Crowley who arrived at Cefalù, Sicily, in 1920 with a group of devotees and moved into a small house which he renamed The Abbey of Thelema, inspired by the French writer Rabelais (ca. 1494-1553), who in the concluding chapters of his book Gargantua (1534), describes an ideal community named Thélème, which had the governing maxim ‘Do what you will’.
Though hedonistic, centered around Crowley’s own version of magic – a mixture of Kabbalah and yoga, tantric practices, hetero- and homosexual rituals, and the use of drugs – life in the Abbey was often described as bleak and came to an end on April 22, 1923. The Italian authorities carefully covered the frescos, the magic circle on the floor and other traces of the previous activities with a coat of whitewash. The house and garden of the Abbey are now completely overgrown in a strangely evocative way. As Koester walked the faintly visible path to what was once the main entrance, it seemed to him as if sediments, pieces of leftover narratives and ideas from the individuals that once passed through this place had formed knots, as tangled as the bushes and trees that where now taking over, creating a kind of sleeping presence.