Goshka Macuga: Madame Blavatsky (2007) at the Saatchi Gallery

Madame Blavatsky was a 19th-century Russian aristocrat and founder of the Theosophical Society, an institution based in occult practices that still exists today. Blavatsky was closely associated with the Russian avant garde, an art movement which was expunged by the practical ideologies of communism; one of the tenants in her writings was that somnambulism – a trance-like condition between waking and sleep or ‘life’ and ‘death’ – was a creative state. Macuga’s sculpture pictures a floating Madame Blavatsky (levitation was one of her many spiritual powers), hovering between two chairs. The illusionary technique used is taken from a book on Victorian parlour tricks. The hands and face of the figure are made from carved and painted wood, and are similar to religious icons of the time. Garbed in purple, the colour of both magic and mourning, Madame Blavatsky’s effigy emits a transcendental aura, channelling the dark art of inspiration from beyond. This piece has a realism in it’s likeness to a body or corpse which may be felt as ‘uncanny’ but connections can also be made between somnambulism and the sense of being between states of waking and sleep/life and death, the intellectual uncertainty and disorientation aroused by an ‘uncanny’ experience and the Shaman who achieves a state of transcendence to act as mediator between one state and another.   
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