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  • Writer's pictureArthur Bruso

Hocus Pocus

The words Hocus Pocus in orange and red appearing out of a white cloud on a black background

Curious Matter

March 30 – May 4, 2008

AMONG THE THEORIES to the origin of the rhyme Hocus Pocus, it is either a true incantation in ancient ritual magic, or a pseudo-Latin phrase used by medieval sleight-of-hand performers to parody the Church and the idea of transubstantiation, while distracting the audience from the sham being perpetrated on stage.

Rebecca Sittler Schrock, The Flood, from “Still Life Series: 2001–2004”. Chromogenic print, 24 X 20 inches. 3 peaches  that look that they are sinking into a wooden table top a gray and white patterned wallpaper is behind them on the wall.
Rebecca Sittler Schrock, The Flood, from “Still Life Series: 2001–2004”. Chromogenic print, 24 X 20 inches.

Therein lie the two branches of Hocus Pocus in our exhibition: the genuine search for magic and meaning and the subsequent deceptions and trickery. In ritual magic, the hope is to somehow get the attention of the forces that control nature and convince them to enhance your life. This is done in various ways: symbols, offerings, incantations, mimicking nature; the list is long and varied. Vincent Como reimagines the powerful symbol of the pentagram, which has connotations of both darkness and light, depending on whether one is reaching for the stars or hiding in the night. Yuko Kobayashi tries to show us the hidden power of words with her video. Written or spoken words become magic spells which manifest the reality of their content. Anthony Santella seduces a nature spirit from hiding by exposing the hidden soul within a tree. Personal energy is another way to encourage magic, as Brea Souders shows us with her image of hair clippings. Guard your shorn locks; they could be used to sap your strength. And mirrors hold many secrets which, it is supposed, they reflect back; as Suejin Youn reminds us.

Brea Souders, Clippings, 2008. C print, 16 X 16 inches. Clipped blond curls laying on the grass real a bush.
Brea Souders, Clippings, 2008. C print, 16 X 16 inches.

But, when the gods ignore us and luck is elusive often we try to create our own magic. Amiée Burg’s box alludes to the classic disappearing act of magicians. Rebecca Sittler Schrock gives us the illusion of the transmutation of matter. Jennie Thwing’s gestures look mysterious, but what exactly is she up to?

In many cultures, the artists were considered magicians who could channel the forces of nature to their own ends. Michelangelo insisted that the sculpture was trapped in the stone. All he did was free it, like a magician frees the hidden dove from the empty-looking box. Here we present evidence of the power of art. Is it real, or, are they just too quick for you to see how they do it?


Arthur Bruso, Aimée Burg, Vincent Como, Tara Giannini, Yuko Kobayashi,

Bryan Lauch & Petra Pokos, Ross Bennett Lewis, Marianne McCarthy,

Michael Nathaniel Meyer, Raymond E. Mingst, Carol Petino, Zach Rockhill, Anthony Santella, Rachael Serbinski, Laurie Sheridan, Rebecca Sittler Schrock, Brea Souders, P. Teramode, Jennie Thwing, Kelly Vetter, Alyssa Taylor Wendt, Jenn Wong, Suejin Youn,

John J. Zirkelbach

Arthur Bruso and Raymond E. Mingst

© 2008 Curious Matter used with permission

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