When Art and Paranormal Activity Intersect

When art and paranormal activity intersectOften, after standing in a cold, damp, miserable site for two hours – with  nothing paranormal happening – I think, “there must be a better way to do this.”

But I keep standing there, waiting, because all the evidence suggests the site really is haunted… perhaps dramatically so.

And usually, if I keep waiting, the bone-chilling tedium was worthwhile. If I thoroughly research a site before visiting it, and confirm that it is a likely paranormal site, there’s an 80% chance the site is haunted. Or something paranormal is going on, even if it’s not “ghostly.”

The problem is, ghost hunting can be like waiting at a street corner for hours, hoping to see a green, 1964 Ford Mustang. And your only evidence is that – over the past 20 years – lots of people mentioned seeing one pass that street corner.

Whether you actually see a ’64 Mustang – or think you do – may depend on how long you stand there.

Patience. That’s all.

Are There Better Options?

In paranormal research, I think we need to expand our horizons. Explore offbeat theories that might lead us to something useful.

I mean, really, we’re already delving into topics many people consider too “out there” to take seriously. Why not go all-in, and see where the fringes take us?

Start with speculation, test it, follow-up with brainstorming, and extract the most promising elements.  Amplify those to see what happens. Repeat.

But where can we find fresh speculation? Where are the fringes?

Well… that leads to an article I read. It connected art with a sort-of paranormal headspace.

Art as a Path to the Paranormal

Are you ready to go way out on a limb, into speculation…?

Here’s the link that started today’s “what if?” musings: Susan Hiller, Conjurer of Paranormal Activity Through Conceptual Art, Has Died at 78.

In that article, I learned:

“Hiller eschewed the term ‘conceptual art’, saying she preferred the word ‘paraconceptual’ to describe her practice, given her interest in the supernatural.”

Later in that article, writer Alex Greenberger explained,

“it often seemed as though Hiller wanted to transport her viewers to another dimension or headspace by cinematic or aural means.”

That’s an extraordinary approach.

Would it work? Maybe. I have no idea. I’m not sure whether her goal was more than slightly shifting viewers’ headspace.

Then, I was more intrigued when I read a related article in The Guardian, where Hiller said,

“All my work deals with ghosts.”

Many creatives have expressed something similar as a figurative reference.

I’d love to know how literally Hiller meant that, and how it fits with specific art installations.

EVPs from 1971

In that same article, I read,

“She worked with the experiments of Latvian psychologist Konstantīns Raudive, who believed that tape recorders left in soundproofed rooms could pick up the voices of the dead – including Winston Churchill and James Joyce.”

In the past, I’d read about Raudive, but hadn’t followed-up to learn more.

Today, I found a YouTube video of his 1971 EVP recordings. I didn’t realize anyone was working with EVP, that long ago.  Not this seriously, anyway. (It’s a 5-minute video, and the recording quality is scratchy, but the voices are intriguing.)

What Are We, and What Are Ghosts?

Here’s another point I’m pondering: Hiller said,

“You know, we are pixels; we’re light.”

That reminded me of one of Vivek Narain’s comments on a recent trends article. He mentioned holograms, and – as usual – suggested several unique ways of looking at paranormal activity.

To me, his observations resonate with Hiller’s “we are pixels” explanation. It was interesting synchronicity.

I’m not sure if anyone else follows the connections I see between Hiller’s concepts, experimental work by Raudive, Vivek’s comments, and my research which spans many apparently distinct fields of study.

(I say “apparently distinct” because I’m not certain they’re truly separate, except in how we categorize the phenomena and explain it to ourselves. I don’t mean to sound flippant when I say, “We’re making this up as we go along,” but that’s how it seems, most of the time.)

Question Everything

I believe we need to explore how, when, and where we encounter paranormal activity. We should always question whether there are better research techniques.

After all, standing around in a “haunted” site, waiting for something to happen… it may not be the most productive use of our time.

I’m not sure how far out on a limb we should go, with research techniques. Do we go more electronic, or back to “old school” ghost hunting methods? What about creating environments – as Hiller and Raudive did – that might be more conducive to paranormal activity?

Today, I have no answers to this. Not even a clue.

But, I applaud Hiller’s work and hope to see some if it in real life, in the near future. I might try some EVP recordings around it. And, I’d be intrigued if her installations resonates – no pun intended – with how we feel immediately before and during a paranormal encounter.

Maybe there is an access point to those experiences. I’m not sure we can deliberately create it, or if it would be safe to try to.

For now, the Hiller story and the Raudive recordings are the kinds of breadcrumbs I watch for.

Nonsense or an Invitation?

If this seems like nonsense, that’s fine. I grew up in the halls of MIT. I spent countless happy hours, playing with strobes and other toys in Doc Edgerton’s lab. That was my childhood context, and – even now – it’s part of who I am.

So, I sometimes geek-out on innovative approaches to research. For me, nothing is too “out there” to consider. (Whether I take it seriously is another matter…)

But, if anything in this makes sense to you, or you can put more of this puzzle together, I’m interested in your theories. Sometimes the “what if?” questions lead to the most fascinating answers.

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