PRINT September 2011


Olivia Plender, Machine Shall Be the Slave of Man, but We Will Not Slave for the Machine, 2009, mixed media, video. Installation view, Tate Britain, London. From the 4th Tate Triennial. Photo: Sam Drake.

OLIVIA PLENDER IS A CONNOISSEUR of a certain mystical or spiritual Englishness. And mysticism, in England as in the United States, has frequently been inseparable from politics. Much of the London-born, Berlin-based artist’s work has mined the territory between ancient or resuscitated belief systems and the imperial, communitarian, or utopian ideologies that have invoked them. Plender’s drawings, videos, installations, and performances have been concerned with such narratives as the fraudulent beginnings of Modern Spiritualism, the mystical-socialist movements of the early twentieth century, and the return of the gothic and the supernatural in British cinema of the 1960s. Like a number of artists in recent years (think of Susan Hiller’s recourse to auras and telepathy or Susan MacWilliam’s collaborations with mediums), Plender is a cultural archaeologist of irrationalism. Her

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