fbpx Biennale Arte 2022 | Hélène Smith
La Biennale di Venezia

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Hélène Smith

1861 – 1929, Switzerland

  • TUE - SUN
    23/04 > 25/09
    11 AM - 7 PM

    27/09 > 27/11
    10 AM - 6 PM
  • Central Pavilion
  • Admission with ticket

In 1900, psychologist Théodore Flournoy published Des Indes à la planète Mars: the first study to analyse spiritualism in psychological terms, it described the case of Swiss medium Hélène Smith. When this woman met Flournoy, her name was Catherine-Elise Müller and she was an ordinary sales assistant in a silk shop, yet could enter ecstatic states during which she produced writing in unknown languages or drawings of places she had never been. Between 1895 and 1900 Smith produced three stylistic categories of verbal-visual works that were published with Flournoy’s observations: the “Hinduseries, with Oriental landscapes and texts resembling Sanskrit; the “Royal” series, showing great castles; and the “Martian” series, with notes in a mysterious ideogrammatic script produced while communicating in a trance with a Martian named Astané. According to Smith, the planet’s inhabitants are reincarnated Earthlings. In contrast to the drawings’ fanciful imagery, Flournoy’s study employs a detached, clinical tone that left Smith unhappy; although the book won her adulation from spiritualists, the medium felt betrayed and withdrew from public life. Thirty years after it was published, at the height of the Surrealist movement, André Breton and his circle celebrated the power of automatism based on this material from the turn of the century. 

Stefano Mudu

Central Pavilion
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Biennale Arte
Biennale Arte