SPONTANEOUS CASES OF PSYCHICAL COMMUNICATION
BALAS & WAX / SUSY BIELAK, FRED SCHMALZ
“Spontaneous Cases of Psychical Communication” is a performance of fictional incident reports, live-mixed by a sound artist.
“Spontaneous Cases…” was inspired by case studies of psychical experience collected by psychologist Gardner Murphy (1895-1979), who compiled reports of serendipity, telepathic communication, chance, correspondence, premonition, and other phenomena. We encountered these writings while in the thick of a project, inspired in part by Murphy’s mass telepathy experiment conducted via radio broadcast from Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago in March 1924.
As much as we were insterested in the stories themselves, we were also interested in the form and register of the cases: they were clinical, succinct, and evocative. We adapted the form to write our own series of imagined incident reports from a variety of perspectives. The careful sequencing of the reports and the use of repeated language heightened their narrative echoes.
An excerpt from one case, Pulling Trees:
Marco awoke exhausted, unkempt, his upper body drained of strength. Throughout the night, he had drifted through a series of restless visions—he was clearing an old-growth forest, he was pulling limbs from a living tree, he was planting saplings in a boggy field, he was swinging an axe to bust up a stubborn stump, he was ripping roots from their turf beds—all in morning twilight. Rising, heavy armed, he threw on his overcoat and roused his pointer Phyllis for a dawn constitutional.
After a workshop reading as part of the Absynthe & Zygote series in late March 2016, the performance premiered April 24, 2016, at Experimental Sound Studio (ESS), with a live mix by artist and musician Damon Locks. While the two of us alternated reading from our original texts of the cases, Locks incorporated a range of effects and devices to manipulate, enhance, distort, and accompany our voices.
This was one of three public programs related to our exhibition Fourth Horizon at ESS, with each program presenting an alternate score to the exhibition’s main video and sound installation. “Spontaneous Cases…” was also produced as an artist book for inclusion in the Floating Library.