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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Friday opening at Wesleyan's Zilkha gallery

Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, Wesleyan University
238 Washington Ter., Middletown, (860) 685-3355
Lenore Malen: The New Society for Universal Harmony
Feb. 2—Mar. 2, 2008.
Opening reception: Fri., Feb 1, 5—7 p.m.; Artist talk at 5:30 p.m.

Press release

The New Society for Universal Harmony is an ongoing art project, which began in 2000. It fictively re-invents, in a variety of media, an l8th-century utopian society where "mesmerism," later known as hypnotism, was practiced for healing and spirituality. This project uses the lens of history to explore the far-ranging beliefs and anxieties of our own time and the sciences and technologies that have informed them. Alternately playful and serious, the project questions ideas about community, utopian fantasies, cult-like activities and medical practices

The New Society also functions as a real society of artists and performers who, while they perform historical re-enactments and engage in communal "rituals," document these activities, collaboratively, as artworks.

"Be Not Afraid," the most recent production of The New Society is a multi-disciplinary two-channel video projection that documents two aspects of modernity: the remnants of the utopian dream and the origins of psychoanalysis. It incorporates archival footage from the 1939 and 1964 World's Fairs and NASA footage, while documenting a re-enactment of the first hypnosis session ever illustrated (in a 19th-century engraving). The video depicts members of The New Society being hypnotized under a tree against the backdrop of Philip Johnson's 1964 New York State Pavilion, itself a tribute to the U.S. Space Program.

An installation, which includes wall-size digital prints and vitrines containing archival material, functions to amplify and expand on the video narrative. While the video explores the psycho-social roots of trance and suggestibility, the installation shows how modern technologies also possess uncanny, fetishistic and magical features.
Lenore Malen, artist/artistic director produced the installation with her collaborative team including Todd Erickson, artist; and Ruppert Bohle, video artist/projection designer. Collaborators also include actor Kathryn Alexander; composer Dapha Naftali, and others. Lenore Malen is a multi-disciplinary artist who utilizes photography, video and audio installation, live performance, artist books in order to create imaginative scenarios involving historical fiction. Using the lens of history—and humor—she examines extreme belief systems, the far-reaching irrationalities of our time and the sciences and technologies that have informed them. Malen's multi-media project The New Society for Universal Harmony, is documented in a recent book of the same title (Granary Books, 2005) and in several gallery and museum presentations including most recently in New York at the Cue Art Foundation, Location One and Participant, Inc.

The exhibition consists of a multi-media installation that uses video, digital prints and archival materials. Admission to Lenore Malen and The New Society for Universal Harmony is free. The Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery is located at 283 Washington Terrace in Middletown, Conn. For more information or directions, call 860-685-3355 or visit

The public is invited to attend the opening reception on Fri., Feb. 1 from 5—7 p.m. with an artist talk at 5:30.


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