SHANNON TAGGART
 
 

SÉANCE: Spiritualist Ritual and the Search for Ectoplasm

Photographs by Shannon Taggart.  Foreword by Dan Aykroyd. Essays by Tony Oursler, Erik Davis and Constance DeJong.

 
 
 
 
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A new addition to Spiritualism's bizarre photographic record.

Spiritualism’s photographic past contains some of the most bizarre, absurd, and uniquely unsettling images in the history of photography.  SÉANCE is a next chapter. 

 
 
 
 
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A 16-year quest to find and photograph ectoplasm - the elusive substance that is said to be both spiritual and material.

SÉANCE will present hundreds of original photographs, as well as historical imagery related to Spiritualism's attempts to capture spirits on film. 

 
 
 
 
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Part documentary, part ghost story, SÉANCE  blurs the boundary between anthropology and art.

Chapter Excerpts →

 
 
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LILY DALE, NEW YORK

In 2001, I began photographing in Lily Dale, New York, the town which is home to the world’s largest Spiritualist community.  I was drawn there after my cousin received a reading from a medium who revealed a secret about my grandfather’s death that proved to be true.  Since then, I have been deeply curious about how a total stranger could have learned one of my family’s secrets

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TECHNOLOGY

Spiritualists have always employed technology to amplify spirit communication. Trumpets, tables, talking boards, slates, canvases, and cabinets were the initial tools. Today, radios, still cameras, audio recorders, video cameras, and computers are also used in attempts to contact the other side.  This use of modern technology in combination with mediumship is known as Instrumental-Transcommunication, or ‘ITC.’

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ARTHUR FINDLAY COLLEGE

A learning center for the Advancement of Spiritualism and Psychic Sciences in Stansted, England. Housed in Stansted Hall, an estate built in 1871, the property was gifted to the Spiritualists' National Union by its owner J. Arthur Findlay in 1964.  it is often described as a real-life Harry Potter ‘Hogwarts’ for Spiritualists.

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PHYSICAL MEDIUMSHIP

The New Age of Physical Mediumship is a movement within contemporary Spiritualism that has re-introduced Victorian era séance techniques, including the production of ‘ectoplasm.’ Religious ritual meets visionary performance art in these theatrical séances. Sometimes, participants are offered the opportunity to interact with dead celebrities. 

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OBJECTS

A collection of Spiritualist material—old and new—from around the world.

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THE MEDIUM'S CABINET

The medium’s cabinet is a constructed space used in Spiritualist séances since the mid-19th century.  Its main function is to act as an incubator for physical effects, and for the creation of ‘ectoplasm’—Spiritualism’s sacred substance. This controversial device historically links Spiritualist ritual to both stage magic and Native American ceremony.

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ECTOPLASM

A rare look at the contemporary mediums who are presenting 'ectoplasm'—the elusive substance said to be both spiritual and material.

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HISTORICAL IMAGES

SÉANCE will present hundreds of original photographs, as well as historical imagery related to Spiritualism's attempts to capture spirits on film. 

COMING SOON