The Alchemical Cabinet of Desires, 2017, installation, MNAC (National Museum of Contemporary Art), Lisbon
The alchemical cabinet of desires, is an art project inspired by the ancient tradition of alchemy and dreams. Both were interpreted as processes that facilitate spiritual transformation and the profound integration of the body and the soul. The project was inspired by my own personal journey with dreams and spiritual journey, and research around alchemy, as investigated by psychoanalyst Carl Jung.
The project is the result of a 2 year investigation. In it I was able to weave my investigations of the inner world, with art practice. This led me to developed a very personal method of spiritual practice which included a dream diary using collage, drawing as meditation and bibliographic research.
Its final result includes an alchemical cabinet, a dream diary, a collage dream-journal and drawing-herbarium, inspired by my dreams done through mixed media (collage, herbarium and drawing), an an interview with a non binary friend, Arian Bloodwood, about intimate community, and a series of 36 drawings illustrating the 10 phases of alchemical transformation.
During the 40ties and then throughout his life, Carl Jung researched alchemical treatises, particularly the Rosarium Philosophorum, written in 1550. In various of his books, Jung described how alchemy’s investigation on how to transform stone into gold ( lapis philosophorum, or the philosophers stone) should be interpreted not only as a physical quest ( which originated chemistry, as we know it today) but also as a process for profound spiritual transformation.
For Jung, alchemy was thus, a symbolical process for profound spiritual transformation, with the aim to deepen consciousness, expanding it to new levels, and with the aim to integrate the soul in the body.
The final result of the alchemical process, was the origination of new being, non binary, which integrated in itself the two primordial energies: male and female. The process, not easy, but very rewarding, was called by Carl Jung, individuation. That was, the final goal of the alchemical process, where the philosopher's stone, if understood symbolically, meant reaching the center of the star ( desire stems from " reaching for the stars), ie, the inner gold.
To arrive to that final stage, it was necessary to go through various phases. Jung delineates those phases, organising them in 10 phases, in his book “Psychology of Transference” (1954) . He also mentioned how the process tended to last 9 months, and how sometimes, before the process, it was usual the occurrence of premonitory dreams, anticipating in a non linear way and through symbolical language, the birth of that integrated new being.
Jung described ten phases, which were the ones I adopted to structure the project:
The mercurial fountain (it describes the elements that enable the alchemical transformation)
The king and queen ( symbolising all kinds of opposites: male and female, dark and light, pain and pleasure, sun and moon)
The naked truth (the taking of the masks and the courage)
The immersion in the bath ( the beginning of the bath in the alchemical vase, filled with mercury. That immersion means the descent into the unconscious, for its subsequent acknowledgement)
The conjunction/connunctio ( The integration of opposites through intercourse. The process is not easy and it is seen as transgressive).
Death/Nigredo (the intercourse originates the death of the body of the two separate being… this means, symbolically, the dissolution of the ego. The death originates the “nigredo” phase, which means darkness. The “nigredo” is similar to the dark night of the sould, as described by the Spanish mystic Saint John of the Cross (1542-1591).
The ascent of the soul (the old body dies, and the should abandons it, The body begins a process of fermentation).
Albedo/The purification of the soul (a new body begins to emerges, from the merging of the former 2. A process of purification, entitled albedo/whitening, begins. A comfort with paradoxes emerges).
The return of the soul (the soul returns).
The new birth (a new being, non binary, is born).
Overall "the alchemical cabinet of desires" is also part of my investigation towards a more soulful art.