Saturday, 6 August 2011

Museum or Mausoleum – A Pagan at play in King Solomon’s House

Museum or Mausoleum – A Pagan at play in King Solomon’s House

an extract from Mogg Morgan's contribution....unlike other extracts, this one comes form the middle of the chapter, you can decide for yourself (or better still, buy the book when it comes out!) what went before

...Which all made me think about museums and what are they for? I work and study in Oxford, and now and again I lead a tour of its ‘Hermetic’ campus. “Hermetic” in this context means the ancient Pagan doctrine, a synthesis of Babylonian, Greek & Egyptian wisdom. This is often encoded into its neo-classical buildings. Thus the central area around Oxford’s Bodleian Library is said by some to be laid out on Hermetic principles. Here for instance is a bijou science museum designed by Christopher Wren as a house for the magus Elias Ashmole. In the recent renovation the curators unearthed in the basement his original alchemical laboratory and a name for the collection as King Solomon’s House.

Museum or Mausoleum ?

The surrealist Marcel Duchamp felt that museums are where art goes to die. Museums were for him too insular and exclusive as venues for art viewing. For him art was a shamanic activity that should be everywhere, on the street, on the sides of buildings, etc. There is a great affinity between Surrealism, Paganism and magick. But perhaps the beat in the museum is just lacking in that tribal vibe?

But there again for those with a more melancholic disposition, the sepulchral nature of the museum can be very evocative. Kurt Schwitters is hardly a household name but he was an artist/shaman who thought of the museum as “cathedrals of erotic misery”.  He no doubt related to them as the old style “Cabinet of Curiosities”, what he called Wunderkammer, “archives of the time and space”.  In his vision the museum is a “space for mysticism, sexuality and autobiography in the production of art and architecture”. 

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