Language and Magic: An Archaeological Approach to Tania Candiani’s Work


Presentation Title:

  • Language and Magic: An Archaeological Approach to Tania Candiani’s Work




  • Although misconstrued and permanently opposed to scientific means, magic operates inherently in the technological. Tania Candiani’s Organum is an artwork that aims to propitiate
    this magical experience within an artistic enunciation; at the same time, it fosters a discussion on the sonorous dimension of language. Organum shifts between systems and forms of  experience; being an artifact that resembles a musical organ, it offers language as mechanic sound and thus creates a magical experience to speech. It also participates to a broader, historical relationship with musical organs as discursive objects, revealing symbolic relations between today and previous forms of understanding technology

    To some extent, science and magic seem to be strongly related. For Malinowski, science is based on the reliance of men to conquer nature, thus closely akin to magic; in this tenor, contemporary artists who incorporate science/technology in their practices could also become magicians who generate experiences that lift aesthetics over conceptualism when encountering the artwork but, at the same time, address profound contemporary concerns on the integration and assimilation of technology in our society. Organum, by Mexican artist Tania Candiani, is the starting point to propitiate a discussion on various themes such as the relationship between art and technology, the extended aesthetic experience aroused upon that relation, a symbolic connection with previous experiences of technology, and a special consideration on the sonorous dimension of language. This artwork is part of the exhibition “5 Variations of Phonic Circumstances and a Pause”, that will be displayed at the Laboratorio Arte Alameda (LAA) in Mexico City in 2012 (“Cinco Variaciones”, 2012), and its development is the result of an intense dialogue with the exhibition curator Karla Jasso. Tania Candiani, a voracious reader, is an artist who does not adhere herself to a single technique nor a unique way to proceed. Her quests are as diverse as the reality she faces. She aims to generate aesthetically and conceptually readable artworks that confront audiences with magic and amusement (Candiani, 2011). Her work Organum is symptomatic of a particular way of understanding science as a resource to create technology of magical and amazing effects. This idea, however, is nothing new and 17th-century Jesuit scholar Athanasius Kircher is the key to understand this relation. His work allows us to know how mechanical artifacts are understood, especially in relation to music, and the specific concerns on create magical experiences with them.

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