Magic has been traditionally perceived in opposition to the beliefs of Western culture. Its understanding has been shaped around a conceptual field that was meant to define an antithesis to modernity. This was thought to recede and gradually disappear as rationalization and secularization spread through out society. Such an understanding of magic was naturally connected and strengthened by fields of study, such as, anthropology, which has paid an important role in defining the modern man, whose rationality, secularity, and scientifically based values supposedly stood in direct opposition to magic’s spiritual origins. In fact, it was anthropology that has helped to develop a tradition of embedding magic into arguments about difference, thus reinforcing the idea of Western superiority and playing an essential role in the colonial history of the West. Surprising or not, it became the same Western colonial history, which has also applied modes of representation, communication, persuasion, and coercion, although thought of as rational, technical ,and utterly different from the field of magic in fact embodied some of the key attributes of magic taking the first step towards the so-called modernization of the term and the incorporation of magic into the modern and the later transformed contemporary Self.
Once the somewhat reductive categories of witchcraft, ritual, religion, magic or science - if we like, are taken out of their complex competition in defining reality, the realization of an effort to institutionalize cosmologies driven by an obvious power struggle comes to the forefront. Such a power struggle is based on a system of socially established beliefs. This understanding and institutionalization of magic transforms a conceptual field into a practical tool and a possible means of domination, manipulation, or possession. To understand this shift fully, however, we have to understand the ways in which forms of magic’s publicity and secrecy complement or supplement each other and the ways in which the persuasiveness of the symbols we live by thrives on a combination of faith and concealment. An example can be seen in the core of the neo-liberal economy, which is based on the idea of commodity fetishism – one of the multiple fields, has fully adopted the so-called strategies of modern magic. The commodity form and its magic is founded on the basis of commodity representing the social, while concealing the character of the labor, which produces it. Similarly, with the labor economy, the dialectics of publicity and secrecy are based on the process of concealment, where the social relation of producers of objects and objects as such are presented as separate and conceal the concrete character of the product itself. We are faced here with the abstract, may it be represented by the absent body or the concealed nature of a supposedly empowered object.
Magician’s Right Hand brings together works by artists whose practice addresses some of the key attributes of so called modern magic, while manifesting their proximity to the economy of daily life and to the construction of modernity as such. The colonization of the human mind, the economy of desire, the architecture of symbolic capital, and the politics of the intangible body are only some of the examples encoded within a mutually shared contemporary belief system in the ruins of which we find ourselves today.