Believe not every spirit
Installation of Georgiana Houghton: Spirit Drawings, Monash University Museum of Art © MUMA 2015

Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits Exhibition

21 April – 27 June 2015

This major new MUMA exhibition takes as its departure point the work of forgotten British artist and Victorian-era Spiritualist, Georgiana Houghton and brings together a group of international and national artists who explore spaces between the living and the afterlife.

Featuring contemporary and historical painting, sculpture, video and photography that both explore and adopt Spiritualist practices and methodologies, the exhibition reflects on the influential role of the Spiritualist movement in Australian history.

Director of MUMA and catalyst for the exhibition, Charlotte Day, said Georgiana Houghton was a unique amalgamation of artist, Spiritualist and medium – “The fascinating and unexpected story of Houghton has generated international interest from curators and writers who see her work as representing an abandonment of figurative form that anticipates the development of modern abstraction by artists such as Kandinsky or Malevich by several decades”.

Born in the Canary Islands in 1814, Georgiana Houghton became attracted to Spiritualism, and especially to the idea that the spirit survives after the death of the body and can communicate with the living through a human medium, after the death of her younger sister. Becoming a drawing medium in 1861, Houghton created automatic or spirit drawings, while in a trance. Her hand was said to move involuntarily, supposedly channelling ideas from the dead and expressing them in visual forms.

The exhibition was co-curated by Marco Pasi, Associate Professor in History of Hermetic Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam and art historian, independent curator and writer, Lars Bang Larsen. Believe not every spirit is the inaugural exhibition of MUMA’s new biennial program collaborating with international curators.

25 abstract watercolours by Georgina Houghton will feature in Believe not every spirit, alongside work by Yuri Ancarani (IT), Jan Bäcklund (DK), Kathy Barry (NZ), Belle Bassin (AU), Vincent Ceraudo (FR), Mikala Dwyer (AU), Max Ernst (DE), Madame Favre (FR), Chiara Fumai (IT), Diena Georgetti (AU), Madge Gill (UK), Tamar Guimarães (BR) & Kasper Akhøj (DK), Susan Hiller (US), Susan Jacobs (AU), Jess Johnson (NZ), Kristine Kemp (DK), Joachim Koester (DK), David Lamelas (ARG), Dane Mitchell (NZ), Matt Mullican (US), Olivia Plender (UK), Lea Porsager (DK) Laurent Schmid (SU), Georgina Starr (UK) and Dorothea Tanning (US)

The Georgiana Houghton drawings from Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits at MUMA in 2015 travelled to the Courtauld Gallery, London in 2016 for a solo show of the artist.