The Magic of the State

Michael Taussig

Magic of the State – or The Sacred of the State – flows out of the exhibition at Beirut and circulates back in again, like the circulation of sacred power between the state and its subjects, like the play of metaphor and literality, especially nowadays with the global State of Emergency. Picking up on his 1997 book, “The Magic of the State”, Michael Taussig explores these themes with reference to the mystical foundations of authority (eg Hobbes’ 'Leviathan', Benjamin’s 'founding violence', Durkheim’s 'sacred and negative sacred', Bataille’s 'dépense', and Deleuze and Guattari’s 'nomadism and the war machine' - effluents of the penumbra of magical power indispensable to the state, modern or not so modern).

Michael Taussig is an anthropologist known for his provocative ethnographic studies and unconventional style as an academic. He was born in Australia in 1940 where he studied medicine at the University of Sydney. He earned a Ph.D. in sociology at the London School of Economics. He is currently a professor of anthropology at Columbia University in New York. He is most acclaimed for his 'fictocritical' writing which crosses between fiction and social science, art and critique. He is the author of numerous articles and books, including: "Walter Benjamin’s Grave" (2006), "My Cocaine Museum" (2004), "Law in a Lawless Land: Diary of a Limpieza in a Colombian Town" (2003), "Defacement" (1999), "Magic of the State" (1997), "Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses" (1993), "The Nervous System" (1992), "Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Man: A Study in Terror and Healing" (1987), and "The Devil and Commodity Fetishism in South America" (1980). His book on drawings in ethnographic notebooks spurred the thematic interest in notebooks in general of dOCUMENTA (13).

The event is held in the framework of "The Magic of the State", an exhibition and editorial project by Beirut and Lisson Gallery, taking place in Cairo and London in Spring 2013. Each exhibition features a different constellation of works by the same artists, including new commissions, and a public program of performances, talks and screenings.

“The Magic of the State” is a collaboration between Beirut and Lisson Gallery, supported by British Council and Institut Français d'Egypte, in Cairo.

Thanks to the Contemporary Image Collective for their in-kind support.