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The Magic Circle

The Magic Circle
The Magic Circle
The Magic Circle
The Magic Circle
The Magic Circle
The Magic Circle
The Magic Circle

Atoosa Pour Hosseini's 'The Magic Circle'
October 20–December 3, 2023
Temple Bar Gallery + Studios
Dublin, Ireland

Influenced by early avant-garde cinema, Atoosa Pour Hosseini fuses illusion with reality through the media of film, video installation, sculpture, and performance. She works with the material textures of 8mm and 16mm film as well as digital processes in moving image to explore layers of space and timelessness. Her combination of these technical devices with rich symbolic archetypes creates a cinematic encounter of memory and perception.

Pour Hosseini’s technique invokes the play of light in nature and its insistent elemental forces of water, fire and air, which have inspired the interior world and psyche throughout human history and spirituality. The solar cycle and reflections on water’s surface are recurring motifs, as well as light phenomena that occur when recording with analogue cameras, such as refraction and lens flare. Her new film installation The Magic Circle takes the crepuscular hours of dusk as its setting, allowing the dissolution of light to reveal the enchanting or ominous possibilities of nighttime. The film’s saturated and dreamlike palette, Olesya Zdorovetska’s unnerving layered vocal score, and Pour Hosseini’s installation of hanging chiffon fabric are lures into a mesmeric landscape, a dreamlike blurring of unconscious experience. 

The Magic Circle portrays a foreboding character wearing veiled garments and a ceremonial headdress, enacting rituals associated with conjuring and magic. The sorceress, played by Yasaman Pishvaei, traces circles in the sand in front of a rolling seascape, and paces around a darkened interior illuminated by candlelight. These meditative actions appear to recreate purifying or protective spells. Pour Hosseini’s mastery of lighting, superimposition and the chemical alchemy of traditional film processing animate the spectral out-of-body apparition of Pishvaei’s character. 

The prevalence of witchcraft, its punishment and expulsion, align with the growth of misogynistic ideologies over many centuries. Prior to this time, priestesses, mediums, herbalists, healers, midwives, and other roles persecuted through the myth of witchcraft, were community members connected to nature and seasonal practices. Pour Hosseini’s The Magic Circle takes as its primary influence the 1886 painting of the same name by Pre-Raphaelite John William Waterhouse. The painting depicts a woman drawing power from a smoking cauldron and using a wand to draw a protective circle around herself. The circle excludes several symbols of evil associated with witchcraft, in a barren desert landscape. The Victorian artistic trope of depicting women as enchantresses, or having the power to deceive or cause harm, paralleled the concurrent Suffragette movement and campaigns for women’s rights. The painting also relies on tropes of Victorian exoticism, which further ‘other’ the subject and put distance between ideas of a magic realm and the increasingly industrialised world of the late 1800s.

Pour Hosseini challenges and repurposes this symbolism and suppressed power through her ‘radical capacity for conjuring a shadow vision of the world from a place of exile’ (1). The final scenes of The Magic Circle show the sorceress tempering flames and observing the endless tidal movement of the sea from the shoreline within a circle of fire. Fire is the most ancient of magics and, along with art-making, one of the earliest forms of human self-discovery. Through its cyclical propensity for destruction and regrowth, a new world may come into being.

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www.templebargallery.com