Visit our new undergraduate student exhibit, “Curated Mysticism: Visual Representations of the Cosmos and Consciousness”. The exhibit is located in the alcove outside the Dissertation Office on the 1st floor of Regenstein Library (near ExLibris) through July 31.
“Curated Mysticism” is the first in our pilot undergraduate student exhibit program. The program supports student-curated “mini-exhibits”, focusing on a topic in the humanities or social sciences, highlighting materials found in Regenstein’s collections.
This quarter’s exhibit is curated by Sana Shohail, a 3rd year in The College studying neuroscience and art. She is interested in how sensory diversity, material culture, and memory interact with the development of self-awareness, as well as the underlying therapeutic mechanisms of art. In speaking about the exhibit, Sana notes: “The visually-rich traditions and philosophies explored in this exhibit were all intended to enlighten the mind about ourselves and the world around us. The question remains about how these embodied practices, both deeply visual and physical experiences, reflect specific perceptions and impact our well-being.” Her exhibit abstract describes this is more detail:
Humans have had a long history of interpreting the ‘symbols’ around them, from divining the future through the arrangement of stars in the night sky, to tracing out the lines of luck and life on palms, to predicting future fortunes from a stack of cards. This rich visual tradition of mysticism has trickled down to us today in the form of magazine horoscopes, ‘cootie catchers’ (origami fortune tellers), appropriated evil eyes, and more recently, the outpouring of mandala colouring books. This curated set of books represents an investigation into the visual representation of mysticism and cosmology across cultures. Art, whether in the form of paintings, maps, or talismans, can reveal so much about how a culture understands the world around them and their own place within it. How is a philosophical understanding of the universe echoed in its visual representation?
This question would be repeated throughout this exhibit, which is deliberately broad to bring attention to several different forms of mysticism from various cultures. Can Zen Buddhist ideas about the centre of the cosmos and the individual be found within the visually complex and colourful images of Tibetan mandalas? What is the relationship between the production of endlessly repeated designs and meditation? How is the Sufi understanding of envy and enchantment related to the mystical forms of the evil (or third) eye? What can depictions of constellations in illuminated manuscripts reveal about past beliefs in how the planets’ positions impacted daily life? How is a person’s astrological fate coded into the visual practice of palmistry or tarot card designs? These are the questions I hope students will contemplate in viewing the exhibition materials.