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Neo-worlds: Transformative Agency through Fright, Rite, and Myth

PhD Candidate Marie Kølbæk Iversen's doctoral project

Academic summary

This practiced-based artistic research project traces the power of rite and of active mythic thinking to resignify modern experiences of fright, from barren and isolating experiences to potential sources of learning and transformation.

It uses my own near-death experience in childbirth as case to explore how ritual action and active mythic thinking might serve to mend the gap instilled by fright between frightened subjects and their surroundings. Similarly, the project investigates how active mythic thinking may equally operate on the levels of society and culture to help generate collective other-becoming beyond modernity’s organisation of humanity and nature.

The critical reflection is carried out in dialogue with: A) contemporary art theory and anthropological theory regarding myth and ritual, as well as liminal and liminoid states of being, and auto-ethnography. B) my own artworks and experiments carried out throughout my years as an artistic research fellow to familiarise myself with methods of active mythic thinking on practical, artistic and embodied-rather than theoretical-levels. C) the works of fellow artists.

The project culminates in the exhibition Rovhistorier | Histories of Predation at O-Overgaden, which focuses on the shapeshifting figure of the mermaid or - man in the dissident mythic heritages of the peri-Atlantic regions, among them the Danish West Coast. Imaginarily appropriating the predatory gazes of the Atlantic grey shark-in Danish: the ‘havkal,’ i.e. merman - and the modern microscope (the latter as a technoscientificcipher), the exhibition performs the human desire to know, and negotiatewith, obliging forces across distant locations in time and space.

Project facts

Project title Neo-worlds: Transformative Agency through Fright, Rite, and Myth
Project manager
Start date
End date
Project status Concluded
Department Academy of Fine Art
  1. Marie Kølbæk Iversen: Neo-worlds: Transformative Agency through Fright, Rite, and Myth (2023). Doctoral dissertation. More information
  2. Marie Kølbæk Iversen, Gaia Fugazza & Diana Policarpo: Water from the Waist Down (2018). Art exhibition. More information
  3. Marie Kølbæk Iversen: Autumn equinox celebration (2017). Art exhibition. More information

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