To navigate, in a genuine way, in the unknown necessitates an attitude of daring, but not one of recklessness (movements generated from the Magical Passes of Carlos Castaneda)

November 12 - January 15 2011

It is a great pleasure for Galleri Nicolai Wallner to present a new 16mm film installation by Joachim Koester. Joachim Koester’s work explores places where fact and fiction, ideas and reality interweave. In the process he discuss how history is constructed through the telling of tales and also the photographic medium is ultimately ambiguous.

In the summer of 1960, the anthropology student Carlos Castaneda was introduced by a friend to an old Yaqui Indian in a Greyhound bus station on the border of Arizona and Mexico. The Indian’s name was don Juan Matus. He was a sorcerer, a brujo, who knew about the preparation and use of peyote, mushrooms and other psychedelic plants, a topic Castaneda was excited to get information about for his research. Their conversation was brief and awkward, but shortly after Castaneda travelled to the desert of Sonora, Mexico to meet don Juan again. Many more visits would follow. Eventually don Juan agreed to take in Castaneda as an apprentice and teach him about medicine plants and the sorcerer’s way.

The story of Castaneda’s remarkable apprenticeship that included several experiences with peyote and the notorious hallucinogenic plant Datura, speaking with lizards and a near fatal meeting with a malicious witch, were later chronicled in his book The Teachings of Don Juan: A Yaqui Way of Knowledge (1968). The book proved to be enormously successful. Not only was it favourably reviewed and widely read, it was also considered a breakthrough in anthropology and Castaneda was later awarded a PhD for his research. As readers all over the world devoured Castaneda’s “field notes”—some even hunted the Sonora desert for don Juan to be taken in as apprentices themselves—Castaneda responded to his newfound fame by following the advice of the old brujo: he veiled his personal history in a web of secrecy.

The Teachings of Don Juan ends by Castaneda giving up his apprenticeship and leaving the world of sorcery behind. Yet over the next two decades he wrote many new titles expanding on his magical journey. These were the extended shamanic instructions on how to see, dream, master non-ordinary reality and ultimately become a woman or man of power taught by the enigmatic and patient don Juan. The tales were captivating, terrifying and occasionally beautiful. Just as often they were incomprehensible and tedious featuring a perpetually hardheaded Castaneda struggling to understand the sorcerers world.

Castaneda revealed the final lesson of don Juan in his book Magical Passes. It was a secret set of exercises deployed for “navigating the dark sea of awareness.” According to don Juan, sorcerers had practiced these movements for centuries in order to enhance their perception of non-ordinary reality. Curiously, also in the book, don Juan speaks for the

first time about his mentor, a sorcerer and mime named Julian Osorio living in Mexico at the beginning of the 19th century. Julian Osorio was a professional actor who would pour all his efforts into creating what he named “the shamanistic theatre.” Don Juan recalls: “every movement of his characters was imbued to the gills with the magical passes. Not only that, but he turned the theatre into a new avenue for teaching them.”

The Magical Passes was published in 1998 the same year that Carlos Castaneda died. By then the contradictions and inconsistencies in his life and books had become so pronounced that few believed don Juan ever existed. Castaneda always claimed that the magical world found him by chance—at that encounter in the Greyhound bus station—but his wife, Margaret Runyan, writes in her memoir that at the time magic was already his obsession. Despite that, or maybe because of it, Castaneda’s fictitious apprenticeship and his transformation into a mystic master were in fact magical.

Joachim Koester

At 18.00 we will host a performance by Morten Søkilde.

Joachim Koester has shown extensively at galleries and museums in Europe, USA, and Asia including MCA (Chicago), Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven), Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris (Paris), PS1 (New York), Moderna Museet (Stockholm), Palais de Tokyo (Paris), and Louisiana (Humlebæk). His work has been exhibited at the Kwangju Biennale, Documenta Kassel, and the Venice Biennale. Koester is permanently represented in various public collections amongst others Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Museum of Modern Art (New York), S.M.A.K (Ghent), The National Gallery of Denmark (Copenhagen), and Moderna Museet (Stockholm).