Der Magnetiseur
HD Video
2018
60 minutes, black & white, 24 fps, stereo
Edition 5 + 2 A.P.

This video concerns a carnivalesque self-portrait, as a live-filmed performance of Michael MacGarry playing a 60-minute composition on a digital piano with extended prosthetic arms, whilst seated on a slowly rotating platform, in front of a House of Mirrors set. The title is drawn from Prussian Romantic author E.T.A. Hoffmann’s (1776-1822) short story of the same name (Der Magnetiseur), first published in 1814. The story details the actions of Alban, a physician engaged in the mesmeric hypnosis of a second character named Mary. Hoffmann's short story portrays mesmeric communication not as a healing force – but as a manipulative power, invading and colonising the mind, resulting in terrifying loss of self and ultimately death of the female character, Mary. A recurrent trope in 19th century Romantic literature – somnambulism (or sleepwalking) – was understood at the time to be a condition of women. Contemporary gender studies have largely focused on the role that somnambulism plays in the construction of femininity. Interpretations of literary depictions of male somnambulism from the time however, tend to be determined in two primary ways; as indicative of a feminised male subject or as a metaphor for larger political and social issues. Constructed as Menippean satire, MacGarry’s Der Magnetiseur, presents a narrative focused on the magnetism (hypnosis) of a man by a man (the artist himself). Shame as a function of witnessing in the resulting somnambulism – proposes a marginalised masculinity, one in which the male body is revealed as frail, penetrable, and weak; a corruption in normative gender binaries. Menippean satire is a form characterised by attacking mental attitudes rather than specific individuals or entities, a central tenant being the power of physical images to satirise ideas. Of particular focus is Mikhail Bakhtin's reading of Menippean satire within the carnival sense of the world, and hence the burlesque visual character in MacGarry’s film.