Date of Submission

Spring 2011

Academic Program



An-My Lê

Abstract/Artist's Statement

I began this project because I was curious. Last year, I was approached on three separate occasions by self-proclaimed psychics. I can see right through you. You have a clear golden aura and I feel obligated to tell you what I see. Separated by distance and time, I knew these people were not in cahoots with one another. Though I still question the authenticity of psychic sight, I have come to appreciate it as an agnostic would God—I am open to the possibility that mind reading, past lives, mediumship, clairvoyance, etc. exist, though I am not certain. Disregarding skepticism or fanaticism, I got to know many people in the community on a personal level. No longer stereotypes, the psychics became human. Representing their individuality—balanced by my own objectivity—motivated this body of work. As the year progressed, I became dissatisfied by the narrow scope of portraiture. The newspapers came out of this restless curiosity. Ranging from 1850-1990, the newspapers show the changes in public opinion towards parapsychic phenomena. In the 1850s, Spiritualism grabbed the attention of many Americans but by the end of the 19th century, belief turned to distrust only to turn back to belief in the 1920s. In times of economic and political distress, people turn to the unexplainable for explanations; when the psychical world fails to solve problems, people turn to the spiritual world, whether through religion or through metaphysical practices. My personal experiences in this community also took on an importance in the work. I inserted myself into the process by undergoing Past Life Regression Hypnosis (two video projections in the show) and through extensive writing (made into a book called “Looking”). This multifaceted approach helped me get closer to an honest truth. Instead of the more theory based project about psychic sight/photographic sight and questions of authenticity for psychics and photographers eschewed the basic humanity represented by our collective urge to believe in something greater than ourselves.

Distribution Options

Access restricted to On-Campus only

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

This work is protected by a Creative Commons license. Any use not permitted under that license is prohibited.

Bard Off-campus Download

Bard College faculty, staff, and students can login from off-campus by clicking on the Off-campus Download button and entering their Bard username and password.