Lenore Malen: The New Society For Universal Harmony
Published by Granary Books/Slought Foundation.
Essays by Nancy Princenthal, Jonathan Ames, Pepe Karmel, Geoffrey O'Brien, Mark Thompson, Jim Long, Susan Canning, and Barbara Tannenbaum.
In The New Society for Universal Harmony, Lenore Malen uses pseudo-documentary photos, video and audio transcriptions, testimonials, case histories, and arcane imagery to archive the functioning of her own reinvention of the utopian society established in Paris in 1793 by the followers of Franz Anton Mesmer known as La société de l'harmonie universelle. Malen's New Society comes out of her long-term installation project and live performances of case histories and treatments performed at the fabricated Society imagined in Athol Springs, New York. The book expands the scope of the project to include original fiction and essays by fellow Harmonites Jonathan Ames, Geoffrey O'Brien. Pepe Karmel, Nancy Princenthal, Irving Sandler, Susan Canning, Barbara Tannenbaum, Jim Long, Mark Thompson, and others, plus a first-person account of Malen's discovery and two-year involvement with the Society. The Treatments offered at the New Society and documented in the book have been adapted from Mesmer's original proscriptions; adding to the book's authority, Malen adopts personas including scientific corroborators, curious journalists and people whose lives have been forever changed by the Society. This work is often light-hearted and humorous, but by Malen's deft and thorough adherence to the actuality of her conceit she turns serious attention to a visible shift in U.S. cultural and political society towards blind discipleship and the seemingly overwhelming need to believe and to belong. The New Society examines our own culture's yearning for the perfect cure; what the Harmonites undergo and report is darkly funny and frequently impossible gesturing at the illusive search for spiritual peace and universal harmony, a search made more desperate in the social, political and ecological climate we live in.