An acclaimed psi-researcher and author, Swann participated in over a hundred academic and government-backed research studies, which investigated human psychic powers as a reality – one that modern science systematically trivialized as unfounded or abnormal.
Swann pioneered the skill of “remote viewing,” a psychic ability that allowed one to see physically distant locations, such as the surface of planets. When the CIA discovered the existence of Soviet psi-spies at the height of the Cold War, they turned to Swann and the Stanford Research Institute (SRI) to train a group of military personnel in remote viewing, with the goal of creating their own psychic spies. This project, code named Stargate, ran from 1978 to 1995. During this period, Swann was told that his findings would never be shared with the public, out of the fear that civilians might begin to harness their psychic abilities to dismantle the status-quo. Swann's sense of repression was further compounded by the fact that he was a gay man living within a homophobic culture. Art, however, allowed Swann to freely express both his psychic inclinations and his sexual desires. A Remote View, as a title, references Swann's psychic ability as well as his status as an outsider, remote from the cultural norms of his homophobic and psi-phobic society.
The paintings and collages included in the exhibition – spanning the early 1960s to the late 1990s – illustrate the unique way that Swann viewed the world. After abandoning his dream of commercial success in the late 1950s, Swann continued to paint only what gave him joy: primarily, the energy that he saw radiating from the people around him. Swann saw this energy - chi, aura, force - as uniting all living things to one another. He believed that if people were to harness their extra-sensory perceptions, to see these forces as he could, the world would change for the better. For this reason, this exhibition focuses on works from throughout his life that depict energy radiating from figures in rays, flames, mandalas, and halos. His subjects range from the mythological and ancient to hippies and hustlers. The latter of which, he may have seen outside of his home and studio on the Bowery in Manhattan.