Anton Haakman: The Subterranean World of Athanasius Kircher

lecture and screening of a documentary film

For the festival, Anton Haakman held a lecture about Athanasius Kircher, including the screening of the TV documentary The Subterranean world of Athanasius Kircher from VHS tape.

"A documentary about seventeenth-century Athanasius Kircher (1601-1680), a visionary who studied nearly everything, and interconnected everything to boot. He designed an eavesdropping device for the Pope, read magical records, but became particularly famous by deciphering the hieroglyphics. Apart from engravings from his books, the film shows two German spokesmen of the International Athanasius Kircher Scientific Society who travel to Rome in Kircher's footsteps. Verhoeff establishes that the journey leads to the subterranean world."

Length: 56 min, Production: Netherlands VPRO, 1974, Directors: Pieter Verhoeff and Anton Haakman
Camera: Mat van Hensbergen, Sound: René van der Berg, Editor: Jacques Verheul

About Athansasius Kircher:

"Following a two-year visit to Sicily, where he witnessed the March 1638 eruptions of Aetna and Stromboli, Kircher became increasingly fascinated with geological and meteorological phenomena. Upon his return to Naples, he had himself lowered into the active crater of Vesuvius to make firsthand observations. From his investigations and research, Kircher concluded that continually circulating channels of fire (for which volcanoes act as occasionally emerging safety valves) and water honeycombed the Earth's interior, and that these, in conjunction with the wind, were responsible for all weather and geological events. These ideas formed the thesis of Kircher's most popularly successful and renowned book, Mundus Subterraneus. While primarily a geological textbook, this massive and copiously illustrated volume connected discussions of gravity, the Moon, the Sun, eclipses, ocean currents, hydraulics, saline analyses, fossils & petrifaction, remains of giants, subterranean beasts and demons, poisons, metallurgy, the Universal Seed, the generation of insects, astrological medicine and fireworks, as well as a lengthy attack on the alchemy of Paracelsus, which Kircher disdains in favor of chymiotechnicus, or 'true chemistry.' While considering the Philosopher's stone 'mystic and fictitious,' Kircher himself claimed to have performed palingenisis, resuscitating a plant from its ashes and displaying the results in the Museo Kircheriano until cold weather shattered its glass display vessel."

from: The Museum of Jurassic Technology

Anton Haakman is a Dutch writer, filmmaker, film critic and translator of mostly Italian literature. He lives in Amsterdam. He was the editor (1981 - 1992) of the Dutch literature journal De Revisor. In his essays, stories and novels appear often filmmakers, writers or inventors, alchemists, or ilusionists. Furthermore, Haakman's texts explore the themes of labyrinths, travel, mirror or doppelgangers. Among his books are: 'Achter de spiegel' (1977; essays), 'Helse machines' (1990; short stories), 'De onderaardse wereld van Athanasius Kircher' (1991; novel), 'Het paradijs'(1993; 'gothic novel') and 'Het filiaal' (1999; novel).