‘TARANTISM’ (2007)

16 mm film, black and white, silent, 6’31”

Joachim Koester, ‘Tarantism’ (2007). Courtesy Jan Mot, Brussel.

Tarantism is a disease that was supposed to result from the bite of the wolf spider, known as the tarantula. The symptoms are nausea, delirium, and restlessness in the victims. Their bodies are seized by convulsions that previously could only be cured by a sort of frenzied dancing. The ‘dancing-cure’ called the ‘Tarantella’ emerged during the Middle Ages as a local phenomenon in Italy around the city of Galatina and was practiced in the region until the middle of the 20th century. Koester’s interest in tarantism lies in its original promise – a dance of uncontrolled and compulsive movements, spasms and convulsions. He filmed a group of dancers that explore this grey zone of the fringes of the body, creating a film structured around several individually choreographed parts, each defined by a different set of rules.


Joachim Koester has exhibited internationally and is currently based in New York. His conceptually-based work examines the narrative conditions of culture, framing their overt as well as their unexplored aspects. Through photography and video, he skews seemingly mundane situations and landscapes with editing, repetition, and shifts in color. Beautiful images entice the viewer, but upon careful inspection, there is discomfort in the images he creates; a sense of darkness, of social disorder, permeates his work.