HAKIM BEY IS MY HERO-MOVING BEYOND ART EXHIBITIONS INTO THE INSPIRATION ZONE

I was going to write a blog today on the plagiarism that is so rife within all parts of the creative world, but as I am teetering on the edge of that madness specific to participating an art exhibition, I thought that I would focus on that instead.
A continuous stream of consciousness babbling about where I’m at will be a relief and a pressure diffuser from the fraught undertaking of publicly displaying one’s art, and it may even give you an insight into why I continue to embark on such madnesses.

I’ve organised many exhibitions and events in my life of not just my own art but also work of other artists from a wide range of creative mediums, from film and music to performance and spoken word, and also of course, paintings and sculpture.

Every time, EVERY TIME, as I’m packing up at the end of the event and I realise my stress levels have been stratospheric and not once have I managed to have an in-depth conversation with someone as I’m invariably multi tasking, problem solving and disaster diffusing (do not light your cigarette by that gravestone, the fire poi performer has left 20 litres of paraffin there/I understand you can’t perform in front of the large audience that have come to see you because of anxiety issues, but please just breathe deep and give it a go/I know it will be incredibly effective hanging yourself from the apex of the building whilst you perform with flaming torches, and it will be especially interesting as you’ve never done something like that before, but my insurance won’t cover that/is there any way we can prevent the local homeless from shitting on the gallery doorstep at the start of every day, just before we open up?).

Exhibiting my own work is a nightmare in itself as the pieces are fragile and difficult to transport and invariably I have very little money to make the journey easier.
Like many artists I’ve been in the position at the end of an exhibition when I’m unable to transport all my pieces home as carrying them on a bus or a train is not a viable option (although I have undertaken long journeys on public transport carrying a large horse’s skull, stuffed dead crows, and spirit houses with monkey skulls sitting resplendent on the top), so in multi artist exhibitions there is invariably an end of show maniacal off loading and swapping of work.

Someone recently asked me why I still involve myself in such things, especially as they have heard me say so many times over the years ‘never again’. Well aside from my streamlining things over time so they are less complicated and less chaotic, one needs to exhibit work in order to sell it. Images can never fully convey presence.
Also it is amazing and exhilarating working with an area of space and placing your art in it to different effect.

My attitude towards exhibiting work has never been about product placement and sales, but centred around the more old fashioned concept of creating a happening, and trying to involve as many people as possible in the moment of magic.
I guess with that sort of attitude it isn’t surprising that I get stressed.

Craving the stimulation that occurs when you get a group of creatives together in an interesting venue then adding music and smoke machines and various other dramatic effects into the tension that inevitably occurs when artists put their soul on display, invariably leads to friction.
However from that friction comes stimulus, change and inspiration, and that is what it is all about, because for an artist, inspiration is everything.

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The Static

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A few years ago I was involved with a man who worked within the computing world and we used to swap notes on our respective realities. I built up a folder of newspaper articles, WhatsApp exchanges and crazy texts which I interwove with my more imaginative reconstructions.
It was a very reactive relationship that grew crazier and crazier until it naturally and very messily imploded.

It started with the packets, the flying packets of information.
Somehow they held an innate knowledge that they needed to evolve in order to survive.
They began to group, and then to swarm.
They were invisible but they made a sound, a ‘whoosh’.

She sat with her back to the soot smeared curved brick walls of the underground lower tunnels. Next to her, in a basket, her small dog slept, curled up on a blanket underneath of which was hidden her mobile phone.
The underground was avoided by the packets, but she never took that for granted, so the dog was an extra precaution.
Dogs’ violent and noisy aversion to the packets was strange but useful, although no one had seemed to connect this with the rapid recent decline of the canine species in the upper world.

The tunnel illuminated as a train passed through one of the upper areas and as it lit up she saw thick black pylon-like lines weaving through the space; invisible to most human beings, these lines were electrical memory remnants that had grown in power as the war raged between the old gods and the new.

Enemies of the packets, the under levels were where the electrical shells sheltered, where memory of every billboard and electrical transmission lived; a place where it was permanent night, brick and concrete covered in graffiti with a constant background buzz of sound, a world where packets couldn’t enter.

The past lives in this place too, memories and the shells of the dead that can’t let go of this world; the rubbish dump of mortality.
When she was younger and used to see these shapes and lines they frightened her, now they represented safety.
She had seen vlogs of people who either through natural physiology or genetic modification due to willing saturation within the world of packets, were also able to ‘see’.
She had attempted to communicate with them on occasion, but their respective languages had become so different, and they were often like some walking crazy camouflage that blew her synapses to hell and she needed days sheltering in the lower realms to recover from.

Intimate awareness of these packets was initially only possessed by those who worked on the initial phases of their creation,a process which forever changed these early stage techs. Overuse of alcohol and drugs would give them something to cling to, a memory of their actual self and initially an ability to switch off from the constant whooshing of the packets movement.
When these people moved between the upper world and the lower regions they became carriers, a host, something that provided fuel and impetus to the packets. These carriers would move between the subway, the subterranean world and the upper world, between the world of the old gods and the new gods and the human became an intermediary – the cursed walkers of the waste land.
They would cross these spaces and each time their humanness would dilute a little further. Despite the alcohol, the drugs, the headphones and the constant fugue of cigarette smoke, they are always accompanied by a constant background static as they struggle to separate the morass of the emerging gods from their own splintered selves.
Their memories were patterns, their dreams a sequence and any images they perceived were akin to television static. They would become more and more isolated as they transformed to a shadow host for a self replicating virus.
These carriers would look in a mirror, see who they were, turn away and that person, that realisation would become a memory and that memory was more fuel for the packets and yet again they become complicit in the rise of the new and most hungry race of gods yet.

She lit a cigarette. Smoking helped. She had tried to stop once and was so inundated by colours and shapes that she was nearly hit by a car. She wondered if cigarettes repelled the colours and the packets because they were toxic, and neither were interested in the decaying and the dying- only the memories and the living.

She could chart her life with her responses to the colours. Music created them and sometimes when people moved they had a follow through of curves of light.
Anger and danger seeped red, and that warning had saved her on many occasions.
The thick black lines had confused her when she first encountered them as she wasn’t sure if they were actual or not as they appeared to be so solid. They were originally a rare and a frightening barrier- now they were an essential survival technique.

Childhood was a comfortable time with this language of her personal reality as she immersed herself in this world to the point that she had no desire to leave it, although her parents had railed and ranted at her.
Puberty necessitated full focus on mastering the so called common language of mainstream humanity and a pushing away of her own world- and that required drugs and a surface skimming life that near killed her.

Eventually she found a way of straddling both worlds, both realities, and forging a bridge of sorts that could communicate between the two. Then, with the rise of internet communication, another reality was forged- a reality that constantly evolved and needed continuous feeding.

The colours of sound and movement were curved, electricity was thick, black and linear and packets pulsed angular then amorphous.

She nodded greeting as she was approached by a figure pushing a shopping trolly filled with electronic equipment, with a mastiff perched on top of the pile. ‘Another vlog screening soon,’ the figure muttered as he passed, ‘coming?’ She grunted affirmation as she stubbed out her cigarette.

The lower levels were becoming more populated as personal details and identities were more and more frequently lost in the system, bank accounts rendered void, mortgages revoked and nonsensical legal proceedings were launched at the innocent and ignorant.

Initially people had accepted the mistakes in the system as simple error. Personal details lost, constant problems with online communication systems, sat nav systems that prolonged and confused even the most simple journeys and steadily growing stress trying to cope with the complications of doing the most simple task, became the norm.
Despite all of this people relied more and more upon the online systems, at the same time as becoming more angry, neurotic and violent. Medication to cope with all of this became a necessity and pharmaceutical companies actually aligned with internet surveillance systems and consumer spyware to designate the most effective emotional suppressants to treat people, then would slip these prescriptions into individuals files.

People adjusted to living within this reality and accepting everything it offered, even when the offers were tainted and counter intuitive.
Divisions have always occurred within societies but the one caused by cyber-tech were different. Rage, impotence and frustration were embedded into the sheep like persona of the majority of society; madnesses simmering under the seemingly blind and controlled submission.
It became less and less obvious where true power lay and how its structure was balanced.

Gradually weather and light became redundant- no one saw or felt them-humanity was trapped in the relationship with their screens, their instructed realities and their blinkers. Sunlight was simply a way of generating energy. There was no longer any structuring into day/night or divisions of; it became irrelevant.
The natural environment became alien and dangerous, and awareness of it faded.
Human beings developed an over reliance that was near religious on cyber reality and everything that had previously provided structure and routine faded in importance.
Without this structure, any structure, human nature became more and more volatile.

She cast her eyes down the tunnel, myriad lights indicating its multiple habitations.

Alzheimer sufferers and the senile started heading towards the lower realms a year or so ago.
At first it was just a scattering of them but gradually, the numbers grew. In the upper realm, their behaviour was jagged, erratic and often violent,but as they were pulled by some instinct into the lower train line tunnels, their behaviour became calmer.
They would shuffle mindlessly to a large deep chamber where they would lie down and gradually dissolve into a soft light that reformed into crystals on the roofs and walls of these places.
Sometimes she and others would sit in the entrance to these places and watch the slow fading away and reforming of life.

She had wondered if this rise in mental disintegration was due to the older members of the population not tuning into the online world, and this lack of participation in humanity’s ever growing controlled hive mind, meant the outsiders were punished.

Paranoia and crazy theories were now so often an insight that it was difficult to establish what ideas perhaps had some validity. She had read once that the rise in Alzheimer’s and related mental deterioration was due to exposure to magnetite in air pollution, and she knew that magnetite was used in electronic circuits and had even touted at one stage as something to dramatically speed up internet connectivity, so she was sure that there was some link, but as with many things, just couldn’t quite grasp what it was.

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Worshipping at the Altar of Tomorrow.

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Transcript of Talk given at ‘Rewriting the Future’ for ‘Psychoanalysis, Art and the Occult’, Merano, Italy. 2019

Spiritual Evolution; For the Masses or for the Few?

Much as we would like to deny or ignore it,the behaviour of human beings as a mass tends to operate within repetitive patterns and loops.
Just as the history of humanity can be seen to work within recurring cycles of behaviour, the practice of the esoteric over the centuries is dictated by the way that man operates within context of these patterns, either as a passive acceptor of the status quo or as an initiator of change.

The magician is a being who relates to the world of ‘other’ and changes their mundane actions in recognition of this relationship. Observing the workings of the earthly realm and relating them to our emotional and intellectual selves is part of our personal survival, and relating these things to our spiritual practise is a necessity of a deeper progression. Only those who are spiritually ill, or who are part of a race doomed to extinction, do not allow themselves to see the interaction of the worlds without and the worlds within.

Both the human survival instinct and their innate desire to strive and progress dictates that spirituality looks outward. I’m not talking about syncretism although of course is relevant here, I’m talking about progress on the evolutionary level.

Historically this is not the first time to have such enormous, global turmoil and scientific and technological advancement, however I would say that the closest past parallel to this era would be the late 19th to early 20th century.

Then, the exponential progress in rational thought was counterbalanced, as human beings naturally and instinctively do, with a surge forward in educated, creative occultism and an interest in various types of alternative spiritual explorations.
However the climate of that era necessitated that various approaches towards magical spirituality were something that was kept very much silent.
Partially this was because magical and esoteric studies teaches silence as part of their basic tenets, but also because anything that steps outside the mainstream has always been considered a threat to the establishment and when the masses turn, the weird or wyrd minority become the scapegoats.

Homosexuals,pacifists, bolsheviks, freaks, witches (to name just a few) have all been targeted throughout the ages, and especially so in the 20th Century. Thus, keeping ones views to yourself was not just part of an arcane tradition but also a method of survival.

It is also well worth bearing in mind that this necessary silence, can heighten the glamour, creating an aura of being elite, elevated and superior in some way.

So now, in the 21st Century, all of these rules of spiritual behaviour have changed, although the behaviour of the humanity as a whole, seemingly has not. The world is a crazy and crazed place and once again technology and the rational plunges forward and its time old counterbalance, magic and paganism, is running strongly beside it; two sides of the same coin whose shared goal is to be ‘more than’.

What has also changed are the views about what constitutes a target, an outsider and a scapegoat.

There has, ostensibly, been an upheaval in attitudes towards race, gender and belief systems- the narrow minded are now pilloried and targeted and brought to task with the same vigorous aggression that those who lived on the fringes once were.
This time around, with the aid of social networking, magic has gone mainstream; it is talked about loudly and proudly brandished as a banner of power, and a way to bestow status.

Fashion conglomerates use tarot as part of advertising campaigns, television programmes adopt figureheads of Satanic groups within their shows, and etsy stocks supplies for every type of modern magical practice with sales for tarot cards being the highest in 50 years and increasing all the time.

Now magic has always of course, been about power.

On a base level this power has been over illness, enemies, financial impoverishment and love and on a higher level, power over the elements and human nature.To the onlooker this working with power, depending on the perspective, appears either amoral and horrifying, or glamorous mysterious stimulating and enticing.

Now power is a huge draw card for all human beings, especially if one feels a lack of it, but it is also necessarily attractive to the corporate world, as power and money are the gods and the goals of these structures, so its natural that magic hold an attraction to many operators within business environs, even if it is due to its ‘gloss’ and potential for spin, rather than its actuality.

I’ve seen surges of popularity in magickal expression and practice many times over the years,but never one that feels quite like the present magical revival…probably because previous movements haven’t had the benefit of social networking to push things into the focus of the publics vision.

There is a term called the Diffusion of innovation S Curve where a trend can be pushed to become a norm by the power of ‘influencers’ people with enough charisma and power to create changes in perception on a wide scale. William Gibson had a term …’cool hunter’ …for people who hunt down influencers that will work for them in the corporate world.
I recently did an article talking about the esoteric and magical as applied to contemporary fashion and the research for this was fascinating when analysed using the lens of the ‘Diffusion of Innovation Curve’.

Of course part of magic’s appeal is that it is replete with stimulating, evocative and very strong and inspirational imagery that lends itself beautifully to creative projects, but then most established and long standing religions also have such imagery; however unlike most standardised belief systems magick has long has been epitomised by the Uber cool and the iconic, people who generate waves that disturb the norm.
Generally these bright beings have remained on the fringes, or have been so obscure or niche as an original reference point, that although the effect of their stimulus is widely recognised the esoteric source isn’t.
Icons such as Jack Parsons, Marjorie Cameron, William Burroughs, Anita Pallenberg, Gen P Orridge, Auston Osman Spare, Kenneth Anger, Crowley..all were or are very very cool beings who acted as a radar and inspiration to others who wanted to emulate, imitate and learn.

Although these people and their trappings hit the limelight many many times they faded again..until the power of social networking provided the impetus for them to become mainstream and in more recent trends, even adopted by Corporations as prime advertising fodder…one example being a campaign using Kenneth Anger advertising for Gucci…

Okay counter culture practices becoming the norm has been done many times before- ask anyone who used to keep their tattoos and piercings, things some considered to be markings of their persona, place in society and life choices, hidden and now find that every C list star and their grandmother has tattoos piercings and a bit of BDSM gear in their closet.

Now one particular thing about this S curve of innovation is its after effect. When the point is reached of critical mass, and the once obscure, becomes accepted by the mainstream…

As I said earlier Magical practice has assumed a fashionable status before, just never to this extent. Many such as myself are watching the rise of this phenomenon, some rather dryly, others perhaps trying to make a little money, sell a few more books or gain some extra notoriety whilst the esoteric star is high on the horizon, most of them thinking this too will pass.
I see television series, movies, fashion shows, fitness witches and stage shows referencing the esoteric groove and though I still tend to think it will fade somewhat, I believe it is possible, this time around, that a magickal praxis will become an accepted approach.
In many ways this isnt a bad thing, and could even be a positive one if it indicates a move away from established corporate religion although of course there is a possibility pagan spirituality and magical practice could itself become a corporate run belief system.

I also believe that as there is a presently a huge rise in change of attitudes towards materialism, there will need to be a change in attitude towards magical iconography…. a detachment from object orientated spirituality. Seeing Austin Osman Spares work for instance being used on 3ooo pound handbags made me realise that proprietorial feelings one may Have towards affiliated spiritual iconography is something that will need to be discarded in order to progress. The time for the material to represent the spiritual with accompanying territorial instincts needs to be made redundant otherwise ideas of ownership will come into the picture and pagans will be protesting and picketing with catholics outside movie theatres and Madonna concerts. I thought carefully around this one as I create objects that can have spirits or god forms embedded into them, and I also come from a country where colonialists stole many spiritually imbued objects, and in doing so also undermined the fabric of the aboriginal existence, but whilst Gods and spirits can be embedded in objects they cannot be owned…they can be worked with, used to inspire and to focus, but not owned. If we do align our spirituality so completely with an object, then we treat them as human beings have always treated the material…we will see our gods die along with part of ourselves.

To Know to Will to dare to be silent could be also considered to be old hat and another outdated approach, though there is no denying that there is a level of necessary silence implicit in practice…Of course there are many levels of practice in every belief system,and even long established widely accepted beliefs such as Buddhism have a higher level, relatively arcane, esoteric and secret aspect.

One thing that is interesting about all of this isn’t simply the ostensible growth in belief of pagan and magical theologies, but the huge amounts of individuals striving to master and interpret various esoteric systems.
Many cultures believe in magic, but often rely on a priest specific to their system and what I see at the moment is the rise of individual rather than group empowerment via a magickal approach. Of course modern society (western and increasingly eastern)is all about the nuclear family, non Confucian ideals and a steadily growing cult of isolation, with its banner head bedroom dwellers creating a new type of neurosis specific to this era (though admittedly there have always been outsider solitary magicians hidden away amongst their books in dusty rooms, its a pretty archetypical image) although there is now a degree of connectivity of the various isolationist magickal alter egos online, and group workings do occur via this medium …such as the Trump workings for examples.

I’m a great believer in the power of the group to get things done magically but I must admit I haven’t seen positive results to these global workings and I wonder why- because definitions of magic have become so fluid and murky perhaps and there are is no clarity of working perimeters, because there are so many individual personas and no ability to properly join forces and channel power, or because their is simply no real core knowledge about what magic is all about?

Now human beings are pack animals, and our natural instinct is to follow the herd and in the instance of widely consumed media imagery the use of magickal and pagan approaches in expensive glossy spin, utilises the thought of ‘only the few’ generally this few being those with huge amounts of money, but this approach has filtered down on the wide scale and many of those who are buying into the process are doing it on a budget and rather than flag flying for a film franchise or a fashion house it is being used as an individually loud expression of ‘other’…which is intriguing in that it is being obedient to online manipulations but also subversive in the way that information is practically interpreted.

Esoteric studies, paganism and magickal practice have always been fluid things based on the land and the culture. If you work with the spirits with the land and place, and the land changes of course you must adapt. All of these approaches have cherry picked techniques that worked for them from experience, observation and often from other cultures, and with information becoming more accessible the stimulus for change has snowballed and I’m really not sure if practitioners have adapted on a deep level to all of this.

Accepted concepts of gender polarity and sexuality have changed immeasurably, the land and the sea have changed, our ancestors are still there but the values they communicate may well not be applicable, computers are the new altars and rituals that use golden toads will not work if the toad is extinct….however every man woman and being is still a star and still has a shining trajectory.

I believe that a grass roots re-evaluation is necessary starting with a definition of contemporary magickal spirituality and contemporary magickal practice …and that definition need to acknowledge technology and trends and either integrate or separate itself from them…if needs be we can slam that definition to pieces once we’ve made it, but in every beginning there is a word and that word needs to encapsulate …magick is change and magick is progression and magick works…and whilst it may well be on the way to being mainstream at this moment I’ll tell you a secret..magick may become a process believed in by many and it would be a great thing if it was but practice of it isn’t for everyone and never will be, because magick can also painful, challenging and dangerous; under the glamour lies a process of insight and reevaluation, dissembling and reassembling that few choose to undertake; Israel Regardie said that anyone who is serious about undertaking a magickal path should also simultaneously undertake some form of psychotherapy, and though personally I’m a slam myself against the same brick wall a few times type of slow learner, I’d tend to agree.
What I do believe though, is when the mass of humanity are as willing to perform Chod as to buy a Austin Osman Spare emblazoned handbag, the world will be a better place; I’m not denying the fun and self empowerment of magickal spirituality or advocating some Christian process of emotional self flagellation I’m just saying simply that until people are willing to go deeper, the magickal path will remain something that only a few will commit to.

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The Dancing Serpents of Magick and Art

1976A4F6-9570-490B-901E-4A9675B5318CThe Dancing Serpents of Magick and Art

I believe we are all born both witch and artist.

Of course the degree in which these things are inherent varies. Environment, social structure and life experience all invariably affect the development and expression of both our witch and our creative selves.
I remember reading the Bardo for someone once and being intrigued about the innate practicality in its guidance about incarnation; choosing a climate and a culture where spiritual development is possible to the greatest degree, somewhere for instance where cold and illness and poverty don’t distract from spiritual progression.
Magick,although a practical form of spirituality is a little different, as our magickal skills are often honed by difficulties, trauma, hunger and need.
The uncomfortable things are often what enhance our commitment and ability.

The isolated and unhappy child is more inclined to nurture their witch self than the happy and outgoing one and the hungry and the abused person will have the power of ‘need’ to act like added rocket fuel to their incantations and spell work.
So I was an unhappy and isolated child who always believed in magic. I liked books and words because they were gateways, and though creative I wasn’t particularly artistic, partially because I was told I wasn’t and out of fear, I tended to listen and adhere to what I was told.
However as I was raised within a rigidly Catholic environment my strange spirituality was able to slip through the gaps. And as I was often alone I could make my fairy houses when I played outside and read the stories and myths that made more sense to me than the bible tales that seemed more about human beings behaviour than the behaviour of ‘other’, of spirits and elementals and creatures of myth.

Church going was a different matter as I never consciously believed which is perhaps rather precocious for a child but I didn’t. Sin and good and evil didn’t fit into my world view and the Catholic God didn’t represent any reality that I could relate to, although the highly gilded and ritualised mass with its structure and splendour and group synchronised behaviour had a sort of logic.
I actually integrated part of this into a childhood game I played with my sister called ‘worship’ which perhaps says a lot about why I didnt tend to have friends as a kid!
Anyway, when I was seven I was given a book voucher which I used to buy a subscription to Man Myth and Magick and it was like coming home; a place I’d previously thought existed only in my reality and then discovered had a literal history and an active present.
From that point, in exponential stages I made commitments to my magickal path, although for a long time it was according to the rules of others be they Dion Fortune, Aleister Crowley or other stalwarts of the era.

The animism was always there, the acknowledgement of nature and every aspect of reality being infused with ‘life’ but initially I couldn’t find reference points, so by the time I was 15 when I decided to start making, I was following my inner witch and the dictates of the spirit of the bones I was working with to not simply create or channel a spiritually fulfilled object, but also to start realising my own magickal potentialities.
I won’t deny that working with bones and remnants of the dead and found objects was very much part of the drug using, traveller type society that I moved within but for me it was different and went beyond my countercultural groups artistic expression.

I did work like this whilst I lived in New Zealand but when I left and started living in cities and became thoroughly enmeshed in my addictions this creativity faded and though I continued with my magickal practice of rituals, palmistry ,spell-craft and such like, somehow it wasn’t a ‘living practice. It’s as if the art, the crafting was an element that was an alchemical catalyst of sorts
Aged thirty I returned to my bones, my fetishes and my sculptures. I cleaned up from drugs and started living in a relatively stable environment in England, in Somerset.
I travelled a lot and read a lot and started seeing parallels with my art within other cultures. I would go into the ethnography section of museums and look not at the objects but at the arrangement of components, and I’d relate to construction and purpose, and most importantly to their ‘feel’
I always knew that bones had a natural life force but over time I realised that they also actually contained memory; memory of experiences and underlying that, memory of the species.
A human skull being used in rituals is yes, symbolic, but it is also a gateway that takes us beyond the human individual experience to something deeper – a unified magickal consciousness and a primal essence.
Animal bones and parts are the same although domesticated animals are often muddied with their human association and discarded objects hold shadows of the past as seen through the lense of our own influences and experiences.

At one stage I was fascinated by glass. I’d worked in rituals with old glass floats or witch balls, and I loved the idea that glass was a liquid, so would both capture and release memories and emotions more easily. I started a series of ritualised art works using broken car window glass from car accidents and the 2011 (I think that date is right) riots in London. I worked on releasing the raw emotions captured in the glass, integrating it with objects from nature, and transforming it.
Powerful and at times tricky but very beautiful and rewarding work.

Insecurity about my creative process meant that outside my own exploratory magickal work I focused on different sorts of transformative expression- sure I’d make my own charms and fetishes and do experimental private work but outside of that I focused on organising magickal art events of the work of others.
I used a Hakim Bey type understanding of creating an energetic space, woven together with magick and active magickal expression in art and around that time that I slowly, slowly started to realise how entwined magick and art, when dancing together as they should, was a huge source of power.
With this in mind I intensified my focus research and experimentation on this twinning.

One thing that has long been a mainstay of my practice was the use of crazing or camouflage techniques. Many years ago I used to paint a friend’s army vehicles in camouflage colours and the process intrigued me. It seemed so magickal, making the invisible visible and the seen become unseen, so I integrated it into my practice and used its premise as a base for many of my pieces.
About 20 years later I discovered an newspaper article about Austin Osman Spare’s writing on the power of camouflage which he submitted to the war office in WW2 as it something he thought was vital to the war effort because of its ability to deceive and confuse, which I found both fascinating and validating.

I also found automatic writing conceptually intriguing but limited,as the written language is a learned construct, even when the conscious mind is switched off and seemed to me to deviate from the true potentiality of the process.
Working with words can so easily feel restrained, restrained by so many things such as by education,linguistic ability and cultural expression so I embarked upon a series of experiments working with clay, automatically channelling into it and allying it with various magickal workings.
I was focused on working with Lilith at that time and I would flow with those workings, into the clay, then embellish those pieces with various bones and dead animal remnants. One particular piece I started feeding with blood and I ended up in a helluva mess with that, and spent a long time both sorting it out and trying to reference what I had done when my head was switched off so to speak. I eventually found reference in African tradition to something called a Baku…spirits and god forms fixed into a fetish that fed with blood, with life force, grew in power…like a magickal child that grew up to be an unruly magickal teenager…not something that can be banished but rather needs to integrated into ones life and of course, worked with differently.

Probably the greatest sources of reference for what I do has been from South East Asian, Naga and Bengali Folk animist fetishes, all of which I started reading about many years ago partially because I loved the aesthetics of it, but mainly because they made sense to me.
Francis Huxley in his book ‘Affable Savages’ (such an awful title) said that a small tribe in South America that he worked with believed that ‘the Gods only tolerate man with his violent and destructive ways because we create beautiful things for him’, and we do, and the gods in return give us everything we need to get things done.
We just need to listen and use our vision to perceive what is around us, not our sight, our vision.

I very rarely plan what I make and if I do it is simply an intention that I place in my head then I rummage amongst my various ingredients that I’m always picking up in my walks and ramblings, things that I am given by the gods so to speak which I clean up, and then put aside until they’re needed.
I clear my head then do what I’m told, simply enough.
As time has passed I’ve got more slick, no doubt about that, I’ve evolved in my use of base materials and techniques but my way of working is still the same.I wont deny though that developed skills have perhaps threatened to take away some of my edge, and I’m wary that the application of learned technique takes over from the rawness of the automatic trance produced work.
I look back at older art pieces and though clumsy in some respect, they’re incredibly strong.

At one stage, as all witches and magicians do, I decided to create a divination deck. I was struggling with creating the specific atu, square pegs and round holes comes to mind, then I clicked that I was following the rules of divination that though founded in long tradition, were not what my magic and my art needed to express, even though I’d been working with the tarot myself for 40 odd years.
I eventually decided to let myself be guided as to how the deck needed to be presented and from that point on, everything flowed.
That occasion was a revelation for me in that I realised that my artistic process was a magickal language and as I channel each piece, experience each making, I am given a little part of that language. I create, wonder what I’ve made, and eventually I’ll find out, piece by piece.
Fast track it is not!

About ten years ago my mother died and as someone who has no known family history (I’m from the ultimate nuclear family, an adopted mother of mixed race unknown heritage, an absentee father and a sister who lived in another country) and the loss of my mother naturally led to a lot of analysis about who I was. Part of this seeking came through being open to doing things differently and taking up on various opportunities in completely different social and creative spheres.

I participated in a workshop with an incredible artist called Ron Athey that utilised many of the techniques which I had integrated into my magickal work; glossolalia, automatic writing, a ouji board, and such like but all under the auspices of art rather than a specific spiritually directed practice.
It was fascinating seeing a group of artists create a space, charge it, do the performance, then leave the space.
Just like magick although admittedly there weren’t some of the more sensible shutting down/closing the space techniques so the after effects were messy for many of the participants and incredibly intense .
I think participating in Athey’s Gifts of the Spirit really hammered home to me that the line between art and magick is so fine as to be non existent; well that’s how I termed it at the time but that was ten years ago and my perspective has evolved since then.
There is no line…it’s all fluid…art and magic dance together swapping parts, exchanging information, feeding each other.
Art has informed my mackical practice and magic has transformed me to the person I was meant to be: a witch that creates as an act of love, an act of transformation, an act of expression of self and as part of the ultimate dance.

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The Liminal Spaces of Enlightenment and the Sharp Teeth of the Transit Zone

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I’ve written before about spirits, spirit houses, liminal spaces and the places in between where spirits and shades linger and live. These areas are generally places where people take but don’t give back; hospitals, waiting rooms, bridges and way-stations.
As those who read my blogs regularly may have realised I’ve been going through a crisis of faith regarding my art and what the next steps to approach it could or should be.
This isn’t to do with my creative impulse, which is steady and reasonably consistent although of course it has inspirational ebbs and flows. This is simply about my coping with the modern practicalities of being an artist with its necessary networking and selling of oneself, a process which requires the occasional revaluation of whether being a working artist is a viable form of existence for me.
So to return to the concept of the spaces in between; the passing through places which invariably have an edge, and just like the spirits that inhabit them, can have teeth.
However sometimes that conflict, that dis-ease can be just what one needs to stir things up a bit.
My go to liminal space in times of disorientation is the no mans zone of the traveller, so rather than continue to sit tight and try and figure things out (which was what I had been trying to do for sometime now and I found I was simply running in repetitive and at times destructive circles) I took a journey.
I stayed first at an airport hotel, a place which is similar to those all night service stations by the side of the motorway with lighting that defies any insight as to a true, real world time. These hotels have strange dislocated soulless rooms that still have a lingering feel of all the …happenings… that have occurred in them prior to your own presence, and the lobbies and smoking zones and bars that are populated by intense larger than life travellers that flit by in an almost dreamlike manner, and that you occasionally connect with intensely, before they vanish.
Then there are the buses to airports, the planes, the trains, the stations and waiting rooms. All filled with jumping electricity, flashing noticeboards and as many memories of people as people themselves, all either rushing movement or watchful waiting.
Whilst I pass through these places, the shades of my own previous journeys resurface and travel with me. The many times I’ve been in transit, the multitude of aspects of myself over the years that took risks and new directions.
This particular trip is proving to be more interesting than most as I’ve lengthened the travel process and inadvertently interspersed it with a more than usual plethora of transit zones.
Also one of my main destinations is in itself, a place in between. A town with the character and language of two very contrasting countries and a clear but very slightly off kilter personal identity. The land itself is a microclimate filled with palms and rhododendrons surrounded by snow covered mountains, which creates yet another startling juxtaposition.
To reach my destination I passed through a place called Mori, and as the train drew past its sign for I felt another part of me fall away.
All of these minuscule facets, probably only noticed by a visitor or a stranger constantly looking out for a sign that the itinerary is going according to at least a fragment of a plan, create a slight underlying tension, a subtle antagonism, that on a deep level will effect change.
Tomorrow I’ll be presenting my talk in this tiny, beautiful and very slightly odd town, then Friday will see me wandering through another series of buses and trains and airport hotels, for the second presentation I’ll be giving in London.
I’ve left fragments of myself in each of these shadow zones to join other restless spirits, and in every stopping place I feel my own confusions lift and shed.

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Prima Materia

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Being an artist in recovery from addiction is a tricky and often contradictory thing.
I stopped drinking and using drugs over 20 years ago and to an extent, the antithesis of addictive behaviour that is instilled into one in order to live a sober life, is also the antithesis of a creative life.

The creative process and being possessed by one’s muse is often a messy and obsessive process that is best contained in my shed/studio but as I also speak at events and festivals there is an an extra social dimension to various ‘issues’ that can pop up.

Staying regulated as far as hygiene and sleeping and eating well, plus remaining at least a little anchored to the mundane and keeping my living environment ordered and not looking like a crack house, has been a long term battle that has required rigorous discipline that at times has tipped into rather OCD like behaviour.

Relating to people in a healthy manner can also be problematic, as when there are inspirations that need expressing it’s incredibly hard to be balanced and even-tempered when all I really want to do is disappear into my shed and translate whatever it is that’s fighting to get out of me and be made into form.

Many of the people that I love connecting with and have the same sort of world view as myself, live unconventional lives which contradict standardised societal mores, and they often use substances medically, recreationally or simply for inspiration.

There is an acronym in both N.A and A.A -HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired) which is an amalgamation of triggers for drinking and using. All of these things are often part of my creative process, particularly so when I’m travelling for an event and operating on adrenaline and a limited budget.

Of course artists of various sorts and substance abuse often go hand in hand and I’m sure I’m not alone in my struggles, although since going back to meetings I haven’t come across people sharing specifically about this; perhaps because I live in a small, rather homogenous city where there are few artists in recovery.

Perhaps if I had more money it would be less of a struggle, but even with financial security and less onus on a second job to pay the bills, there is still the destabilising mood swings that can go with the artistic process; the tunnel vision, the elation, and the occasional come down after a piece or performance has been completed.

The irony of course being that addiction is often triggered by not articulating emotionally and building up the fears and rage and resentments until they need suppressing by drugs of some sort. Art is all about getting these things out and expressing and addressing them.
Also, art is about risk taking. I can stay in my safe box of rules and regulations but with this safety comes a limitation of vision that blinkers me and eventually leeches my spectrum of colour.

I’ve just spent a wonderful few days with a young performer who seemed able to submerge herself in all of the joys and pitfalls of the countercultural art scene. After she left I was sitting outside my studio having a coffee break, thinking how uptight I was and how bourgeoise my judgements of her lifestyle must have seemed to her when I realised that it wasn’t actually that I was sitting in a middle class and blinkered tower, I was simply trying to balance my artistic needs with the things that time has shown me are necessary for my health, stability, sanity and sobriety.

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Offerings At The Crossroads

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I was talking recently to a stylist I know who has designed sets for some of the fashion industries most illustrious publications, and was stunned to hear that he considered himself lucky if he had his costs covered when he worked for them, as it is considered a privilege just to be offered one of these star studded assignments.

Now I thought that being put upon to work creatively without pay and needing an unrelated job to cover the bills was a situation specific to the arts, so I was blown away by the thought that creatives in most industries were treated like this. It seems the only way to become an artistic success (in standardised terms of what constitutes success)is a combination of energy, an alternative income, luck, great social networking skills, connections and of course talent; however talent alone, is simply not enough.

I started putting my art and words out to a wider audience relatively late in my life and as I never studied either medium in a structured or academic environment, I was perhaps a little clumsy in aspects of my learning process regarding promotion and presentation.
Luckily I was driven, and had enough energy to cope with a ‘day’ job and do my creating and writing in the evenings and on days off.

Initially I did a lot of things for free. This wasn’t ‘simply’ about sacrificing my time but also involved covering transport and accommodation costs as well as any materials involved. For exhibitions and presentations that I needed to travel to I would sleep on friends’ sofas and floors and live off Sainsbury’s own brand nacho chips, and I’d generally use my holiday pay to cover time taken off. Sometimes I’d view these occasions as a way of networking and getting my name more known, but often I was drawn to the joy and excitement of doing something different and mixing with others who inspired me and had similar or complimentary perceptions to myself.

Eventually I started making enough to pay costs and stay in budget hotels, and eat more healthily when I travelled, gradually reaching the point where I could spend more time working on my art and less on my ‘day job’.

I recently felt I needed to reevaluate aspects of my life. I found that between the hours spent working at the job which pays my bills and feeds me and the time spent working on my art work/written work (plus all the social networking and promotion time that goes with that) there wasn’t any space left to nurture and develop my relationships with those I care for, and when I did see these people I was often stressed, overloaded and angry.

Also, I’m not home enough to have an animal companion, which bothers me a lot (I follow a disturbing amount of dog accounts on instagram)so there was some long hard thinking about where I am in life and what I want.

For a long time I wasn’t actually making choices in what I did, but following the path that seemed natural to take in order to do what I loved.

I’m also getting older, and my energy levels are not what they were, and the stress that comes with trying to ‘do it all’, was actually starting to grind down my health.

I remember my sister (who trained as an artist)once telling me that out of her graduating fine art class only one ended up being a full time artist. Another friend friend who has a doctorate in music and plays in an esteemed orchestra, says that every one of the other musicians in said orchestra (including herself) needed an alternative income in order to survive.

So I was going through this rather awkward crisis of faith in that my creative expression is a key part of who I am, but it wasn’t filling every need and there was an element of blinkered obsession around my process that was diminishing rather than enhancing me.
This analysis by the way wasn’t a depressive one, simply reflective. I believe these periods of revaluation are a good thing, as otherwise a destructive grey drift can set in that can easily last for years, and I needed to decide whether to notch down things a bit and operate more at a level of a hobbyist.

Whilst I was going through this process I was sorting through my files and finding various essays and articles I’d written that had never been published. I’ve decided to start putting these up in my blog, as it seems a waste to have so many of many of my old projects languishing away in my graveyard of computers and old lap tops. A few people commented that the amount of work and research that went into some of these articles was far beyond what what one would expect from a blog but I simply don’t have the time to carry on fighting to find publishers for old work. I have many other things I want to do and other excitements brewing, so would prefer it is read, even if ‘only’ on my blog.

Talking to my fashion friend helped me realise that I’m actually doing okay, which buoyed me up somewhat, and that there are many different levels of survival. I am so lucky to be in a position to feed my spirit as well as my body (though I’d still like to work out a way to have an animal companion at some point.)

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