In my graduate research and thesis project I want to suppose the idea of art as an experimental form of magic, and the idea of the artist as a cultural engineer able to use tools such as magic and healing in his/her practice. I will display the supposition of a false idea of artistic authorship and possession of these tools (which are actually human tools as opposed to artistic tools) while I forward the dilemma of transferability of methodology, within these terrains. In other words, why is the potential use of creativity often limited to those that affiliate with the identity of artist, as similarly the potential use of magic and healing is usually wielded by those that affiliate themselves with the identity of healer or shaman?
First, I will have to explain what my idea of magic is, in relation to its practical and thus artistic functioning. This I will do, hand in hand, (as it were, or as it is) with Genesis P-Orridge, who is voicing many ideas on magic and its functional application within the domain of the audio-visual arts as explored by himself, William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin. Secondly, I will highlight the importance of wielding our subjectivity and our identity, as source materials for magic to work with.
The idea of magic resides fundamentally in the idea that it is a ‘science of making things happen according to your desires in order to maximize control over one’s life and immediate environment to create a universe that is perfecting in its kindness towards you.’ This is rooted in the idea that our perception of reality in turn creates the reality we are witnessing and are a part of. This is currently researched in Quantum-Physics, as it appears that ‘Subatomic particles require an observer to come into existence and without an observer’s presence they do not come into existence’, as stated by American quantum physicist David Bohm (1917-1992). The understanding that our observation shapes what we are observing is thus being researched magically as well as scientifically, which delivers us to a very promising time and situation of reality.
When we take into account the potential effectivity of magic these scientific observations offer, we can clearly establish the importance of subjectivity, whereas it is the seat of one’s observation, or reading of the universe. Subjectivity in a way becomes the key to the very possibility of potential realities. So, when subjectivity is controlled (by someone else than ourselves); our reality is controlled; which inevitably makes us living in someone else’s description of reality
To de-centralize subjectivity we must realize that we are being fed our subjectivity from very early on. This is not in every case a fundamentally horrific situation, (though some might argue for this) but it is certainly important to be aware of this, before we make even an attempt at figuring out who or what we are, or what reality is.
In a sense, the consensus reality that we are part of generally is being formed by the common realization (or inner-description as it were) of what is around and within us on a daily basis. Here I am talking about the interpretation of the visual; or the materially perceptible surroundings, as well as the inner landscapes of emotions, feelings and the ideas on relations and logic. The idea that our reality is being created by a repetition of a realization (or reading) of our surroundings has been explored by Gysin, Burroughs and later Genesis P-Orridge, as well as many contemporaries and predecessors, who in the context of this writing might be less relevant at this point.
To open up the potential of our reality, and that of our identity, we must seize the tools to re-shape and re-create this reality. Many of which have slowly seemed to disappear from our toolbox with the rise of a centralized understanding of our self, by organizations such as the Holy Roman Empire and it’s Catholic Church – only later to develop further in the modern world, where currency becomes our default mode of energy, motivation and expression. But as the world of today crashes under the weight of its own dysfunctional development, I would like not so much to put a lot of energy into mapping out the cancerous shape we created as to highlight the importance of self-organization in belief and in power.
In relation to this operation, I work with other artists to offer services and products that are not yet in the market, or have been eradicated from the common-day market by failing to be efficient, clinical and reliable enough in a system of large-scale production, cheap profits and the promise of fulfilling illusionary (or at least, temporal) desires. In a show that took place in early 2012 I worked for 6 weeks with two other artists in the creation of visual and material assemblages created from materials sourced from grocery stores, commodity shops and markets, as well as junkyards, forests and swamps, in combination with sacred/profane objects from a personal source to construct a presentation that might be considered a sacred space in which a re-relation to ourselves and our surroundings is being engineered.
On every Friday night for the course of the show we went into a state or one-ness with the situation and formed a kind of dance-like chess-game with all the objects at hand. Things were used, misused and reused – Things were displaced, misplaced and handled with care or were destroyed in the process. In a way things were being put into play. Visitors could place themselves in the middle of it all as well, by sitting down and watching the reality unfold around them. There was no center stage, and there was no indicative idea of who or what the audience was. In a sense potentiality was actualized and celebrated, and a field in between the normative, the ridiculous, the absurd and the sacred was wielded – Possibilities and impossibilities took place throughout the space, and the paradox of our situation was highlighted and revered.
What is most evident here is the production and stimulation of paradox, the anti-promise or the leap-of-faith. By supplying, so to speak, a marsh of potential value and meaning, an inherent skill within man is being re-activated, namely that of finding one’s own way, thus; re-activating one’s subjectivity.
To get closer to our own subjectivity we have to develop a renewed understanding of what and who we are, by understanding the way we have been made to think about who and what we are, and in the next step, realizing the ability we have to re-shape and re-new this predicament. We must realize the abilities of Magic, and attempt to become laymen in its functioning.
Important here, is the fundamental difference between the understanding and the undergoing of this process. The latter here signifies the activated and individualized participation in the creation of one’s understanding, or reading, and thus – creation – of reality.
An insight into the idea of reality being a recording, which we are making, together perhaps with the organisms and the matter with which we share our world, could be functional to further understand the intricate role you have in this creation. We have been recording and storing information in our brains from the very day of our birth, and most possibly even before that, and this information is often, at an early stage transcribed through authors that are not you yourself. This non self-authorization creates your understanding of what it is you are, let alone, what it is you are (supposed to be) doing. When we get to understand the idea of reality being a recording we ‘become empowered to edit, re-arrange, re-contextualize and re-project […] by cutting-up and re-assembling our own reality and potentially the reality of others’ as Genesis P-Orridge states. Here we see the link between this magical act, and the supposition of a magical actor to influence the reality of others, placing him/her in the position of a ‘cultural engineer’.
The artist as a cultural engineer is certainly not a new idea, but the perception of a cultural engineer working with powers such as magic renders a whole breed of ‘heretics’ as cultural engineers. People identified by themselves or by others as ‘shamans’ and ‘witches’ thus become cultural engineers also. Obviously, many of the people that have been identified as witches or shamans simply did nothing more than actualize the potential of the function of Magic – thus putting into play a fundamental human capacity. Seeing that we are all observers and thinkers and are thus able to ‘read,’ but what is being put forward here is the actualizing of the potential of this reading, or – deciding – as a very essential next step in our human evolution.
For Genesis and Burroughs it was quite clear that the participatory role within the cosmos gives us the ability to re-shape and re-record what we observe, and how we observe it. But in addition to the power of unwinding our pre-recorded understandings of ourselves and of the cosmos, and in the light of our potential magical influence on the cosmos, I would like to put forward here the tool of Healing as well.
Healing in the sense of the body in relation to its thoughts, takes place in many forms. Better known forms such as massage-therapy or acupuncture, underscore the link between the consciousness (or the ability to observe the thinking process as well as the processes within the body and in the universe) and the body as a physical and mortal being. But in fact many different forms of healing are being developed and executed, for example by artists such as AA Bronson and Lygia Clark, but also by many practitioners of shamanism.
A shaman-healer can travel to a world known to him as the ‘spirit’ world and come back with answers or resolutions that aid him-/herself, or a person seeking his/her aid. By accessing the spirit world, he/she gains access a source of knowledge that is stored in the collective memory and experiences (recordings) of our living planet. Access to this realm is mostly achieved by accessing the theta-wave state of the brain, in which the brain achieves a frequency of 4-7 Hertz making both brain halves work together, offering a potential momentum in which analytical thinking coincides with intuitive thinking; leading to magical thinking, thus; when we consider the process of understanding to be an act (of undergoing); magical acting.
When we take into consideration that all humans posses a brain and are thus able to access a 4-7 Hertz brain frequency, we can conclude that everyone can potentially at least – think – magically. And, as shamanic practitioner Sandra Ingermann describes the power of this magical act to be one of ‘direct revelation ’, we can understand that the idea of a healer or shaman being in a position of authority over -, or possession of -, power, is quite backwards. Still, traditionally, it appears that a shaman has a tribe or peer-group, for him/her to function publically, it also appears that s/he must have a geographical, or demographical domain to operate in – which s/he hereto often seems to dominate or authorize.
What is evident here, when we come to the realization that shamanic practices and magical acting are readily available for everyone, is not so much to organize ourselves to see to it that this tool stays free to use and is not to be put under the control of anyone, but more so to simply – act – it out.
Still, seeing as we were earlier that there is a necessity in the breaking of pre-recorded hierarchical structure as a blueprint of society and of subjectivity, there must also be an option for healing to be de-centralized. Which leads me to the following dilemma: how can a methodology for healing or magic be transferable and commonly operational, without a single methodology becoming the holy written one as it were.
Perhaps, here, an answer lies within transfer of knowledge through the sensuous rather than through that of the written word. Burroughs also mentioned to Genesis that ‘Magick is [to be] passed on by the touching of hands.’ (quoted in P-Orridge, 2008, p. 114) In other words, certain ideas and methods are handed-down from practitioner to practitioner, directly in each other’s physical presence. Though, still, there have been successful cases, in which a written down methodology for healing had been made available for successors. True, as far as I am aware, not indented for dogmatic and politicized use. Here, I am referring to the letters of Lygia Clark that pose insight into ‘imaginary inwardness of the body’ as a place where one finds significance. The transferability of potential methodologies, as well as the provision of insight into subjective inner-space of one’s being, as I am doing here profoundly, obviously lay within my desires, though should be, as read, handled with attentiveness and awareness.
Yet, again here, lies an importance of the awareness of the subjectivity of the practitioner. To explain this further, I will introduce the concept of the wounded-healer.
The wounded-healer is a well-known story within the realm of shamanistic practitioners in which the central protagonist is in fact injured him-/herself, be it physical or energetically, and discovers in process the ability s/he has to cure or resolve his/her ailment. Here, a methodology stems from the ability of self-healing, and evolves into an approach that is could be adapted for the use on one’s else. But, within the often-subjective nature of ailments, being composed of a multiplicity of physical, mental, spiritual and/or energetic sources; we might conclude a cure must therefore also be of the same subjective nature; thus, a healer’s methodology for healing ambiguous. This is perhaps due to the ambiguity of desire itself; because, after all, who are we to know what we want? How could we ever be accountable for a methodology that is transient, often local and of slumbering progression? And which is on top of all this often described as advent from the skies, or brought to us from some invisible spirit, which we, fair enough, evoked or called upon.
To a large degree, as with many things, I believe the resolution must be explored case-by-case, and can henceforth only be resolved locally. This is, for the most, to prevent energy flowing towards the illusionary idea that situations can be resolved globally from out a supervised position. Plus: in the truest sense of a non-false community we have our hearts in common, not our problems.
As for the most of the explorations, I will be continuing my reading within these domains, and will be involved into obtaining more first-body experience of the content at hand, either through my individual practice, as well as by establishing contact with other practitioners; be it through writing; be it trough shared endeavors. These will, in turn, find their way back into the thesis by either explicit or non-explicit reference, but will for the most part help me establish a stronger voice. Furthermore, I can only state that where my writing aims to suspend disbelief and offers a sort of guidebook into the magical, my physical practice will allude to a leap of faith and be an execution of the magical.
It is most likely to contain an architectural component that offers shelter to the dweller and his activities within, as well as supply a profoundly resilient; yet alluring stance towards the outside.
-Genesis P-Orridge, Burroughs and Gysin; on magic, or; the Cut-Up Technique. -AA Bronson and Lygia Clark; on their healing practices. -Sandra Ingerman (and other practitioners); on the praxis of shamanism. -Jan Verwoert’s seminar; on the philosophy of Mimesis and Animism. -Alejandro Jodorowsky; on his spiritual and creative journey.