Thursday 25 October 2012

AGM 2012 Minutes - Miracle of the sun and moon

13th October is not only the anniversary of the arrest of the Knights Templar but also the anniversary of The Miracle Of The Sun at Fatima, so it seemed entirely appropriate that we use this date and the sumptuous venue of Bath Masonic Hall for the AGM. I think speakers and guests had a great time and in many ways the Hall itself created the feel of an occult Wendy house - an opportunity to have a go on the grand throne and execute your best Baphomet gesture. Thanks to everyone who was involved.  Many thanks also to Lisa Cradduck and Matt Shaw for the pictures in this article and to Ruth Calland who displayed her photographs in the ante-room during the day, one of which is shown below. Ruth's most recent work is inspired by the notion of the alchemical wedding. There's a tight colour symbolism alluding to the stages of nigredo, albedo and rubedo that give the images an extra potency.

Ruth Calland's recent work

What follows is a short review of the presentations, films and performances.

Haunted Shoreline - Plumbing the depths

Haunted Shoreline presented the creative development of his blog project. It's very much an heuristic, empirical approach to occult psychogeography. The images reveal themselves as truths and the hermetic inference follows on via scholarly and sometimes hyperlinked discovery. It's Gordon Burn's Born Yesterday applied to archetypal psychology. The truth can also reveal itself in the asinine as much as the sacred: childlike chalk graffiti intimates the presence of a vampire squid in the subconscious waters near Saltdean. And it's a conversation with the mineral world - an occult philosophy of the stones - Agrippa in the Natural History Museum.

Dean Kenning - Prospects for Growth

Dean's been a friend and champion of EH for a long time. His short film was a perfect Situationist subversion of the Masonic Hall. Biological education loops pulse like a 70s psychiatrist's hypno-wheel, a map of England infests with maggots as divisive political diatribe heckles over a  high pitched siren. It's a worrying, urgent film, a 5 minute warning for the immediate future. Talking with Dean following the film, I mentioned it invoked the feel of Crass' fantastic polemic poem, Asylum.

 John Cussans - The Pomba Gira Working

John's talk was an utterly compelling journal of his recent collaborative work for Plastique Fantastique's "There is not and never has been anything to understand" show at ASC. The finished piece was a video projection of John and Roberto Peyre dancing on a veve of Pomba Gira (the loa of prostitutes) to a Northern Soul track called "Spirit". When I saw the installation, it was clear that this was a magical construct and John's talk unveiled its highly symbolic roots: a delicious picaresque and diasporic journey taking in the Crossbones graveyard in Southwark, pimp aesthetics and the occult use of talcum powder in the rites of Northern Soul: pure voodoo poetics.

Sarah Sparkes - REMEMBER THE END

Sarah is currently working towards a piece for a show "Theatrical Dynamics" at The Torrance Art Galley in Los Angeles and her talk was a fascinating glimpse into her working process. Like John's work, Sarah's completed pieces are poetic wholes that are keyed with intense research. So it was very interesting to hear and see Sarah demonstrate the props for her future assemblage, a prima mater of a relative's magic lantern slides (spagyrically imbued with moss),  and the tragedy of the Tolpuddle Martyrs told through Bill Douglas' film Comrades. Currently the stage is awaiting population, the actors and set are gathered behind the scenes, like the Masonic paraphernalia in the secret panels of the Bath lodge.

Ken Hollings - The Psychoanalysis of Trash

Ken's talk was a rollicking tragicomedy session of decadent psychoanalysis, but also it has to be said, a profoundly cogent argument illustrating the inevitable self-destruction of the child-king. Taking in the lives and  tacky luxuries of Prince Rudolph, King Ludwig, Michael Jackson and Elvis Presley, Ken demonstrated a reverse alchemy in their demises. The Kings may not die, but they do gradually decay into the empires of their excess. They do, also, like the angels of some lurid occult system display a common set of correspondences - a love of artifice, an asexualisation to the point of infantilism, retreat, military fetishism and the power to indulge every parameter of their self-disgust.

Tony Clayton - Netherwood

Tony delivered a witty and touching account of Crowley's final days in Hastings from his recently published beautiful hard bound object d'art "Netherwood". The waning black magician of Netherwood is part Mandarin, part Heroin injecting sitcom character. Netherwood itself, Tony brings to life as a lost colony of eccentricity, The Brains Trust meet here and an amateur version of Fall Of The House Of Usher is filmed on location - possibly with Crowley's bizarre paintings in the background. Crowley plays chess, charms children - like Karswell in Night Of The Demon -  and scares the neighbours, a perfect exit to his Thelemic funeral in Brighton. Moreover, Tony pulled in even more curious gentlemen esoterics, most notably the bowler hatted, ever so respectable looking David Curwen, furrier by day, expert in Tantric alchemy at night. It's a wonderful other England.

Eerie Anglia - Unvisited Vastness

This was the first airing of Eerie Anglia's, "Unvisited Vastness": England as the alien planet. Combining field recordings from Felixstowe with Mark Fisher's prose poem  - a hymn of a vague disease. England is the alien planet. Unvisited Vastness attempts to remove humanity from the container port, recasting the space as the speculative hinterland of some recent and unfathomable invasion. Mantric use of the barbarous names of commerce and rhythmic slideshows culled from documentaries, location visits and film scenes serve to abstract the port as the venue for a new genre of actorless cinema: eerie capitalism, a horror noir for the new depression.

The Blue Tree

The Blue Tree get the money shot playing in front of the Solomonic triptych. Two tracks of psychedelic landscapes, Matt reads from T.C. Lethbridge, constructs loops from guitar and voice, with Andrew delivering a controlled electronic bleed. It's a shortwave broadcast from a megalith interfering with the pastoral of an imaginatively recovered radio 4 documentary. The work is always subtle, carefully crafted and well informed by esoteric interests. 

English Heretic

Dean and I delivered a deconstruction of the forthcoming English Heretic offering Anti-Heroes. Slowed down and Masonically blue tinted loops of Dr. Terror's Tarot, the louche boudoirs of Taste The Blood of Dracula and the woodland coven of Angel Blake serve as the backdrop. Between extracts of our anthology of Black Plaque recipients along the Bath road, we play pared down versions of the tracks on the next album: - from  a gothic version of Hell's Angel Blake, with Sarah Sparkes' invocation of Behemoth and Bela Lugosi's Dead bass line to the electro-poem mashup of Ballard's "I Believe" and Lovecraft's "Fungi From Yuggoth".

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Exploring the extraordinary

Just a short review of the recent Exploring The Extraordinary IV conference in York. I attended most of Saturday and Sunday, but alas missed the Friday talks. There were many fascinating discussions and presentations over the weekend and it was  hosted with a great degree of consideration and expertise for the subject matter by Hannah Gilbert and Madeleine Castro.

Talks were loosely thematically grouped. The first session on Saturday comprised of two overlapping groups  from the Open University (Nadia Bartolini, Sara MacKian and Steve Pile), who were pleasingly extrapolating urban geographic research to the realm of the extraordinary. What was particularly welcoming for me, was the gentle sense of inclusivity between the research papers and the experiential reports. My talk was in a mid morning session, between Sarah Sparkes and Jack Hunter. Sarah's talk on GHost continues to gain in richness, drawing in elements of her own practice, her recent extensive research into haunted media and the intelligent canvas of GHost's  Hostings conferences.

Jack Hunter's Expression of Spirithood paper had particular interest, I feel, for Western ceremonial: most explicitly in the practice of the  assumption of Godforms. Jack highlighted a kind of ritualised choreography in states of possession, where certain gestures (such as rolling of the eyes) serve as kinaesthetic cues for full on possession states. The parallel with magical invocation is clear, but also I would suggest similar ritual protocols have a role in healing practice. Very complementary to Jack's talk was Zoe Bran's shamanic excursion, a very unusual and fascinating pathworking. In a way it reminded me of the use of the subconscious as a psychological lateral thinking tool, as expounded in Chris Evans' Landscapes Of The Night. The general consensus of attendees was that this kind of experiential workshop is certainly something that ETE would like to develop and offers very exciting ventures for the future, particularly when one considers the imaginative use of landscape and some incredible locations near at hand in Yorkshire.

Dr Christel Mattheeuws', "Turning the dead to keep the alive" , a report on the Madagascan death rite of the Famadihana touched on the same fascinating terrains, I felt, as Edgar Herzog's Death Demons, though   this particular rite seems like a deliberate attempt to look the tremendum of mortality in the eye. Where Herzog reports the earliest practice of fleeing a deceased tribe member, the Famadihana immerses the bereaved literally in the vicinity of the remains of the deceased. 

James Thompson's paper was an empirical analysis of Psilocybin users' reports of their experiences and also a speculative attempt to discern a common set of reality constructs across the spectrum of psychoactives. I'd heard David Luke's The God of The Thousand Eyes - discussing the certainty of machine elf visions when taking taking DMT - which James also mentioned, but I particularly enjoyed the delivery of this talk - there was a wry humour in the reading of some of the experiences, that both deconstructed the visions whilst also highlighting their ineffability and the difficulty in linguistic articulation of the extraordinary.

Sunday morning grouped two very different talks on music and the paranormality. Adam Potts discussed the possibility of immanence and infinity in Japanese noise music, focusing most explicitly on the work of Merzbow. Actually I wholeheartedly experienced this a few years back, when Merzbow was playing the Brudenell Social Club in Leeds. He turned up late, as his car had broken down on the motorway. Looking completely unflustered he wandered onto the stage, switched on his laptops and then beatifically unmoving, constructed his noise machine with such presence that light fittings started falling off the ceiling. Chaos taken to its furthest asymptote of noise becomes calm and timeless.

Adam's talk followed very nicely into Melvyn Willins' demonstration of paramusicology during which Melvyn played some of his field recordings -  including a very moving excerpt of chap who is possessed by the voice of Caruso. A nice contrast between Adam's and Melvyn's talks was the delivery media of their demonstrations. Adam playing Merzbow through the laptop, Melvyn bringing along an 80's style tape deck. They seemed very fitting devices for the very different gambits of their presentations. The solid state infinity of Noise music and melancholic nostalgia of the parlour room cassette recorder.

Wake For A Darkening Land

Following ETE, I headed out to Danby in the North Yorkshire Moors. Paul Devereux's Spirit Roads
discusses a corpse road called "The Old Hell Way" that runs from Fryup to the ancient church at Danby, and I've wanted to go there for ages. The church is dedicated to St. Hilda. Robert Graves makes the etymological (although possibly poetically licensed) connection between Hilda and the Norse, Helga, but also extrapolates a link between Hilda, Hel and Freya (Goddess of the afterlife). So it would seem the church name and the corpse road are synonyms of each other. 

Inside the church there was an embroidered banner for St. Hilda with some runic lettering to the side of the figure. As far as I can tell they are:

Hagalaz (h), Isaz (i), Laguz (l), and Mannaz (m). The first three make total sense in transliterating Hilda, but Iam confused by the use of the Man rune. Anybody with any suggestions as to why this has been used, please do get in touch. Iam very fond of rune poems themselves and I took some recordings of the church and the environment. We're hoping to construct a piece from these rune poems together with the samples I took. 

I was pleased also find that part of  "The Old Hell Way", had the modern name of "The Old Causeway", which fits with the notion that the name causeway is a corruption of "corpse way".

I discovered this dead rabbit in the churchyard, laying like some weird pagan subversion beside a tombstone. An echo of Rowan the sacrificant in Wickerman or a Gravesian poetic prop... "och it's just a silly hare..."

The sunset, I was delighted  to observe was suitably John Martin  - the cloud formation creating a curiously biblical swirl, a fugue for a darkening land...