Friday, November 21, 2014

Only Lovers Left Alive

Love. Time.

That is the easiest way to sum up this film. Two words. There need be no spoiler alerts because there is nothing to spoil. If you go into this film expecting some grand narrative you will be disappointed. This isn't a film in the general sense of the word, at least what we've come to expect of one. I am not saying there is no story. There is.

Though it would almost be easier to refer to this film as a painting. Each scene, each small detail, each fleeting conversation another brush stroke against the canvas.

It is the story of three vampires. Two vampires in love. A third, the sister of one of the lovers. The story is small. It is ridiculously small. It is such a small part of the film that you could spend the first half wondering if there will be a story at all.

That is the mastery of Jim Jarmusch, who both wrote and directed this film. As with his other films, whether you are thinking of Broken Flowers or Dead Man, if you wait around for the narrative you miss the beauty in the small details and the sweeping idea that is used as the backdrop to the whole film. The story of the film is not the story that is taking place between the characters, it is a grander theme.

It is hard to imagine what it would be like to live forever. Many people dream of it, the idea that we would never part from this bodily existence. We dream of all of the things we would do if we had the time. What he paints in this film is what the idea of living forever would really mean. Using the myth of the vampire he plays with the concept of eternal life, of the slow and grinding passage of time. How would the small things change if there was no passage of time, if you could grasp onto things for centuries at a time? How would your thoughts change? How would you look at the world?

What would become of love?

It takes place in two, what seem, very different locales. One is Tangier. Tangier was once known as a place where you could do whatever you wanted as long as you weren't committing violence. This was for the fact that the country that ruled over Tangier, Morocco, did not have the resources to police peoples lives. It is where so many poets and artists flocked. William Burroughs most famously.

The second place was Detroit. If the significance is not instantly apparent, it is because Detroit has come to the same destination as Tangier once was. The government of Detroit does not have the power or the resources to police and enforce the rules of law upon the residents.

These two places make the perfect canvas for this film.

There is no time spent on special effects. There are no useless scenes created to explain vampires to the viewer. When you go into this film it is expected you understand what a vampire is. Though the film has a very droning passage of time not a moment of the film is wasted on filler.

As I have stated, this film is about love and time. Like time, love is painted on the canvas without the edition of explaining what love is. Of all the films I have imbibed, not one has drawn out the beauty of love with more care or as delicately. There is no gratuitous sex scenes to show passion, there is no excessive explanations of love to explain love to the viewer. Like the idea of vampires, the idea of love is expected.

They paint love as they paint time. In the most excruciatingly haunting way.

The soundtrack takes much the same direction. It is sparse, beautiful, and comes with moments of chaotic sound that is used, much as everything is in this film, as a brush to further layer the beauty laid out so carefully.

If I recommended films, I would recommend this. More than any other film. It is film, film as an art form.

"I can barely conceive of a type of beauty in which there is no melancholy." 
Baudelaire

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Women of the Wild: the Work of Rik Garrett


"Earth Magic" was my way of investigating this way of historically making women the "other,"

Rik Garrett




When I first heard about Earth Magic, I was skeptical. A book combining photography and the talismanic world of witchcraft didn't seem like the most comfortable mix. I envisioned women in witch hats posed in a ridiculous fashion. How could witchcraft be captured in all of its raw beauty with the snap of the lens? We live in a world where the ways of our past are increasingly sold as nothing more than brief explosions of pop culture. I grew up believing that witchcraft was sacred, therefore I am always wary when books like this cross my path.

Yet something gave me hope, and that was Fulgur. If Fulgur had taken the decision to publish Rik Garret’s Earth Magic, then surely there was more to it than my preconceived notions. The independent publishing house of Fulgur doesn’t often back artists working and exhibiting in the US. I figured that maybe this was my chance to be pleasantly surprised. With that in mind I packed my things and drove down to New York to attend a signing in a small bookshop in Brooklyn in which Garret was scheduled to speak.

I walked into Catland having never laid my eyes on a piece of his work. As I sat in the dark and crowded room, all that lay on the screen before me was the cover of his book.


Enter Rik Garrett.

Garrett doesn't fit in with the stereotypes that one associates with a self-proclaimed witch. There was no long hair, nor an abundance of finger jewelry. He exuded charm as he spoke about the historical context of witchcraft. As the slides changed he explained some of his own personal magical working, his ideas seemingly matching well with a lot of my own thoughts. There were no buzz words, there was no spouting off orders that he was a part of. It was natural. His talk flowed with life. It was about will. I was intrigued yet still hesitant. I was yet to see his work.

Then the slide changed and the first image of his work came through.

I was stricken.

His work makes you feel like a voyeur sneaking glimpses into a world that isn't for human eyes. You feel like an intruder peeking into something that is beyond time, magic appears to be taking place right in front of you. If I could go back in time I would have researched his work beforehand so that I wasn't taken away so dramatically. It would have made it easier for me to focus on his talk. Upon glimpsing his work I was uncontrollably pulled from where I was and into the sacred and haunting place of the wild women.

The next day I made my way over to an exhibit that was featuring his collection at the Stephen Romano Gallery. Four different exhibits were showing, all inspired by witchcraft. I made my way to Garretts exhibit. Walking in was like stepping into the private inner sanctum of those wild women. In contrast to the previous evening, the exhibit took place in a bright and airy location. On the floor there was a painted circle. The walls held perfectly placed sigils. There were no distractions as we gazed upon original pieces of his art. The room was mixture of witchcraft and clean western mysticism.

There again, were the images from Earth Magic that had so enraptured me. Once again I was taken away, transported beyond myself into a world so completely perfect.

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Rik Garretts work can be viewed at the Stephen Romano Gallery at 111 Front Street in Brooklyn, NY through November 30th
You can follow him through his site: RikGarrett.com
And follow his documentation of Chicago's Occult History at Occult Chicago

I would highly recommend you pick up a copy of his new book Earth Magic




Thursday, October 9, 2014

Sweet As Death: Allie Hartley's Visions

"Wonder had gone away, and he had forgotten that all life is only a set of pictures in the brain, among which there is no difference betwixt those born of real things and those born of inward dreamings, and no cause to value the one above the other."

- HP Lovcraft (from the Silver Key)


Within the realm of occultic creations there are a few artists that stand out. They create images that pull from the deepest parts of our psyches. When you see the images they weave you know them, and you feel yourself take in the beauty from someplace deeper inside than just an onlooker. You are not merely a bystander, you are transported to another dimension, another place. Somewhere darker and more, in the most meaningful manifestation of that word, than your daily life often provides.




Amid this there is an artist, if artist ever had more meaning, and her name is Allie Hartley.


With the simplest of utensils she forces creation from someplace far away, yet so close to where and who we are. Her work is patterned after the ideas and visions of our world. A shaded version of our world. Where magic and mystery still dance. Where behind every shadow there is something that lurks, something that is hiding and waiting for you to look away.


Walk around that corner, down that alley way, along and beneath the aging architecture of the city, you will find the men and women, or better yet the ladies and gentlemen, of the night and the monsters that populate the world. Those very monsters who walk among us, breathing heavily, working ritual, bringing forth wonders and death all around us. And if you open that doorway that you find down that empty alley you'll walk right into the strangest of happenings.


Whether it is the workings of some ancient Egyptian cult, skrying down the angels from the sky, or speaking with beings from another planet, you will find what it is you have been so scared to look at, so fearful that you would find. That very moment that will haunt you as long as you live here on this plane. There is no place she is unwilling to go, no taboo part of history that she is not willing to pull from the pages of ancient texts and lather with the spew of some Lovecraftian monster.





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You can further explore her work on Deviant Art and help support and further her work through Etsy 

She has had showings across the US, from Rochester, NY to Los Angeles, CA

( Chill of the Evening, The Seventh Star, and Escape is a Hoax have been provided by Allie Hartley for this article.)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Genesis P-Orridge and the Bight of the Twin..

"This was when it swapped from being a documentary about voodoo to becoming actually voodoo.. and that's when it changed me forever."

Where do you start when you're writing about Genesis P-Orridge? I almost feel out of my depths.

Genesis P-Orridge.

Before we go into that we should start from the beginning.

I was going through Indiegogo, searching through the different creative processes that were being put forth in front of the masses of the internet looking for some help. Someone to look upon their creation and offer assistance. And there amid the rabble sat a link to something that, if no other word could describe it, was perfect.

Perfect.

Voodoo. That's what Americans call it. The descendant of the African indigenous religions. It spread throughout South America, Latin America, and in the southern parts of the US. It took on many different names. Voodoo was the United States version of the fetish workings of Africa that mixed with the European Judaism based faiths. It still holds a certain amount of terror in the minds of the Westernized American people. Visions of dolls with needles, bonfires late at night with people dancing uncontrollably. The Crucible. Corrupting the young innocent white women of the States.

You can invoke those images and ideas from your memories if you went to any public school in the States. For those that watch certain channels on cable they'll get the distinct belief that voodoo, for the lack of a more precise word, is the workings of the Devil of the Bible. Falling to the possession of spirits. Working evil deeds upon others. Devils and spirits and Halloween.

In a world where everything is a click away the mysteries of voodoo, especially the base beliefs of the fetish acts of Africa, are almost unknowable.

Some film makers went over to Africa to do a documentary on voodoo. People went over to the heart of it and looked for the beauty.

They found it.

So much so that the film maker stopped making just a film. The film maker recorded a transformation.

The person at the heart of this transformation?

We're back at the beginning. Genesis P-Orridge.

I could list the accomplishments. I could give you samples of music. I could go on praising all that Genesis P-Orridge has done. I've almost tempted you with that idea from the start. And believe me...

I could.

However I've found, as I've found with most mysteries and magic, that it takes experiencing to understand.

I will instead implore you to dig deep. To find Genesis P-Orridge. To experience the work and the creation.

My first article was on the book Generation Hex. Eventually, after a few steps, Disinformation picked it up and added an audio link from the book release. There was Jason Louv, speaking on the release of his creation and his phone rang. It was Genesis P-Orridge. S/he has been there through all of the ups and downs of the creation of this modern magical movement. Here, creating something that is so haunting and so touching and in need of help to see it to a realization.

I ask that if you don't know the work and the touch to look, to experience, to find it and let it change you..

And upon feeling that change, come help with this. Maybe I'll get to see you in NYC for the premier:

Bight of the Twin



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Witches of Suburbia

Witches of Suburbia

I recently learned of an upcoming talk on the witch craze of the nineties. Hearing this brought back a lot of memories. Unless you were in the right place at the right time you may be unaware that such a thing existed, though as luck would have it, it was around this time that I was pushed out of my natural habitat to an affluent suburban town.

Witchcraft was everywhere as I entered my first year of high school. It was a huge part of pop culture, demonstrated by shows like Charmed, Sabrina the Teenage Witch; and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The work of Gerald Gardner, built decades earlier, became cornerstones to the blooming idea. Contemporary authors like Silver Ravenwolf began spewing out colourful books that made witchcraft palatable for a generation increasingly looking for guidance on basic spells and rituals.

If you want to credit Gardner, Ravenwolf, or any of the myriad of witchcraft writers, past or present, you could easily say that it was them. You could attribute it to pop culture, sure why not? You could even mention rebellion against the church and overbearing Christian parents. Perhaps it was simply a want to return to our roots, to get back to basics- a want that I am wholly sympathetic to. It could have been any of those factors, and sure, I will agree that they all played their part. Though as someone who was around at the time, I’m entirely convinced that it was in fact just one thing that really popularized this movement.

Just like the Anonymous movement can be weaved back to the original inspiration of V for Vendetta, the witchcraft craze of the nineties can be directly followed back to one specific moment in cinematic history,

The Craft.

It was released in 1996. And every young witch took their inspiration from it. The witches who haunted my school halls were directly inspired by The Craft. As if to mirror the film itself there were two main conflicting characters. The natural witch, descended from a family of witches, and the erratic witch, wrestling with her demons. A supporting cast of characters naturally followed close behind.

In all honesty those witches were the first openly practicing occultists I ever met. Yes, I had read about them. I had read Spare and Crowley, hell I had read some Gardner before all of this came crashing into my world. But these high school girls had done something no one else I had ever met was willing to do. They crashed across the social norms of high school the way no punk rock kid or Goth kid could. They didn't dress differently, listen to different music, and declare that they were Christians and good. They weren't rebellious in style alone; they were willing to make that step across long before I had heard anyone, outside of my father do.

It wasn't the first time in history, obviously. And this was no putting it on the line like so many before had done; there was no literal burning at the stake in Suburbia. But they did something no student had done before in my life, they declared themselves different when different wasn't okay. They declared themselves different, and they were.

"We are the weirdos, mister."

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Generation Hex

If I'm to kick off a new blog it is only fitting I begin with Generation Hex.

'Welcome to - how do you say - "a hole in history itself."
This book is about magic, and about Generation Hex, teenagers and young adults who practice it.'

- Jason Louv (from Generation Hex, Introduction)

For those of you that weren't around during it's heyday it would be hard to understand. There was no proper term for it. I could say Hyper Culture, I could say Ultra Culture, there were a million different terms for what was going on. It was a movement. The internet was still fresh and new. It had been born from some chaotic cesspool and out from it came a storm of ideas and people who were steeped in all sorts of eclectic occult knowledge. One, especially a sixteen year old boy, could just bathe in. Here was a world where the only books I could easily find were by a witch named Silver Ravenwolf, and suddenly I am diving into ideas that until recently were completely obscure.

This cesspool of ideas? I was there. Barely a High-school student. Every day I would come running home from school to get online and scroll through the infinite amount of occult blogs pushing out new ideas and thoughts and being young and having all of this information, and all of these minds, and all of this knowledge just laid out and left for me to stew in was unlike anything that will ever happen again. Before the vanity, before everyone online was selling something, before the promises of fortunes and riches if you only pay an exorbitant amount to be taught the secrets, before you could click on Google and type in a name and everything would come streaming down.  

Out of that complete chaos came one book, from as far as I am aware, that captured it if anything could possibly capture a little of that magic. The book was Generation Hex. It is much like the current crop of collections of essays put together by publishers like Scarlet Imprint. Jason Louv brought together a group of these occultists that had been pouring out this informational stream and had them write pieces for this book.

To begin with, it was published by Disinformation which at the time was run by a man named Richard Metzger, if you don't know who Richard Metzger is than you probably don't remember what it was like when subcultures were really subcultures. Most of the publications by this publisher were conspiracy books, books I loved. I would almost summarize them as the Conspiracy Theorists Before Conspiracy Theories Were Cool publishing company. Though that wasn't all they covered. They loved subcultures. Especially subcultures, again from what I can remember, that were considered dirty back then. And really, a lot of what was would still be considered dirty today.

So here is Disinformation, teaming up with Jason Louv who I had followed and read pieces from long before this collection joining to put together a book that would grasp together all of this subculture, for a lack of a better word, and make an imprint on the global mind of history. He collected the best of the best and let them tell their stories.

They did it.


Till this day I would say there is no other book that completely grasps a moment of time better than Generation Hex. There is no other book that captures my imagination, or fully explains what it means to be an occultist. 

Step back from that, and it is a collection of essays that showed the occult in life. Living the occult, living mysticism, what it meant to be a magician in the world. This book captured it. 

If you missed Key23, Hyper Culture, or the myriad of other amazing occult blogs and sites and the inferno of ideas that happened during this time it is hard to explain. If you want to get a grasp, hunt down a copy of this long out of print book and give it a read.


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Jason Louv still runs Ultraculture and recently launched You Rift , Richard Metzger now runs Dangerous Minds , I still read Technoccult