This man, this creature, this artist is true inspiration for us. We’ve talked with Orryelle Defenestrate Bascule about Art, magic and alchemy.
I have just finished a significant project which took 9 years to complete, although I was working on other things also during this period. The project was the Tela Quadrivium, a four-fold book-web, a series of four interconnected art books from UK publishers Fulgur Limited which each relate to a colour phase of the Alchemical process. So there was the red book Conjunctio (2008), the gold book Coagula (2011), the black book Solve (2012); and the final white/colours book Distillatio just launched June 2015 with an exhibition of paintings from the book in London.
On the surface this may seem just to be an art and publication project, but the deep magical processes I engaged with to create this work and its intrinsically cyclical nature were very transformative. As in traditional laboratory alchemy, it is not the Materia of the work alone which transforms but also the alchemist. I would hope that some of the gnosis I have attained from this journey transmits through the books for those who digest them thoroughly enough.
The four books connect in a special formula -they can be read not only individually but also together by placing them in the four quarters of a circle and reading them around, turning the pages each time one re-turns to the first, so that further narrative and symbolic sequences unfold by spiralling through the four books. The process is cyclical and never entirely conclusive as there is always more work and play to be done…
‘Hekate-Arachne in the Bookweb’, an image from the Opening of Solve which shows corresponding ‘spider-leg’ pages of the four volumes of the Tela Quadrivium.
Past significant projects are too numerous to list, but some have been: The Choronzon Machine, a ritual theatrical device for generating analogue fractals by opposing then bringing together pairs of complementary major arcana from the Tarot; Loom of Lila, a ritual dance production (with 13 participants) exploring the nature of deity (represented partially by a life-size clay statue of Kali I created at the time), and of individual and collective consciousness; and another long project recently culminated on the solstice 2012, having begun in the year 2000 – The Global Chakra Workings, group rituals at various sacred sites around the planet to align humanity’s rising kundalini energy with that of the earth, progressively from base (Mt Shasta in California USA) to crown (Mt Aoraki in New Zealand).
Now that I have completed the Tela Quadrivium I am resuming work on another major project I have been co-ordinating off and on for a few years now -the Orpheus/Dionysos project, originally a piece of musical ritual theatre called ‘Solve et Coagula’ which was performed in Australia, USA, UK and around Europe in 2011 and 2012. It involved the creation of a life-size Baphomet abdomen formed from 33 smaller wax human figures which united in black-light puppetry to make the collective larger figure beneath a real singing head -the disembodied Orpheus calling to form a new body via his vicarious experience of others enjoying their own and each others’ bodies.
Originally assembled onstage in Australia and USA 2011, a stop-animation film of the wax convergence to form the larger statue was later created so the show could more practically tour Europe and UK in 2012. I am now developing this in combination with live footage from the performances into a film of the whole story. This project now also involves the forming of various body-parts of the larger figure from actual (rather than wax) human bodies, in ritual (and sometimes orgiastic) communion. Some of this will be used in the film and there also images of the composite figure progressively formed of ink (drawing), wax (sculpture) and flesh (photography) in the corresponding pages of each volume of the Tela Quadrivium.
How long do you do whatever you do…and what really is your work?
How long I do what I do is entirely dependent upon what it is. Some projects may take years, some months, some mere hours or even less. As is evident from my answer to your previous question, many of my different projects interweave. Sometimes I will work on something, then leave it for a while as I work on something else, and return to the first project with new inspiration from diverging into another. I work according to the directives of the Gods, the Muses and the Fates.
The same is true regarding the content of my work. It is diverse as the stars and the sky and the dust in the desert, the lines of the thumb or the tree-roots clawing into the forest floor. I cannot summarise what my work really is, because it has such a variety of both purpose and method. The only element common to all of it would be the celebration of this diversity itself.
Because of this diversity I don’t have a singular highest goal to which I consistently work, but there are some underlying/overarching visions and intentions which direct it. The development of human consciousness is one of these. I like to foster open-mindedness, to break down the limiting shackles on perception and activity which are propagated by mass media and commercial consumer ‘culture’. My work celebrates creative expression regardless of commercial value or popular trends, and I would hope thus demonstrates the capacity for creative diversity the human has, encouraging that of others also. I find our modern mainstream civilisation to be mostly barren, suffocated by commercial considerations, short-term goals and mere functionality. Aesthetics are rarely considered now in architecture or other such fundaments of how our human world both looks and feels, and I think many of us suffer for it in a prison of drab functional angles and fluorescent light.
Even in the world of ‘Art’ conceptual mental masturbation and mere novelty often dominate over beauty, emotivity and depth. But this is beginning to change, as a veritable movement of Esoteric Art sets out to re-enchant this wasteland. I consider myself a part of the vanguard of this.
Magic and mysticism were relegated to the trash-heap of irrelevant mumbo-jumbo in the ‘age or reason’ but are now beginning to be recognised again as vital, backed up by quantum physics translating their fundaments into the dominant modern linguistics of scientific materialism.
So this re-enchantment of the modern world, through art and/as magic, is one of my primary goals. Much of my work is often considered surreal as its draws from dreams, the imaginal, and other magical planes which overlap the physical, yet through art brings them into manifestation. It is true that with my work/play I hope to make this world a little stranger, a little more beautifully diverse and liberated, well even a lot! Through making the invisible visible Art is the manifestation of magic, offering glimpses into greater realities and possibilities to liberate minds from mundanity.
Much of humanity needs to be reminded of Divinity embodied -that people, trees, animals and even objects are full of spirit. If we can regain an animist perspective which recognises the divine in all we will treat our environment with more awe and respect, recognising the value of things beyond their material functionality or mere monetary value.
A part of this quest is the return of the organic in our civilisation. The relatively-recent (eg. compare renaissance architecture to modern) human obsession with straight lines and sharp angles is at odds (or perhaps at evens!) with the rest of the natural world, and together with crass commercialism is destroying our harmony with it. We must remember that our species are also animals, and need curvaceous, rounded and flowing forms in our environment to feel good and flourish.
An underlying goal of mine is care for our natural world -the seeping of organic forms back into our civilisation to remind us of our own nature, and also the preservation of that which is already so beautifully diverse and sensually profound, the forests, deserts, jungles and mountains of this planet and their many divine denizens.
Does so-called “black magic” actually exist? What is it?
Fear Not! For Fear itself is really the only thing ‘wrong’ with Darkness.
My concept of ‘black magic’ is quite different from many, particularly those in the western magical traditions. I do not see blackness or darkness as evil or ‘bad’.
To quote from my Black Book ‘Solve’: ‘If we cast aside all the outmoded and inherently racist and sexist moral metaphors of light=good and dark=bad which have marred the collective consciousness of humanity from the dominance of fundamentalist religious patriarchies for at least the last two millennia or so, we will discover that Darkness itself is actually essentially harmless.
The same cannot be said of Light, which can blind or burn, but darkness is passive and neutral. It is, like silence and stillness, integrally an absence rather than a presence, and only Negative in an essential (not moral) sense.
Why then have the concepts of evil and darkness been so entwined for so long? Darkness conceals, and while it cannot hurt us what is hiding in it perhaps could. So Fear of the Unknown is the essence of our civilisation’s all-abiding and inappropriate association of darkness with evil.
Occultists (and the very word occult means hidden) -one would at least hope- are less afraid of the unknown; in fact it is our job to explore it, to plunge into the great abyss of mystery.
The implicit racism and sexism in the ‘dark equals bad’ metaphor has long served patriarchal caucasian agendas in suppressing and dominating other cultures and genders. This kind of bigotry also reduces to fear of the unknown, of the other…’
But the term ‘Black Magic’ is usually used in the modern world to refer to magic which is morally reprehensible or at least putting the self-interest of the magician above those of others. I do not like the idea of morals as they are usually mechanisms of social control, but I do have ethics. As a Thelemite (though by no means an adherent to all of Crowley’s ideas) I believe in the sovereignty of the individual Will, but Will with a capital W meaning that which is in accord with universal Will rather than the mere short-term desires of the ego. It amuses me that Crowley is often considered a ‘black magician’ in the sense of harmful magic, as one of his main tenets of Thelema is that one should not interfere with the Will of another!
It seems to us that the so-called “dark side” is very fascinating for you – from Hecate to Tunnels of Set. Do you prefer it because of aesthetics or some other reasons?
As an artist-magician it is tricky sometimes to separate aesthetics from anything else, as when one creates magical art aesthetics grow from our deep sensibilities and essential interests rather than simply being superficiality or fashion.
I do not know if I necessarily have a preference for darkness as I am quite multi-faceted, certainly it is something I explore and as I already talked about in relation to ‘black magic’, I do not consider darkness to be something negative in a moral sense.
There is something intrinsic to esotericism in exploring the dark, as this is really the exploration of the unknown which is vital to magic. Indeed the word ‘esoteric’ itself, like ‘occult’ refers to the hidden or inner.
Like stillness and silence, darkness seems to scare or intimidate many: the fear of absence its(not)self, of the infinite void. But as magicians we must engage with and unveil the hidden and the darkness of the subconscious fearlessly.
I’m not so sure about the epithet that ‘Nature abhors a Vacuum’ since space and dark matter are such a vast part of nature, but human nature certainly seems to, especially in our modern world where every possible space and moment is filled by the morass of multimedia drivel and bright distractions, and constant activity is seen as the harbinger of progress. There are too few who ever stop doing long enough to actually reassess what it is they are doing, and why…
And perhaps with good reason for the ultimate unknown is our own subconscious, that great morass of dark matter which influences everything, yet can only be communicated with through stillness, darkness and dreaming. To me magic lies in the connection between the subconscious (or occulted) and the conscious.
For as I wrote in ‘Solve’: ‘…when we do stop, when we surrender to the stillness and the darkness, we may find it to be nurturing. It might seem heavy, foreboding and serious, but darkness is also ultimately deep, calm and rejuvenating. To embrace the blackness allows us to return to the light renewed and with a fresh appreciation for its wondrous colours, rigours and vigours…’
Another important point of your life and art is Androgyny, unity with lunar, feminine side. What does this concept means for you?
As a genetic male this is perhaps related to the former question -for the lunar and feminine side is that of the night, and of darkness as the yin or receptive aspect of nature, balancing the solar active masculine. I mean these as very general energetic tendencies, as obviously both men and women have diverse aspects to their natures.
To me it is the balance between which is vital. In magic it is important to explore polarities but also to ultimately transcend them, often by their convergence. The Great Rite can occur within the Self, as the Alchemical Marriage which unites the masculine and feminine aspects within an individual. From this process one becomes a complete being, and able to open more to all phenomena, enjoying the dance of form with an awareness that all apparent dualities may converge.
I took my journey with the Alchyimic Marriage much more literally than most, reifying to an extent my inherent hermaphroditism in physical form. This is of course not necessary and was a follow-up only to the inner work, but as an artist-magician I am quite obsessive sometimes about results on the material plane, so I decided to take female hormones (I grew small breasts), stretch my urethra (creating a kind of two-in-one genitalia) etc. while invoking various Goddess energies for nine moonths, after which I had an Alchemical Wedding as an actual semi-public ceremony, rather than it just being a spiritual metaphor. Because I went through this journey as a magical practise, working on many levels, I was able to maintain some of the changes even after I stopped taking the oestrogen (back in 2000), and it certainly altered some of my perspectives on gender and some of the larger related matters of duality and union.
It depends if you mean unusual to me specifically, or what would be considered unusual by most people!
I am accustomed to having an ‘unusual’ life so it is actually unusual when I experience brief periods of ‘normality’ with a minimum of magical occurrences. This sometimes happens when my creativity goes through a brief fallow phase, as I rest or recover after a major undertaking to allow my energies to regenerate.
However I suspect you are more interested in things others might consider unusual, so:
I am currently engaged in two new projects inspired by a series of magical synchronicities:
Somebody at the other end of Australia recently emailed me wondering if he could commission me to make an Alchemical chess set, inspired by some of my digital artwork for ‘Distillatio’ (White Book of the Tela Quadrivium) I’d shared online which included such imagery, for example white and black swans as the knight pieces, Apollo and Artemis Multimammia as Red King and White Queen. I love the idea and it occurred to me that the best medium for some of them would be glass. Contacting a local lamp glass-blower about collaboration, I discovered she has a penchant for the whimsical surrealism of children’s author Dr Suess, which is reflected in her glass-work. It also has a deep-sea-creature element reminding me of the work of H.P.Lovecraft. Now as it happens I had been discussing only a few nights earlier a necromantic collaboration with my friend Araignee -we would each conjure the spirit of a dead author then work together on a piece of writing, juxtaposing apparently incongruous creative aspects. We had decided a perfectly hilarious mismatch would be H.P.Lovecraft and Dr. Suess, resulting in ultra-violet verse that will transcend Lovecraft’s purple prose in sheer horrific cosmic absurdity.
While also a bit of a joke, the underlying profundity is these authors’ opposing attitudes to strangeness, one a xenophiliac and the other a xenophobe. And its reflections (through and in surreal alchemical glassware!) in the synchronous chess-set project are fascinating me, especially as I had already developed a new song (with violin, voice and cello) related to the imagery of Albedo (white phase of alchemy) and Nigredo (black phase of alchemy) chess-boards and the strange hybrid creatures which inhabit them. So recently I’ve been performing this while moving the figures on a reified sculpture thereof at the London launch of Distillatio.
All this intertwined symbology and conceptual imagery coalesced wondrously in a recent visit to the astral temple of the Silver Dusk during our Samhain (southern hemisphere) full moon circle. I experienced visions of amorphous alchemical glass architecture which apart from being grandiose on an astral level, also apparently seem to be on their way to progressive manifestation into form…
One of the best things about having a magical perspective is how blurry the ‘line’ is between what ‘happens’ to you and what you do. The activation of True Will obscures the delineation between individual Will and destiny/Fate.