BREEDING RIOTOUS GROWTH OUT OF DECAYING EARTH
Music by Stephen O’Malley
Dear friends and allies,
do you know what the dark art is to me?
Poisonous beauty hovering in suspense, over the abyss. The voice of the non-human that creeps up on us. The awakening of a deeper identity. A longing to become other. A complex relational field of both terror and redemption. A roar of raw cosmic energy and ecstasy. The light of darkness itself.
Allow me to begin at the beginning. First there was something dark and muddy and then there was an unclean signal and glyph, a sign of future becomings. The origin of our art lies deeply hidden within Palaeolithic caves. Secret underground spaces host some of the most powerful pieces of art ever created. People entered zones of total darkness to gain insight and visions into an alternate reality that they projected onto cave walls and ceilings like motion pictures. Their experiences were either related to the mysteries of the underworld or to the starry realms of the night sky. The area of invisibility at the end of subterranean passages served as an entrance to the otherworld and a gateway to transformation. The ecstatic visions of ancient sorcerers had a profound influence on human culture. Summoning the mysteries of the universe into the phenomenal world has been a driving force behind art for millennia. The dark light that shines at the core of nature puts us in touch with our primordial roots and the reality of the all-consuming fire of time.
But few are those nowadays who seem to have a yearning for an art that aims for a participation in cosmic becoming. Most people consider art to be an end in itself. Contemporary culture seems to have forgotten about the cosmic dimension of art. Our will to connect with the universe and its unknown forces seems weirdly displaced today. Let us not eschew the obvious; an art that is made for other purposes than being shown and collected is hardly welcomed by a system that has become part of capitalized mass culture. Galleries can’t sell the black light that our spells are conjuring and museums have little use for artists who aim to invoke those dark creative forces within their white cube spaces. The dark art of transforming matter and experiences primarily thrives outside the contemporary art scene. Driven by the illusion of neutral space and timelessness, art galleries and museums have built an entire worldview on light and all that it represents.
Nothing is more needed in times of excessive light and overexposure than the depths of darkness. In order to connect with our inner being, as well as the universe at large, we have to awake to the dark. In the dark, we feel the universe within ourselves. In the dark and away from the light, we expand into the universe. Art, in its most profound expression aims at the infinite, it opens a gate to the eternal realms beyond our daily lives and makes us participate in the cosmic dance of death and renewal. To recover the primary experience of art, we need to unearth our profound personal desires and motivations. Our art is not driven by the search for popularity. It is not about how high we are ranked on some list or how well we are connected to global networks. One works and acts with others but what affects us at our deepest level is the intense, physical experience of life itself. The dark art expresses a philosophy of alterity, a politics of heresy and a metaphysics of revolt that aims to transform our personal and collective existence. There must always be a vision to strive for.
Dear friends and allies, let me ask you: how can we affect capitalist reality through our art? How to withstand cultural hegemony? How to develop secret modes of intervention in a community in which all information is known? What does light and darkness mean in a society of surveillance and publicity? What is the secret of secrecy? What is at stake here is the building of a force outside our ubiquitous circuits of visibility. Our art involves tactics of resistance and insurrection but its greatest strength lies in its hiddenness. Sorcery defies rationality and comprehension so those in power cannot easily recognize and control it. Visibility is always correlated to the sovereign but the ruling class never runs the show entirely. Our methods and ways should be neither predictable nor controllable. Let’s evade urban zones of surveillance and return to the source of our art and magic, at least for a spell. Let’s descend into the dark places of the earth which are not entirely owned by capitalism. The dark revolution starts here, in the world of shadows and margins. If our creations resonate with our deep dreams, they will eventually become a contagious drive toward a new bringing into being.
The dark art situates itself at the edge where existing things end and new things begin. Evolution is intensely mysterious and open-ended. By willingly exposing ourselves to the outside, we allow new possibilities of participation and symbiosis to arise. Previously unimaginable opportunities sometimes rise out of new contacts between human and nonhuman agents. Let us expand the horizon and focus on what is emerging. Our existence depends on the successful integration of foreignness and otherness. It is only by assimilating the alienating forces of the other that we can evolve. Our association with the nonhuman is not far fetched. What we usually define as the outside is already present within. We participate in complex networks in which our human parts intersect with the dark streams of the nonhuman and the geological. We are living beings that consist of geological materials such as calcium, iron and phosphorus. Our skeleton is mineral. Our immune system relies upon parasitic worms to work correctly and there are more bacteria in our bodies than human components. It seems that the flora of our intestinal system alone is composed of 100 trillion microorganisms. Whose body is it anyway?
Human domination over the planet is taken for granted today but the earth was not ours to begin with and will never entirely become so. We must let go of the illusion of total control and expose ourselves to the multiple outsides of which we take part. The signs of planetary change are all around us but we do not know whether we are witnessing the end of the world as we know it or the beginning of a new world. Fundamental change is always accompanied by the fear of the unknown. The metamorphosis that we are going through is an identity-shattering process but our enlightened civilization does not teach us how to handle extreme transformative crisis. In a culture obsessed with light and clarity, we have forgotten how to cope with forces too obscure to be quickly explained away. The dark art helps us to go over into foreign territory and participate it its otherness.
Contemporary sorcery is about absorbing the strange and unfamiliar. We need to look out for simultaneously archaic and highly advanced forms of relating to foreignness. The way we see the world has drastically changed over time but there actually exists a continuum between our ancient myths and our latest theories on evolution. What underlies both our most abysmal sorceries and our most recent philosophies of becoming is the terrifying, yet ultimately freeing interaction of human and nonhuman agents. The way in which theories of posthumanism describe contemporary flows of mutation often resonates strongly with the sorcerer’s merging with the demonic other. Both systems of thought aspire to shift our perspective and make us take part in complex feedback processes. Our future will depend on how successful we will mediate power relations between all kinds of planetary agents, including ourselves.
Wherever we look these days, we see cynicism and hopelessness. The biggest threat that humanity faces today is to see the future as nothing but a curse. Neurologists inform us that the worst aspect of depression is that it narrows our field of vision so that we can see no options to escape our present condition. If we can free our eyes for a moment from the media focus on civilizational disintegration, we will maybe see that sorcerous possibilities rise out of the ashes of Empire. The task that awaits us is to find our equivalents for the sorcerous practices that helped our ancestors to confront the massive threats at the close of the paleolithic ice age. We need to recover the original wisdom born from the dark womb of the cave but in order to survive the violence of our times, we must live our visions right here, in the present. The dark art is not something from the past, it is the timeless technique of renewing the world through visionary experience. What is required is a new form of perception that makes us experience reality differently and see the world through the eyes of the other. Sorcery allows us to shed our human skin and expand into the unknown.
We must concentrate our efforts on the long-term effects of our work. Let’s reject the ephemeral, capitalist notion of ‘project’ that rules contemporary culture and set our lifetime goals. Some objectives take decades, even centuries to be achieved and cannot be accomplished by a single generation. Our art will continue, growing, evolving, spreading into the universe. Let us dive into the elemental and align our art to the currents of the flickering abyss. Its black light opens a gate to the immensity from which we all emerge and to which we will return. Our sorcerous task is to reach out into the open and become something else, something beyond the human, to transform into the flow of change itself. We need to push the boundaries of possibility and act between life and death. Our current physical and mental structure does not condition our alien future. Ultimately, the radical otherness of Radiant Darkness teaches us the demonic art of living on beyond the edge of a fixed form. The sublime paradox of Radiant Darkness erases the distinction between being and non-being and leads us into the void from which all existence springs. Let the unborn arise in us, invisible.
That is the art to me. And you, dear friends and allies, what is it to you?
Gast Bouschet 017
Excerpts of Alkistis’ 40 minute solo for the Night of Radiant Darkness, closing event of our Metamorphic Earth exhibition.
Choreography and dance: Alkistis Dimech
Music by Kevin Muhlen (guitar and electronics) and Angelo Mangini (hurdy-gurdy)
Costume designed and crafted by Katie Pollard