Gareth gets magical in London


Our pal Gareth Branwyn says:

Anybody who's been a captive audience of mine for more than a few minutes recently probably knows that I'm writing a novel. I've also mentioned it here on Boing Boing and elsewhere. It explores occult themes and has a main character who's obsessed with the idea of using modern multimedia technologies and ancient ritual techniques to create a theater experience that seriously alters the consciousness of her audience members. She was inspired by Aleister Crowley's attempt at doing ceremonial magick in a theatrical context in his 1910 Rites of Eleusis performances. As part of my research, I've looked at what other people have done in this area of mixing music, theater, ritual and magick. Sadly, most of it is horrible. Cringeworthy. Over time, certain people have captured and sustained my interest, people who seem to be exploring these ideas with a certain degree of rigor, and ya know, talent. And to my surprise and delight, it looks like they've all been rounded up and invited to The Equinox Festival in London the second weekend in June.

One of the multimedia artists working in this realm of ritual performance art and film is Raymond Salvatore Harmon. He can soon add festival organizing to his resume, as he's the man behind the Festival (along with Simon Kane, co-curator of The Salon performance events (with Jack Sargeant), and Andrew Hartwell, proprietor of Aurora Borealis records). Although it's a full-featured occult conference/festival, with an impressive roster of speakers, because it's organized by a multimedia artist, it's the music, film and performances that are unique and most interesting. Any of these program tracks would be worth the price of admission as far as I'm concerned. And as you'd expect, all of the performers concern themselves with occult/spiritual themes in their work. Some of the music includes: John Zorn, Z'ev, Burial Hex, TAGC (with Clock DVA's Adi Newton) and Æthenor. The festival will also see the return of the highly influential British prog folk group Comus, regrouping after a 37 year absence. They'll be performing their album "First Utterance" in its entirety. Closing the festival with be Peter Christopherson, of Throbbing Gristle and Coil, performing under his new moniker, Threshold House Boys Choir. The film track of the festival includes showings of Craig Baldwin's Mock Up On Mu, Paola Igliori's American Magus and The Seed of Joy, Harry Smith's Heaven and Earth Magic, Alejandro Jodorowsky's The Holy Mountain, Maya Deren's Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti, The Mindscape of Alan Moore, Ira Cohen's Kings with Straw Mats and Raymond's film YHVH.Speakers at the event include Boing Boing pal Erik Davis, psychedelics pioneer Ralph Metzner, chaos magician Philip Farber, Voudon Gnosis author David Beth, and Aaron Gach who readers of Arthur magazine will recognize as one of the lovable weirdos behind the Center for Tactical Magic.

One of the other things that first caught my eye about this festival was the name Equinox, the subtitle, "A Festival of Scientific Illuminism," and its motto: "The Method of Science, The Aim of Religion." These are all Crowley references. The name of his magazine was The Equinox and it was subtitled "The Review of Scientific Illuminism" and that was its motto. It was this attempt at bringing even a moderate veneer of scientific rigor to spiritual investigation that first attracted me to Crowley (and to subsequent "followers" of his work, such as Robert Anton Wilson). I'm very anxious to see how much of that is in evidence here. It's certainly refreshing and different to at least see a summer music and arts festival that's not just about getting fucked up and flopping around in the mud (not that there's anything wrong with that, mind you).

The Equinox Festival runs from June 12, 13, 14 and will be held at Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, London. The Friday night opening event will be at Camden Centre, Bidborough Street. I'll be doing several dispatches for Boing Boing from the Festival, and look forward to talking to Raymond and some of the other artists, speakers and attendees. So, stay tuned…

I'm also going to London to see a once-in-a-lifetime William Blake exhibit. The Tate is recreating his 1809 one-man show, mounted exactly 200 years ago. They've reunited all of the paintings that Blake had in the show. The show was a disaster and got savaged in the only review he received; the show was basically ignored by the public. The whole experience embittered Blake even more and made him withdraw further from public life. In my piece about Blake in MAKE, Volume 17, I talked about his invention of "illuminated printing," a then-radical technique for freeform relief-etching. This show features work done using another technique he invented which was far less successful, called "fresco painting," created with a mixture of tempera paint and carpenter's glue. Tragically, the materials used did not age well and those paintings that have survived are cracked and darkened. It'll be interesting to see the paintings done in this method up close and personal.