Three magi: Kenneth Anger, James Franco and Brian Butler
Occult artist / musician / filmmaker Brian Butler will be performing Aleister Crowley’s “Bartzabel Working” tomorrow night, Tuesday, December 4, at the L&M Arts gallery space in Venice Beach, CA. This occult ceremony is part of the gallery’s current “Martian Chronicles” theme exhibit and will employ custom robes made in the original A∴A∴ (Crowley’s magical order) designs and a circle, altar and triangle fabricated in vivid colors. Actor James Franco and Noot Seear from Twilight: New Moon will also participate in the ritual.
In conjunction with the current exhibition For the Martian Chronicles, L&M Arts is pleased to present The Bartzabel Working, a performance by filmmaker and artist Brian Butler. Based on a ceremonial evocation of the spirit of Mars, first written and performed in London in 1910 by the famed British occultist Aleister Crowley, the ritual later became part of Los Angeles history in 1946 when Jet Propulsion Laboratory rocket scientist and Crowley protégé Jack Parsons conducted his own version of this rite, with the intention of placing a martial curse on a pre-Scientology L. Ron Hubbard.
For his reinterpretation of this historical performance, Butler will conjure Bartzabel, the spirit of Mars, evoking the site that was once home to the late sci-fi author Ray Bradbury and currently comprises L&M Arts. The ritual will have Butler as Chief Magus, leading a cast drawn from his upcoming feature film King Death and featuring Henry Hopper as Assistant Magus, Noot Seear as Magus Adjuvant, and James Franco as Material Basis, the vessel though which the spirit of Mars manifests.
The performance will take place on Tuesday, December 4th at 8:30pm, followed by a reception with tunes courtesy of DJ & artist Eddie Ruscha.
Butler’s work has been shown at LAXART, in Portugal, Greece and in China. He recently performed with Kenneth Anger at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles as Technicolor Skull. www.brianbutler.com
“The Martian Chronicles” exhibit, honoring the work of sci-fi author Ray Bradbury, runs through January 5, 2013
L&M Arts, Los Angeles, 660 South Venice Boulevard, Venice, CA, 90291, 8:30 - 11:30 PM
A location report for Jim Clark’s 1974 film Madhouse, starring Vincent Price, Peter Cushing, Robert Quarry, Adrienne Corri and Linda Heyden. The film was very loosely based on Angus Hall’s pulp thriller Devilday, which told the story of a dissipated actor, Paul Toombes (Price) and his return to acting in a TV horror series about the evil Doctor Dis (Doctor Death in the film). Toombes was an obese, unrepentant, drug addicted and sexual predator, who dabbled in Black Magic, and is suspected of a series of brutal murders. Hall’s character owes something to Orson Welles and Aleister Crowley, and the book offered quite a few interesting plot lines the film never developed. Clark went on to edit Marathon Man, The Killing Fields, and The World is Not Enough, amongst many others. Madhouse was his last film as director.
Here director Clark talks about his admiration for the gods of film James Whale and Todd Browning, while Vincent Price and Peter Cushing talk about why ‘horror’ or ‘thrillers’ are so popular.
With Alan McGee it’s difficult not to be inspired to go out and do something great, something daring, like he did with Creation Records and Poptones and all the bands whose music defines the past 3 decades. His infectious energy glows and inspires, it fills you with his rich enthusiasms for life.
Just now McGee seems to be everywhere: he is making a film called Kubricks with the artist Dean Cavanagh; he’s writing his memoirs; he’s curating a music festival in Japan for 2013; he’s working on an art exhibition with musician Alex Lowe of Gun Club Cemetery; he’s thinking about returning to making records because most of today’s music is “awful”; and he’s also studying Aleister Crowley and Magick.
‘For the last 5 years, I have been studying Crowley / Osman Spare and the Chaos Magickians. I got into Crowley because everybody told me not to go there so, of course, I did and ended up at Chaos Magick.
‘I 100% love Aleister Crowley. The Book of the Law is my Bible. I love him. Anybody that is still demonised by the media seventy years later had to be on it and he was. He was the ultimate libertarian.
‘I believe in the power of will. If I want something to happen it does. It always has and that was before I read Pete J Carroll. I really wanted Creation Records to become massive and to get the biggest band in the world and I did.
‘I wanted to become rich and I did, which sounds crass but I come from Glasgow we had fuck all, so having money interested me and still does.
‘If I really want something it comes to me. That was before I learned you can do it with technique, we all can read the right books and be very accurate in what I want to achieve.
This might sound like arrogance, but it’s not. It’s just said in a matter-of-fact way, without any sense of ego.
‘I am almost a hermit in Wales, then I go and DJ or give a talk or work with Takashi, my Japanese friend on Tokyo Rocks and I become the old Alan/Rock ‘n’ Roll Alan, which I also enjoy.’
Most recently he bought a church.
‘I bought this chapel in Wales, as all the pubs and churches are for sale, so I bought it for 33K, has its own graveyard, it’s pretty posh, so that should be fun. I live on a ley line in Hay-on-Wye, everything that happens here is charged. The chapel is more for doing stuff that local people can interact with long term. I know Primal Scream want to do playbacks there etc. so, it’s going to be fun.’
Last month he was producing his first feature film Kubricks, written and directed by Dean Cavanagh, starring Joanna Pickering, Matt Berry, Gavin Bain, Anton Newcombe and, of course, McGee.
Dean and Alan became friends around 2008, after working on the hit on-line comedy series Svengali, which has now been made into a movie.
‘We formed Escalier 39 as a film company to shoot some DIY films. We talk a lot on the phone and have a lot of the same political and spiritual views on things so the film company seemed obvious to us. It’s an experiment really, to see if we can make films together.’
He pauses when asked what his role is in Kubricks.
‘Good question. Maybe as agent provacateur.’
Kubricks was shot over an ‘exhausting’ 5 days and is currently being edited. It’s tag-line is ‘Everything Is Synchronicity…Even Chaos!’ and is a new map to the world Kenneth Anger once filmed (‘I love Kenneth Anger…he’s an amazing dude’) of Magick and Art. Though McGee puts it more bluntly:
‘I could say meta-physics, but the truth is we don’t really know, which is why we did it.’
Kubricks will released next year, which brings us to McGee’s next project, his return to music after his “retirement” five years ago, which led him to believe he had given muisc up completely. But the cancer of mediocrity spread by Simon Cowell and the piss-poor quality of current chart music has led McGee to rethink things, especially after an offer to organize music festivals in Japan.
‘Recently I have been helping curate stadium festivals in Tokyo for 2013, and I am enjoying it. So maybe I am moving back towards music. I don’t know, to be honest.
‘I do like films and books more than working with music but I find music easy to do, I sort of understand the music process and always have done.
‘I think music is awful at this point and it’s deliberate. Music is such a strong thing, with the message and the vibration and they want it now to be shit so it loses its impact on people. They are great bands around but they just are basically marginalised till they give in.’
Next up, is an exhibition with Alex Lowe, and another film with Cavanagh set in the recently acquired church..
‘Dean is already writing a script about the chapel, but to be honest we both have too many ideas.’
This week marks the 60th anniversary of the death of rocket scientist and occultist John Whiteside “Jack” Parsons. In addition to being a pioneer in the filed of rocketry—at the age of 25, Parson was part of the first US Government’s first official rocket group. He later invented the formulation of the solid rocket fuel that eventually put man on the moon—Parsons was a follower of Aleister Crowley, a one-time associate of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and a self-proclaimed Antichrist.
MARVEL WHITESIDE PARSONS, always know as Jack, was born October 2, 1914 in Los Angeles, California. A chemical engineer and explosives expert, he was a principal scientist in the experimental rocket research group attached to the California Institute of Technology during the 1930’s. Their testing range in the area of Devil’s Gate Dam above Pasadena has since grown to become the Jet Propulsion Laboratory; Parsons was also a co-founder of the Aerojet General Corporation.
Together with his first wife, Helen Parsons Smith, Parsons joined the Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) in 1941, the same year as his most successful scientific achievement, Jet Assisted Take-Off (JATO). He was very much the young lion of the occult Order and, under the tutelage of Aleister Crowley, briefly served as the acting master of Agape Lodge. His now famous invocation, “The Babalon Working,” was first performed in 1946, with former WAVE Marjorie Cameron serving as Scarlett Woman and L. Ron Hubbard, future founder of the Church of Scientology, channeling words from the ether as Scribe while Jack performed as Priest.
The “Working” reset the course of Parsons’ life, ending his relationship with Aleister Crowley and the O.T.O. In his surviving essays and polemical writings, Parsons anticipated by many years the ethical, moral, religious and social dilemmas of the future.
Parsons died in an explosion of mysterious origin at his chemical laboratory at home in Pasadena on June 17, 1952. His second wife and collaborator, the artist Cameron, preserved and carried on his work until her death in 1995. In 1972 the International Astronomical Union named a crater on the moon (37°N 171°W) after Parsons in recognition of his pivotal role in developing the solid fuel rocket.
Painting of Jack Parsons by his widow, Marjorie Cameron
Bilingual? No problems if you’re not, the important sections here are Kenneth Anger’s, where the Magus of American Cinema tells his story from Fireworks to Lucifer Rising, via Bobby Beausoleil, Mick Jagger and Aleister Crowley, in this rare interview with French television from 2003.
In this fascinating but (far too) short clip, Alan Moore gives an introduction to the work of artist Austin Osman Spare (1886-1956), who he describes as “one of the most over-looked figures in British art history”. The obituaries for Spare’s death remarked “England had lost one of its best ever nude study artist.” Nearly sixty years after his death, little is known about the artist outside of knowledgeable and specialist circles.
But Spare wasn’t only an incredible artist, as Moore points out, he was also “possibly the greatest English magician of the twentieth century.”
“I think that Magic offers the artist a new way of looking at their consciousness, and of looking at where they get their ideas from.”
Spare was an artistic prodigy, who was the youngest exhibitor at the Royal Academy, London. At the same time, he was developing his own esoteric beliefs, which brought him into contact with Aleister Crowley, and a relationship of sorts began, with Spare contributing illustrations to Crowley’s magazine Equinox. However, the friendship foundered and Spare alluded to Crowley in his book The Book of Pleasure:
“Others praise ceremonial Magic, and are supposed to suffer much Ecstasy! Our asylums are crowded, the stage is over-run! Is it by symbolising we become the symbolised? Were I to crown myself King, should I be King? Rather should I be an object of disgust or pity. These Magicians, whose insincerity is their safety, are but the unemployed dandies of the Brothels.”
Yet Spare did not give up on magic completely, rather he began his own particular mix of “repressed magic”, which fed directly into his art work. Spare became known for his “automatic drawing” - allowing himself to act as a medium to spirits to guide his pencil, creating inter-twined images of figures and faces on a page.
There are many different stories (some more incredible than others) about Spare and his involvement with magic and the spirit world. He was said to have the power of divination and premonition, and could accurately predict events long before they took place. He was also know for his dialog with “spirits” and “demons”, and after a fire at his studio, he fell under a mysterious ailment which left him unable to paint for 5 years.
Spare’s work had some odd admirers, in particular Adolf Hitler, who asked him to paint his portrait. Spare refused believing Hitler to be evil, and if he were a Superman, Spare was claimed to have said in reply, then he would prefer to live as an animal.
Dangerous Minds pal artist/filmmaker/musician Brian Butler will be premiering an ambitious live performance art piece this Saturday, January 21 in Los Angeles at the Ruskin Theatre in Santa Monica. His muse, Annakim Violette (daughter of rockstar Tom Petty) will be at the center of this black magic occult ritual.
From the press release:
Union of Opposites is an experiment in ritual magick, combining the use of sound and light with the intent of creating a collective out-of-body experience. A film screening will transform into a live performance in which the artist and his team execute an occult rite inspired by Aleister Crowley’s mysterious Ritual of the Mark of the Beast. In this incantation, Butler explores ideas of reversal and the use of geometric figures as channels of occult power. The work will feature a spontaneously improvised soundtrack that experiments with the effects of sound frequencies and rhythmic chanting on our chakras and mental state.
Butler’s interest in expanded cinema will fold the performance space into the work. He views the film, performance and musical accompaniment as a singular entity, where the performers will “expand from two dimensional screen to three dimensional existence” as themes of astral projection and projective geometry interplay with the auditory and visual stimuli.
Butler—who has communed and consulted with occultists and magicians from Europe to South America—explains that “magick is an art unto itself. In a sense, is the art of living in a creative and free way.” Influenced by the work of British arch-occultist Aleister Crowley, Butler believes that magick is conducive to and “complements” all manner of creativity, helping practitioners access different parts of the mind as well as spiritual realms. Butler explains: “The occult is defined as the hidden levels of the mind or the hidden information about how things work…A really intense performance is like hypnosis. You go to a certain state of mind and your presence brings those around you to the same place.”
A part of Art Los Angeles Contemporary, in the Ruskin Theatre at the Santa Monica Airport, 3000 Airport Ave, 5pm. Produced in conjunction with Annie Wharton Los Angeles.
Below, Butler’s 42-second film “Night of Pan” from the OneDreamRush collective show, featuring Kenneth Anger, Vincent Gallo and Twiggy Ramirez.
Artist, alchemical filmmaker, musical archeologist and avant garde shaman, Harry Smith’s obsessive interests made him an influential, yet not widely known, figure of 20th century Beat culture and beyond. If Smith was only responsible for preserving the folk and blues musical traditions of early America in his Anthology of American Folk Music set from 1952, we would have him to thank for providing a way forward for a young Bob Dylan and the whole of the 60s/70s folk scene.
But Smith was far more than that, he was a filmmaker of astonishing originality, making stop motion animations influenced by 19th advertising art and the elaborate Middle Ages alchemical paintings of Robert Fludd. When I first saw VHS dubs of Smith’s films in the 1980s, I was impressed of course, but as I later learned, in actual fact what I had seen was only a part of what Smith had intended. He made his films as magic lanterns, with several projectors running at once and spinning lamps complementing the central image. When I saw his restored masterpiece No. 18: Mahagonny at the Getty Center in Los Angeles a few years back, it struck me how difficult it must have been to sync up four projectors at once (and the musical accompaniment, a recording of Kurt Weil and Bertolt Brecht’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny opera).
The restored version of Smith’s celluloid tetraptych was a marvel to behold, with all of the four images now perfectly in time to one another, and looking like a great psychedelic kaleidoscope of imagery taken around New York City, in particular the Chelsea Hotel and its bohemian denizens. Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg and the Jefferson Airplane’s Marty Balin all make cameo appearances. Seen, digitally restored and as Smith had intended, it was simply breath taking.
Apparently Smith never met a drug he didn’t like and would take any pill, drink any drink, smoke any joint, or snort any powder offered him and he was not at all averse to huffing gasoline, it’s been said, when that’s all that was around. For long periods of time he lived off the kindness of others and borrowed lots of money he had no intention of ever repaying. Yet Smith himself was said to be generous to a fault. Strange anecdotes about Harry Smith abound, many of them collected in two books about him American Magus: Harry Smith (edited by Paola Igliori) and Think of the Self Speaking (edited by Rani Singh, who is Smith’s archivist). My favorite story about Smith is how, if he’d find a pair of glasses, try them on and could see out of them better than the ones he was wearing, he’d toss the old pair in the garbage. Smith also claimed that Aleister Crowley was his father. All in all, you could say he was a colorful guy.
I am reminded of Harry Smith every day. I have one of the original Tree of Life prints that Smith made in the 1950s and gave as a gift to Allen Ginsberg. It’s still in the original brass frame that Ginsberg put it in. His handwriting is on the back in pencil along with a sticker from the Whitney. It’s in our dining room now.
In the last couple of years, New York-based artist M Henry Jones, who worked with Smith and continues to project Smith’s work as it was intended to be seen (click here for a short interview with Jones and some footage of one of his special Smith screenings. It’s really interesting to see, trust me) has put up a few fascinating videos of Smith being interviewed:
Below, a goofy episode of Scariest Places on Earth that focuses on The Abbey of Thelema. There are some pretty hilarious moments if you can wade through the boring parts. I noticed that they’ve got edits from an obscure, early Psychic TV video intercut here whenever they want to indicate evil or malevolence. What’s with the voice over???
Part II is here. After the jump, a closer look at the Abbey of Thelema’s ruins.
Over at Facsimile Dust Jackets you can find (and purchase) an incredible selection of scans of dust jackets from classic novels by Kurt Vonnegut, Philip K Dick, Doris Lessing, Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Christopher Isherwood, Norman Mailer, Jack Kerouac, Henry Miller, Agatha Christie, Aleister Crowley, Dennis Wheatley, Robert Bloch, Len Deighton and many, many more. Have a look for yourself here.