Brian Butler’s collaboration with actress Paz de la Huerta, “Babalon Working” premiered last month at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) here in Los Angeles. It was shot on location in Prague at the site where sixteenth-century alchemist Edward Kelly worked the Enochian system of magick. Blondie’s Chris Stein provided the no-wave synthesizer soundtrack.
“It’s between a dream and being awake. It’s a state just between those two. And if you can stay there, then you can channel something otherworldly, nonhuman,” says Butler of his hypnagogic cinematic practices.
Brian Butler’s “Babalon Working” on MOCAtv
After the short film was screened, there was a ritualistic performance art piece. Paz de la Huerta sat in a chair that was itself a work of art, facing the audience, making direct eye contact and sort of writhing and undulating around slowly, touching herself in a kind of sexy yet insane way that would be difficult to describe in any more detail than that. Extremely powerful strobe lights flashed around her.
Ashtar Command’s Chris Holmes did his Eno-thing on a laptop while Brian made stomach-churning low frequency oscillations on an analog synth. Then it was over.
Oddisee Films, in conjunction with David Lynch Foundation Television, have produced a portrait of Butler where he describes his meditational working methods. Eagle-eyed occultniks will note his interesting selection of book props: Znuz is Znees, Memoirs of a Magician by obscure Crowley acolyte C.F. Russell.
I appreciated that. For me, it’s all about the details.
Brian Butler’s new film, Babalon Working, featuring actress Paz de la Huerta (Enter the Void, Boardwalk Empire) will be premiering tomorrow evening at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles.
From the press release:
MOCAtv is pleased to present the world premiere of Brian Butler’s Babalon Working, a visually arresting journey of consciousness featuring Paz de la Huerta. The exclusive screening will be followed by Butler’s unearthly performance, Transmigration, further exploring the film’s abstract concepts with a high level of intensity through the use of Orgone generators, stroboscopic lights, low frequency sound waves, and geometric formations.
A glimpse into Butler’s forthcoming feature film King Death, Babalon Working uses symbolist imagery to communicate experientially with the viewer and to explore the layers of ecstasy, madness, and creativity that mediate man’s voyage between life and death. The footage was shot on location in Prague at the site where famed sixteenth-century alchemist Edward Kelley pioneered the system of Enochian Magick. Enochian Magick, which would later be expanded by the Golden Dawn, was cited by Jack Parsons as the inspiration for the ritual he entitled the Babalon Working.
Chris Stein of Blondie recorded a manic no-wave synthesizer soundtrack for the film.
The Babalon Working screening will begin promptly at 8pm, doors open at 7pm at MOCA’s Grand Ave location.
People love to love James Franco and they seem to love to hate him, too. I think it must be because he does absolutely everything. The prolific multi-hyphenate’s latest project is a music video for a song titled “Love in the Old Days” by Daddy, his musical enterprise with artist/musician Tim O’Keefe.
When producer Ted James remixed one of Daddy’s songs, “Love in the Old Days,” Franco cast Kenneth Anger in the music video, presiding over a masked bacchanal based on Anton LaVey’s lycanthropic “Das Tierdrama” ritual (which was, in turn, based on The Island of Doctor Moreau by HG Wells).
Alexandria Symonds: How did Kenneth Anger react when you approached him with this concept? Or was it more collaborative—did you come up with the idea together?
James Franco: This is the first time I’ve worked with Kenneth. But I’ve been very influenced by his work before this. I met one of his close collaborators, a guy named Brian Butler, and Brian and I have been talking about various projects for a while, and we just haven’t been able to do any of them yet. Brian has a movie that he wants to direct, and he wants me to be a little part in. And then when I learned that he did a lot of stuff with Kenneth, I couldn’t have been more excited.
So Brian set up the meeting, and Kenneth is a—[laughs]. He’s a nice guy, but I think he’ll admit, he’s a very strange guy. So the conversation was very weird. We met at the Chateau Marmont, Brian was there. I’d have this whole conversation with Brian, because Kenneth was really quiet, and I’d ask Kenneth something, and it was like he wasn’t even listening—but then, he’d kind of become aware. And he’s very smart, he’s been through so many different kinds of experiences, and was a part of so many different things, traveling with the Rolling Stones at the end of the ‘60s. So at times, if you can get him to talk, he’s very knowledgeable and informative. But at other times, it feels like he’s just thinking about other things.
Alexandria Symonds: What about on the set? What was it like to direct him? Did you basically just let him do his thing?
James Franco: Right. So, I read this book called Sway, that’s a fictional novel, but it uses Kenneth and the Rolling Stones, and this guy, Bobby Beausoleil, who was part of Manson’s group, as characters. I don’t know how true any of it is, but I’m sure the writer did research to make a lot of it at least based on fact. In that book, he has the character of Kenneth Anger making the films—the films that Kenneth actually made. And there were certain approaches that he had to these films, where he would shoot a lot of things kind of documentary-style, just people doing their regular routines. Or sometimes, he would stage these basic rituals, but in the editing, turn them into something much more energetic and artistic than they were when they were just filmed.
I guess I used whatever was in that book as kind of a guide about how to work with him. All I really needed was this basic ritual of, I guess you would call it, “The Marriage of Hell.” And we had imagery that was people in animal masks, that was based on certain images that Kenneth’s friend Brian had shown me. I always saw Kenneth as the Priest of Darkness; his films have strangely fused art and weird, kind of religious rituals. And I knew in one of his performances he plays that weird instrument called the theremin. So, if I just had him kind of preside over the wedding and play the theremin, I knew I could shoot it similarly to the way he shot his movies, and then edit it, and make it into something even more.
Brian Butler—who recently moved into the former Hollywood Hills home of Donald Cammell, he tells me, “for inspiration”—was the creative director for the piece. Butler will soon commence production on a feature film called King Death (this is the project Franco alludes to in the Interview interview). He’ll be appearing in Berlin on Saturday night at the Mindpirates space showing some of his short films with a musical performance.
Read the rest of the James Franco interview at Interview
Below, Daddy’s “Love In The Old Days” (Ted James 1999 Remix):
Photos and video from Brian Butler’s performance of Aleister Crowley’s “Bartzabel Working,” a ceremonial evocation of the spirit of Mars, first written and performed in London in 1910 by the Great Beast 666.
The ceremony was performed at the west coast branch of L&M Arts in Los Angeles on December 4.
The ritual was part of the gallery’s current “For the Martian Chronicles” exhibit and employed custom robes made in the original A∴A∴ (Crowley’s magical order) designs and a circle, altar and triangle fabricated in Thelemic colors.
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 kind soul has posted a segment from my now twelve-year-old British Disinformation TV series—which was on Channel 4 in 2000 and 2001—the one about “space mercenary” Rocket Boy, a quirky individual who apparently believed himself to be a super hero (half cat/half human) and who fronted a noise rock band, also called Rocket Boy. He was never, ever out of character, as far as I could tell.
I saw his band play once in a dive bar in downtown Los Angeles in the early 1990s. The “musicians” just made noise while Rocket Boy screamed. All of the music in this piece is his own material. He passed away a few years back, I heard.
In the clip below—one of my favorites from the series—directed by Brian Butler and shot and edited by Nimrod Erez, Rocket Boy goes head-to-head with his landlord and upstairs neighbor, Captain Art. Rocket Boy lived in Art’s basement in San Pedro and they just never got along…
If you’re flying on Virgin during the holidays, you can see some more from the Disinformation TV series on the Boing Boing channel.
Films include Brian Butler’s “Night of Pan” (2009), “Death Posture” (2011) and his latest “Union of Opposites” (2012); Kenneth Anger’s documentation of the paintings of Aleister Crowley “Brush of Baphomet” (2009); Ira Cohen’s “The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda” (1968); Harry Smith’s “No. 11: Mirror Animations” (1979); and Curtis Harrington seldom-seen visual poem about Marjorie Cameron, Wormwood Star (1955), where you can see dozens of her amazing paintings, most which she sadly destroyed.
Brian Butler’s films have screened at the Tate Modern and the Cannes Film Festival. He recently had his first solo exhibition in Los Angeles at LA ART and performed in collaboration with Kenneth Anger at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA). The Seattle event is co-presented by the Esoteric Book Conference.
Magick in Cinema with Brian Butler, Thursday, 7:00 pm April 5th
Northwest Film Forum 1515 12th Ave. E. Seattle Tickets are available at www.nwfilmforum.org or by calling 1-800–838-3006
Below, an excerpt from Butler’s “Night of Pan” short:
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.
A reminder about the Kenneth Anger opening party (which is confusingly being held a week after the exhibit actually opened to the public) tomorrow night at MOCA. Featured will be a live musical interlude via Anger and Brian Butler’sTechnicolor Skull project.
Technicolor Skull performs their first West Coast appearance at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles on November 19, 2011, as part of the opening reception for Kenneth Anger: ICONS. This exhibition will showcase the films, books, and artwork of one of the most original and enigmatic filmmakers of post-war American cinema. This coincides with the release of Technicolor Skull’s self-titled recorded debut, a one-sided, bloodred 180 gram 12” vinyl LP limited to 666 copies.
Technicolor Skull is an experiment in light and sound, exploring the psychic impact of a magick ritual in the context of an improvised performance. With Brian Butler on guitar and electronic instruments, and Kenneth Anger on theremin, their collaboration is a performance contained inside a ritual of unknown origin, tapping into occult stories that extend musical language into initiation. Hidden messages escape through gesture and light, manifesting as a one-time-only event.
Yet another reason why I love the City of… Angels(!) so very, very much…
MOCA presents Kenneth Anger: ICONS, a showcase of the films, archives, and vision of one of the most original filmmakers of American cinema, on view at MOCA Grand Avenue from November 13, 2011, through February 27, 2012. A defining presence of underground art and culture and a major influence on generations of filmmakers, musicians, and artists, Anger’s films evoke the power of spells or incantations, combining experimental technique with popular song, rich color, and subject matter drawn equally from personal obsession, myth, and the occult.
MOCA’s exhibition centers on Anger’s Magick Lantern Cycle of films—Fireworks (1947), Puce Moment (1949), Rabbit’s Moon (1950/1979), Eaux d’artifice (1953), Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954/66), Scorpio Rising (1963), Kustom Kar Kommandos (1965), Invocation of My Demon Brother (1969), and Lucifer Rising (1970-81)—presenting the work across multiple projections in a unique gallery installation of red vinyl, designed in close consultation with Anger.
Complementing the films is an archive of photographs, scrapbooks, and memorabilia from Anger’s personal collection that illustrates the filmmaker’s unique vision of Hollywood’s golden era. The inspiration and source material for the filmmaker’s infamous celebrity “gossip” books Hollywood Babylon, (1975) and Hollywood Babylon II (1984), the collection centers on stars such as Rudolph Valentino and Greta Garbo, as well as now lesser-known icons like silent-film actress Billie Dove. Anger grew up in Hollywood. His grandmother was a costume mistress, and he is claimed to have appeared as a child actor in the Warner Brothers production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935). The world of the classic studios and the mystique of its major figures radiates throughout the photographs, press clippings, letters, and memorabilia on display, which Anger has gathered across many decades.
Technicolor Skull, a multimedia collaboration featuring Kenneth Anger on Theremin and Los Angeles artist Brian Butler on guitar and electronic instruments, will perform for the first time in Los Angeles at the exhibition opening on November 19. Technicolor Skull is a magick ritual of light and sound in the context of a live performance. The project premiered at Donaufestival in Austria, in April 2008, and has subsequently toured throughout Europe, performing at the National Museum of Art, Copenhagen, and the Serralves Museum, Portugal, and recently at the Hiro Ballroom, New York, for the Anthology Film Archives benefit.
Opening: Saturday, November 19, 7–10pm, Technicolor Skull will perform at 8pm.
Weirdo Atlanta GA-based “flower punk” group, Black Lips have claimed the inspiration for their insane live shows from the like of Viennese Actionists and death rocker G.G. Allin. If this doesn’t sound like your cup of vomit… or urine, then it’s probably best to stay clear of the front rows.
For their latest single, “Modern Art,” Black Lips tapped Dangerous Minds pal Brian Butler (we posted about his “Night of Pan” film with Kenneth Anger and Vincent Gallo here) to direct this quirky, off-kilter hoodoo clip. Co-starring “a human skull, a rooster, a bomb blast, and more fun than you can manage.”
Vogue Italia‘s Mariuccia Casadio provides some details:
A man of few words, this fascinating former actor who still takes care of his appearance first filmed the settings for his film “Missoni”: mostly locations near bodies of water in the Sumirago countryside and part of Rosita and Ottavio’s garden. For the indoor sequences, he built a set in the Council Room of the Sumirago Town Hall, a basement room with a vaulted ceiling. The mood of the film and the poses and movements of Margherita, Jennifer, Angela, Rosita, Ottavio, Ottavio Jr. and all other [Missoni] family members are reminiscent of Sergei Parajanov’s “The Color of Pomegranates”, a 1968 film that inspired Anger to create his Chinese box-style storyboard.
Do yourself a favor and go full-screen with this one. And if you’re unfortunate enough to not be familiar with Anger, do yourself another favor and click one or both of the links below. You’ll be glad you did.
Dangerous Minds pal Brian Butler has a new short film that’s part of a film festival coming up in Los Angeles soon. Brian was a producer on the Disinformation series with me a while back, helming two of the show’s more memorable segments: the feuding Satanists and Rocketboy, the real life superhero/half cat. He also introduced me to Uncle Goddamn. Brian also contributed the great essay on Marjorie Cameron, Cameron: The Wormwood Star to my Book of Lies anthology. For these reasons and more, I shall be forever grateful. The video clip below is a shorter version of Night of Pan that was made for a Beijing arts festival, the full version will be shown at the Projections festival. It’s pretty striking, I think you’ll agree!
From the press release:
Brian Butler’s Night of Pan Premiers in LA at Projections Festival, January 16 at Roberts & Tilton
Los Angeles, CA: Noted filmmaker, artist and musician Brian Butler (www.brianbutler.com) will premier his short film, “Night of Pan” in Los Angeles on January 16 at 7:30pm at the opening of Projections, a festival of rare and hard to see films including other directors such as Spike Jonze, Harmony Korine, Jean-Luc Goddard, and Miranda July . Projections was curated by Aaron Rose an artist, film director, writer, musician, and independent curator most noted as the co-curator of the successful museum exhibition and book Beautiful Losers: Contemporary Art & Street Culture which toured the world through 2008.
Projections takes place at the Roberts & Tilton Gallery, 5801 Washington Boulevard, between La Cienega Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue, in Culver City, California from January 16 to February 20, 2010. In addition to screening on January 16, “Night of Pan” will also be screened in a loop at the gallery on February 18, 2010.
“Night of Pan” is a seven and a half minute film featuring film auteur Kenneth Anger and actor Vincent Gallo. The film has been screened in various versions internationally in Beijing, Lisbon, Cannes, Athens, Rome, Berlin and elsewhere, but never in Butler’s base, Los Angeles.
In the film, Anger, Gallo, and Butler depict an occult ritual that symbolizes the stage of ego death in the process of spiritual attainment.
Brian Butler is a multidisciplinary artist who creates works around dark magical themes. He had worked extensively as a producer on director Kenneth Anger’s recent work. Additionally he has written for Dazed & Confused and performs along with Anger in the band Technicolor Skull.