‘The Man We Want To Hang’: Kenneth Anger films the art of Aleister Crowley

Crowley self-portrait, 1920
‘The Man We Want To Hang’ is a film shot by Kenneth Anger documenting an exhibit of Aleister Crowley’s paintings at London’s October Gallery in April 1998. The score is by Liadov.

I was amazed when I found this video. I thought I’d seen all of Anger’s films, but I was wrong. While it’s neither the trippy spectacle or erotic fetishism one expects of Anger, it still has moments where you sense the Anger ‘touch’. But mostly Kenneth steps out of the way and let’s Crowley’s paintings take center stage.

‘The Man We Want To Hang’, the title of the film also the title of the notorious Sunday Express article which had denounced A.C. as the “Wickedest Man In The World.” The title is also a pun on art being hung on gallery walls, and a possible reference to The Hanged Man of the Tarot—who appears in the film a few times—although nothing jumped out at me as I looked over that entry in The Book of Thoth to back up that line of thought (but I’m sure those with well wore copies of 777 and The Book of Thoth and a knack for undoing and uncovering occult puzzles may have better luck that I did ...)

The art works themselves—drawn of the collections of Keith Richmond, Jimmy Page and the Ordo Templi Orientis International—depict a variety of subjects. Simple landscapes of mountains, volcanoes and sea, serpents and malevolent beings from some daemonic reality, portraits of individuals familiar to those versed in A.C.‘s biography—such as Gerald Yorke and various Scarlet Women—and self-portraits of A.C., some evoking grey aliens or Lam.

If this was the only output of an artist they would have at most been a curious and obscure art historical footnote, if even that. But when put into the context of A.C.‘s life they have more value.

Throughout his life A.C. expressed his higher nature in a multitude of ways. Poetry, painting, ritual magick, sexual athleticism, writing, mountaineering, exploring higher consciousness. While he was middling in such expressions as painting and poetry, his non-fictional magickal texts are genius, a Joyce or Fassbinder of occult and esoteric philosophy, and most of us would be extremely lucky to create a single work of genius over a lifetime, let alone a multi-volumed network of texts like A.C.‘s.

Aside from his texts of magickal philosophy and ritual his other great work of art was his life, which encompassed the lowliest degradations and the highest and holiest exalted states. The art works provide a visual accompaniment to it—the settings, the personalities, the extraordinary experiences.

They also provide a reminder of A.C.‘s role as a prototype of the type of current creative spirit, with his multiple means of expression (poetry, art, journalism, adept, etc.) a forerunner of the of the typical artist of today, who is just as likely to write a novel, play in a band, star in a porn, run a small business, blog, than lock themselves in one monolithic way of expressing creative currents.

He ran a preview of this social reality movie like all successful intelligence agents do.” Jason Lubyk



Posted by Marc Campbell
10:29 pm



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