The Method of Art; the Aim of Magick
“The reliance on science for method is tragic; instead of religion try aiming for magick.”
The Anti-art art movements. You could argue that they started with Pataphysics, but anyone involved with that lofty and heady science would dispute such a claim. You could say it started with Dada, or at least those involved with Dada were the first to own up to it. The war on art. An anti-art art movement. It later gave birth to Surrealism, and both had heavy connections to the political Left. These movements however, were not anti-art, but anti-artifact. They were anti-commode-ification of the produce of the artist. They did this however by attacking the sensibilities of the consumers and critics of the art. This mistake simply led to a new way to commode-ify art.
To say that I've read all art theory would be patently false, but what I've seen of it makes me think that there's a mistake in the thinking about art going on. We call artifacts art, and the activity of the artist, art. It can be very confusing when you have words doing double duty like that.
Art is the activity, and is commonly defined as such. But the common parlance eschews “artwork”, or “artifact” (from the Latin “arte”-“using art”, and “factum”-“something made”) and nowadays increasingly uses art to describe the artifacts and the activity. But this is false, the artifact or artwork produced by the artist is not the art, it is what remains after the working is finished. When the art is done, the artifact remains. The Art is the activity. And as you can guess, it is much easier to commode-ify an artifact than an activity. However, art can be commode-ified by means of commode-ifying artifacts. The artist becomes a servant of economic need instead of their own inspiration, producing artifacts on demand, or mass producing them, in an intense mimicry of factory production. It is through the artifacts that the artist is attacked by the Capitalist enterprise.
Once upon a time, back before recorded history, the tribe's holy man was the resident artist. But this meant more then, because he was also the resident healer, scientist, wizard, priest, and psychologist. This was the Art, as the ancients called it. The Art, as many reading this already may know, is the fancy pants term for Magick. I like using this spelling because it is reminiscent of the Greek spelling. They in turn got the word from the Persians. Really, the letters you use to spell it at this point is a matter of aesthetics. Through the millennia, the artist, healer, scientists, wizards, priests and psychologists all fractured out from the persona of the village cunning man into their own groups. Now, at the end of it, the artist increasingly becomes debased further into commode-ity production. Or to say plainly, there is more massed produced crap being called “art” than ever before.
Industrial commodity culture is incompatible with Art. I think we all know this deep inside. To get a sense of the feel of it, I recommend “Don't Hug Me I'm Scared” on Youtube if you haven't seen it. A fantastic exploration of creativity and art in the grind of Capitalism. Industrial commodity culture is incompatible with art because Art, even a little bit of it, can wake people up, out of the stupor of those psychological levers Capitalism uses on its victims, as revealed by the efforts of Stanley Milgrim and a robbery in Stockholm. Capitalism needs art to be a product, not medicine, rebellion, communication, political change, not a back door to social censure, and definitely, definitely not as spirituality in any form. Art, in Capitalism, needs to be a product for sale, an entertainment. This keeps the consumer passive. It definitely keeps the consumer from becoming an artist. That's the largest danger of all for the Capitalist enterprise.
To be an artist, to make art, is all at once to open the door to possibility, to being your own priest, wizard, scientist, psychologist, and healer. How can Capitalism survive such a thing? This reveals the mistake of those anti-art movements of eras past. It's a common mistake, made by many who feel they are in the “Left” quite often. Working within the system to change the system. You cannot counteract Capitalism's commode-ification of art by attacking from within. As has been demonstrated, put a toilet on a pedestal with a placard, and the so called “art world” will eat it up. The real way to use art to counteract the destruction of the artist, and his produce, is to get people doing art. There is no need or desire for art as a commode-ity if people are making their own artifacts.
The Artist as healer writes their own herbals of the local area, the Artist as scientist creates imaginary solutions to metaphysical problems, the Artist as wizard creates his own spirits and cosmos, the Artist as priest creates his own rituals and gods, the Artist as psychologist guides people on the quest to wholeness. If each of these professions reclaimed Art, or Art reclaimed them, then a serious threat to Capitalism would emerge.
Also threatened by this are the power structures of the doctrinal religions, the world's spiritual authoritarians. They too are threatened by the democratization of the Art. From the universal church in Rome fervently denouncing the worshipers of Santa Muerte, to monks being expelled for the crime of ordaining women, they stop at nothing to retain power over others spirituality. This and a seemingly endless legion of small time gate keepers have left spirituality as a chore for thousands of years in some parts of the world. Yeah, no shit there are a ton of people that are atheist, and just don't bother. I don't blame them; nope, not at all.
Here's a fun project! If you haven't done this before, try this out. Make up a god or goddess, or a genderless divinity if you like, go total free-form; and then worship it on an alter. Many reading this I imagine will already have an alter. Draw a picture or make a clay figure or whatever, and add it to your alter. It doesn't have to be a major god, unless you want that, it can be a minor god, a house god, the spirit of your family's Genius, or a tutelary spirit. Again, go total free-form. And then..., nothing. It's Art. Keep doing it, or stop. Or go further with it. Create a whole pantheon. Write horrible fan fiction about them. What? You'll write horrible fan fiction about Captain America, but you'd be too mortified to make up your own deities and write their mythology? Ok then, keep writing the Captain America fan fic, just remember you passed on the opportunity to write about something not owned by Disney. Don't get me wrong, I grew up with comics. I think the all movies are good, mostly. Warner Bros. spends the most and fails the hardest, but they still make their money. But when I hear the assertions that comic book superheroes are the modern equivalent of those ancient pantheons still known to us, I can't help but think that if we accept such an assertion at face value, that means “the gods” are owned by corporations owned by corporations. It is corporation turtles all the way down!
I should at this point bring something up, and it leads directly into the issue of what to do about the appropriation of art for the commodity market. I think just about everyone paying attention has caught my pun of comparing the commodification of art to the flushing of shit down a toilet. And that is what happens, the second art, or even Art, gets turned into a commodity to be traded, appraised, bought, sold, etc., it is robbed of all that that made it magick. And no, gentle reader, the short endorphin rush that comes with owning a new thing does not compare. It was this very theft and flushing down the toilet, of magick that the Anti-art art movements (or anti-art commodification movements) were concerned.
This whole time, I've discussed art as if it is an activity that only produces artifacts. It totally isn't. Performance art does not. It may produce props, sets, costumes, etc, but until recently with the advent of recording technology, the performance itself was a thing that existed only as a memory. This then would mean that some arts only leave memories behind, living reproductions of the event in living human minds. But of course, such an exalted state was not to last. Wax cylinders for recording sound, and later cellulose films, paved the way for the tech now available. This tech is not bad in and of itself, but does lend itself readily to the commodification of the performance arts.
There is a passage in Aleister Crowley's, “Book of Lies”, Chapter 69, “The Way to Succeed -and the Way to Suck Eggs!”, to wit, “This Work also eats up itself, accomplishes its own end, nourishes the worker, leaves no seed, is perfect in itself.” Now, I'm not suggesting, say, if you are an oil painter, that you start eating your oil paintings. Nor am I suggesting that the solution to this problem is oral sex. I mean, you can try it if you like, but I've been eating women out and sucking guys dicks for a while now, and the problem hasn't disappeared, I'm still having to sit down and write this. So obviously, lamentably, oral sex is not the answer..., to this problem.
What then is the answer? If you, dear reader, have read any of my earlier work on this issue, you may have already guessed where I'm going with this. The solution is, make art that self destructs, completely, or make art that must be recorded to be commodified, and then allow no recordings or reproductions. In other words, the work must eat itself up, and leave no seed. What I'm saying is that the focus on art should shift from products to experiences. This will, at a minimum, solve the problem until they figure out how to record people's memories and then sell those. This will buy us some time to deal with the actual problem with the “art world”, Capitalism itself. And of course, if you must produce an artifact, “Keep it secret, keep it safe!”
In this there is an objection that comes to my mind. I think on all those who live by their art, or to be more precise, live by the production of artifacts or the recording/public viewing of performances. To those who have these enviable positions, I would say, continue on. The only true solution to the commodification of art is the end of Capitalism. I would not have anyone impoverish themselves in such a manner. However, I would recommend that you keep the best away from hands with fistfuls of cash. Keep the best, the real Art, hidden from the profane. It is a lot to ask, I know. It means less money, and less glory, for the artist who works thus. I will not tell you you must do this. I only ask that you consider it, or something like it.
The destruction of artifacts that have already been commodified is mostly pointless. It does not rescue the art from being transmuted into shit. It would, as an act of propaganda of the deed, still have some value. But if the purpose is rescue or reclamation, I would say that effort is probably wasted. The point here is to preserve that spark, that which is ultra summa partium. As for myself, I've written more on this, and on ARS, the idea of the doing of art as that “Gnostic state” that Chaos magicians and other sorcerers speak of. Of how ARS provides that state, and much more, as the most central, easiest, and practical way to do magick. But few, if any, will read such works, for they are safe.
A Discordian for 20 years, Patacelsus finally got comfortable when the 21st century “started getting weird.” When not casting sigils, taking part in Tibetan Buddhist rituals, or studying the unfortunate but sometimes amusing stories of the dead, he’s been known to wander the hidden ways of the city, communing with all of the hidden spirits one can find in a city. As Patacelsus sees it, we’re all already free; after completing the arduous task of waking up to that we can then proceed, like a doctor treating a patient, to try to rouse others from the bitter and frightening nightmares of Archism. He laughs at Samsara’s shadow-play in lovely California, in the company of his wife, two cats, and two birds.