This project focuses on drawing as a site that performs and records magical acts, conflating text and gesture into mystifying diagrams, drawn through self-experiments in (non-entheogenic) altered stated of consciousness. Current and recent drawings have (re/de-)articulated esoteric motifs, (de/re-)vivified automatic methods, and golem-splained the Cthulian choreographies betwixt abstracted and resistant materialities.

For my A-N Artist Bursary activity, this project has focused on new contexts and training for expanded research methods, fabrication of experimental magical apparatus, culminating in the creation of a psychomantic noise-guitar avatar named Me/Mi MoMo Mu. This performance characterisation re-interprets the lietmotifs of my drawings, produced in response to new training methods, and as oblique diagrams for spatial curses – designs for interactive sculptural stagings, testing how impossible ideas might find form as techno-magical instruments and stagings.

Over the last few months I have written octochronoplasmancilogical reports on my suprasensorial training regimen. In the posts that follow, I have provided evidence as to how the training made possible with this a-n Artist Bursary has broadened my pre-established techniques for self-directed psychic experimentation. This evidence is respondent specifically to a series of three sessions in sensory deprivation float tanks; exploration of lucid dreaming techniques with dreaming guide and death doula Tree Carr; and finally, a trip to Paris to commune with counter-human artist and dramaturge Antonin Artaud, through examination of their place of death as well as their drawings-as-spells, kept in notebooks at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Centre George Pompidou, and the Bibliothèque littéraire Jacques-Doucet.

Me-Mi MôMo Mu (Techno-Brujeria for Broken Boricua) is one name for an ongoing performative meta-neuronic archive in progress, accumulating magical methods and means for enacting spectacular counter-realities. Or, it is a chop-shop for shambolic magical machines, run by a melancholic puerto rican american in diaspora, who has found they can both bless and curse things, and so naturally feels compelled to expand on this skillset.

No ghosts were harmed in the course of this research.


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YEAR 1: Me/Mi MôMo Mu

Conceived of the 5 elements, Earth, Air, Fire, Water, Aether;

Me = 1st body (neophyte)

Mi = phantom body (Boricua counter-colonial living cage of the octochronoplasmantic time-prism)

MôMo = Artaudian Hauntologisms (the post-humanoid suicided by society [HOAX! {check Snopes}])

Mu ≠ Fateful Transcendentals Bridging Ocular Vocalities to Volcanic Transubstantial Curse-Tourism

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Following my funded experiential training and research in Conscious Dreaming, sensory deprivation floatation, and on/through the letters-as-hauntings of Antonin Artaud, I have ascended off of the staging space of paper and pen, and back onto the audiovisual spectacularisations of performance. Me/Mi MoMo Mu (MMMMM) was developed in dialogue with the elemental themes within my drawings, trying to form equivalencies of earth, air, fire, water, and aether within an arrangement of theatrical effects. The costume functions as a bridge between the body and the flatness of the page, a relief sculptural allegory of animal fur, geological formations, and the plasma residues of ghosts that are intended to perform alongside as cohabitants. Like the drawings, performances are attempts to entrance and to be entranced, using techniques of sonic spiritualism(historical and invented), stroboscopic effects (to shift from Alpha to Theta state of consciousness, in line with the preconditions of dreaming), comic durations of noise (playing out Brechtian disruptions of entrancement), and use of sub-base cross-phase tones (which are felt more than heard), along with other sonic effects, towards maximal disorientation.

MMMMM centres around a guitar treated with psychomagical motifs – dynamic adaptations (or betrayals) of the Thelemic ceremonial wands. This instrument is tuned to Alexander Scriabin’s ‘Mystic Chord’ (as an open tuning). It is played with quartz crystal, oak wand, and lignum vitae plectrum – the hardest wood on earth, the wood of Taíno medicine thrones (and stolen by the colonial collectors who claimed their owners extinct). Atabey, supreme Goddess of Taínos, gives blessings through lignum vitae as intermediary, with along with strong blessings / curses from the lands of the dead.  Unica Zürn is likewise a collaborator, who writes the adaptive musical/magical score, and gives input on choreography and sub-bass phase intensities. Antonin Artaud voices screeching rhythms for affective curse-spaces, to impose BwO rebirth upon bem/conf/used audiences.

The cross-over of these thematics between the drawn and the performed would have likely been impossible for me were in not for the embodied knowledge gained through dreamwork, floatation, and the opportunity to take a filmic re-approach to my Artaudian research in Paris.

  • Me/Mi MôMo Mu at: BYOP, SPACE Studios; Unperforming, Arts Admin; Noizemaschin!! 22 and Exchange Project, Amersham Arms, London. Photos credits: Celine Antal; Jin Han Lee; Zoë Mendelson; Joey Ryken //

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The sensory deprivation tank was developed by Neurophysiologist John C. Lilly in 1954, as a way to study human consciousness in the absence of sensory stimuli. Sensory deprivation tanks are typically sound and light proof pods filled with a shallow pool of body-temperature water, saturated with enough epsom salts to keep a body floating equally in and out of the water. It is designed to create a maximal disconnection from the sensible world. This annihilation of sensory input leaves the brain scrambling for orientation, for sensory data to attach itself to – as it seeks but finds none, it must invent it.

The phenomena of sensory deprivation hallucination has been recorded in various settings previous to Lilly’s comprehensive method. Transcendental meditation traditions generally seek to limit or extract the senses from engaging with the world, to become remote, in order to access the otherworldliness of mystical states. Likewise, ’Prisoner’s Cinema’ is a psychic phenomena born of isolation in dark prison cells, with prisoners experiencing quasi-hallucination, or phosphenes (the eye ‘seeing’ light despite there being none), onward to more developed (typically terrifying) hallucinations. Floatation takes these phenomena and amplifies them – absent of all attendant theatrics that might be used respectively for punishment or transcendence. In its near totality of isolation, floatation puts the autonomic nature of consciousness in to plain view.

My first floatation session was a sort of stumbling into the abyss. I arrived late, rushing from the noise and fray of a South London afternoon, into the deliberate slowness of the floatation centre. This adjustment of velocity took most of my attention, so I did not initially document much of the alien features of the floatation room but for idle notes. I listened to my host’s instructions – cover ear canal with the neon orange gum plugs; put petroleum jelly on cuticles and any cuts; don’t get water in your eyes… Invariably, the cuts were unseen, in the soft UV light of the room, but they were immediately and electrically felt as soon as I stepped into the intensely salinated water. Matched to body-temperature, the water feels hardly there, and its buoyancy is disconcerting. Once in the water, floatation is automatic. Everything slows down, both the world and my body slipping away – but for the stinging pain amongst a constellation of tiny, secret cuts. After a few moments, even this stinging becomes entrancing, a tinnitus tone ringing out into the void. The lights fade, the lulling tones of ambient introduction music fades away, and one is lost in the dark.

I have done three floatations since, each one different in character, all of them quasi-hallucinatory. My visualisations in floatation would be invariably as boring to describe as dreams (as per my post on Conscious Dreaming), as they are full of clichés familiar to televisual and cinematic portrayals of the unconscious – whether via psychological horror or hypnogogic ecstasy: Smokey trails of thought; gridded planes of dis/orientation; phosphorescent glow-forms; blinding visions of the dead, and shimmering voices of the unborn. It isn’t always this way though – it is also mundane, it is a mirror for the creakiness of my body, my heart and breath impossibly loud and animal, my joints popping watery echoes to my ears like gunshots. It is a theatre of weird-humanness, a bespoke freak-show of the (counter-)self — and thus my own secret psychic material for the octochronoplasmic archive…

Whatever the ‘use’ of the quasi-hallucinatory content of these experiences, floatation has deeply focused my thinking in regards to my previous methods of psychic experimentation. Using a therapeutic site with the criticality of embodied research has shown shown a light on both limitations and strengths of my more hermetic approaches to researching hallucinatory subjectivities. The performative staging of The Floatworks’ infrastructure uses an amalgam of themes familiar to spa or yogic environments – droning ambient music, conscientious sterility, multiple iterations of green-tea convivials, etc. But the particularly alien technology of floatation makes this staging more than an elitist ‘escape’ from the real – it is a kind of liminal zone that frames a limited set of conditions – a framing of psychic experience. This framing dictates discrete planes of possibility.

In contrast, my work has been a jumbled process of anarchic assemblage and re-assemblage, using magic as a layered technology with which to break-my-brain. This process has been voluntarily haunted by Antonin Artaud’s embodied thesis for a Body without Organs (BwO), a concept that Deleuze and Guattari examine with forensic acuity – ‘You never reach the Body without Organs, you can’t reach it, you are forever attaining it, it is a limit.’  This limit is brought into critical focus within the problematic context of a for-profit floatation therapy business structure, but also allows it so be more an object, as this experienced is purchased, and so contingent to the ‘rent’ paid for this otherworldly atmosphere.

D+G identify ‘the three-body problem’ of BwO – a body to escape from, a body of intensities to (impossibly) become, and between, a cancerous body which may intercede and take over as the BwO (via paranoia, addiction, disintegration, etc). My process has been without guard against this proposed interloping body whatsoever – no protective spells, no initiatory preparations, only a montage of moves that tumble into psychomantic bizarring. Nihilist-punk-o-mancy with what was at hand. But what could be possible using more ‘framed’ models, formal yet yielding to improvisation or variant durations? Delimiting floatation, cobbling bridges between methods, spiralling overpasses twisting into time-traveling psychic super-highways, herding psychic-traffic jams into terrific and terrifying voids?

Funding application pending…


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In May 2018 I attended a Conscious Dreaming workshop with dream guide and death doula Tree Carr. Carr has practiced methods for lucid dreaming for over twenty years, and is versed in a myriad of knowledge and techniques for conscious dreaming and the interpretation of dreams. This includes traditional spiritualist methods from around the world and throughout histories, through to empirical scientific methods from within the field of Oneirology.

Lucid dreaming has been an informal but core part of my art practice since my mid-20’s, when I began experiencing dreamscapes that I was able to return to repeatedly. Each of these dreamscapes felt like a world unto itself – some artist-vampire wastelands; some idealic spliff and skateboard soaked teenage suburbias; some impossibly terrifying demonic theatres-of-the-infinite. These dreams developed – at least it seemed – from a combination of self-indulgent over-sleeping (10 -12 hours), alongside high doses of gingko biloba supplements. More elicit substances occasionally became biochemical collaborators, but it was the hypnogogic/hypnopompic play-space between sleep that seemed to key to accessing these other worlds. Coming in and out of sleep allowed me to remember dreams and return to them, going further each time to explore these psycho-spatial scenarios.

These dreams became a minor obsession – as magical landscapes, they were vastly more interesting than my waking life, and felt like homes I was banished from within the waking state, or the otherwise random happenstance of other dreams. Desperate to embody them, I wanted to conjure these worlds into being.

This obsession has fuelled my exploration of installation and interactivity in relation to potential exchanges between immersive, embodied, and imagined spaces. In pursuing distinct methodological tools for a formal dream practice, I am working to use dreams less as a remote and allegorical type of escapism, and more a tangible and usable process within art-making (in a spatio-temporal sense.)

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Throughout the workshop, Tree invited us to share dreams that had affected us, and allowed all participants to define their own intentions for an approach to conscious dreaming. Discussion was conversational, shifting between the trippy, the meditative, the ‘usability’ of dreaming for creative purposes, as well how it could be used as a tool for emotional healing and catharsis. I had arrived assuming that my interests would centre around techniques of visualisation, but as our discussions evolved, I seemed to be asking a lot of questions about dream-memory. Most dreams are discrete – they might repeat theme or scenario, but they each tend to have unique or idiosyncratic qualities. Towards conscious dreaming, this would seem ideal as a creative frame within which to explore the delimited space of dreams as magical simulations. Memory however would seem more a coding of traces and anchors within this nebulous arena. I had been to places, and I wanted to know how to get back there. This goal, it seemed, was not answerable.

Whatever one’s ambitions for a dream practice, Tree suggested tools to integrate dreaming as a serious activity, not an idle other-self, caged in the inevitability of sleep. Sleep hygiene was presented as crucial – keeping your sleeping space clear of distractions, such as disallowing computers, phones, and TV’s; not drinking alcohol before bed, but instead taking soporific and psychoactive teas; keeping a journal by the bed to record dreams upon waking. These methods are the baseline, the setting of the stage, so that dreams can be noticed, compared, and possibly returned to, or manipulated.

As one who tends to adhere to Genesis Breyer-P.Orridge’s psychedelic formula that ‘the only good trip is a bad trip’, I could not help but think counter to this advice – how can dreams be interceded, broken open for exploration in the hypnopompic space between sleeping and waking life? Are the velocities, intensities and fragmentations of media (especially televisual and computational) not a contingent feature of contemporary subjectivities? Is there a genuine base-state of consciousness within which to safely explore dreams as pure subject-objects, or can they still be found and learned from amongst anxious quotidian hauntings, anxieties, and entanglements?

My studio (actual, not dream) is fragmented between different sites. It is rarely a serene or ordered space, and is engaged with ad hoc and in stuttered durations. Following Carr’s workshop, my dream practice – despite knowledge of dream hygiene – is in line with this necessarily shambolic juggling act. Dreams are ordered, disordered, drawn or diagrammed, scripted, elaborated, scrutinised for juicy symbolism and the pulp revelation of patterns, in notebooks, audio recording, sketches, post-its. In short, my dream practice has become less a zone of anticipation for psychogeographic revelation, and more a use of dreaming as technical medium – a transmitter of signals, a display path for stories, some useful, some useless, some benevolent, some malignant.

This is not to say that for me conscious dreaming has been demystified or debunked – much the opposite. It is in resigning any attempt at manifest control that dreams have evolved into being a continual and delightful space of radical play, without limits and free of expectation.

And I am assured by my most regular audiences that my dreams are still intolerably boring, for any audience other than myself, and perhaps the wonderful sub-culture of Oneirologists I have found…


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In February 2019 I returned to Paris, to trace and catalogue Antonin Artaud’s ghostly residues, as I had a year previous. In anticipation for this trip, I planned many things: to visit the site of Théâtre des Folies-Wagram, where Artaud’s play Le Cenci failed to live up to his thesis for a Theatre of Cruelty; Unica Zurn’s place of death, below her and Hans Bellmer’s flat on Rue de la Plaine; Likewise, Gilles Deleuze’ deathplace on Avenue Niel, a site of pilgrimage to his final rebellion against the tyranny of the breath.

But this list of ghost-fan hotspots was just too long, and morbid. I’m not a goth, nor tomb-raider. My simplified plan was to visit the site of Artaud’s death in Ivry-sur-Seine, a southeasterly suburb of Paris where he had lived out his final days; complemented by a visit to his spells and curses, letters sent to loved and loathed from the edge of Armageddon. Although I originally planned to revisit the notebooks at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France (BNF), somewhat ironically they are all currently on display at Cabinet Gallery in London, so this was not to be.

My previous Parisian ghost-hunt included visits to Centre Georges Pompidou and the BNF to view some of Artaud’s drawings and notebooks, especially those included in Artaud’s posthumous publication, 50 Drawings to Murder Magic (2008). Centre Pompidou has the largest single collection of Artaud’s drawings, and the BNF was bequeathed all 406 of Artaud’s private notebooks by Paule Thevenin, his former assistant and administrator of his later body of work. I was allowed to interrogate Artaud’s fragile and frenetic drawings, curse their sites of imprisonment (archives), and extract from them secret messages for performed decoding.

The psychiatric clinic in Ivry-sur-Seine where Artaud spent his last days is long-since gone, only surviving in certain remnants of public park space, amongst the stout melancholy of decaying post-modern social housing. A vain attempt at commemoration sits in the heart of these housing complexes, the Auditorium Antonin Artaud, a false home for the haunted echoes of his drugged shouting and percussive wood hackings.

I recorded the detritus-strewn plagues of suburban curse-spaces that freckled  Ivry-sur-Seine – broken and boarded up windows on facades of defunded social services, damp mattresses tipped upright under embedded awnings, waiting for their roofless owners to return at sundown. As I shot super-8 footage of the frontage of AA’s auditorium I was blessed with impromptu musical accompaniment on solo angle grinder from a municipal-worker-cum-unintentional-post-industrial-sound-artist. Damp patches on concrete steered me downstream to piss-stained alleyways, strewn with puerile portraits of exploded humanoids, Artaudian specimens of raw and god-like portraiture.

Locals looked uneasily at my drifting documentation, the camera holding the tremulous unease of a handgun. Did they know where they were? Would it matter to them, to know that they lived as post-apocalyptic survivors at ground zero of AA’s subsumation to the flames of drugged, tumoured, impossible death?

Probably not.

So having made forth with cinematic scrapings of ectoplasmic residues, I returned to Paris, to find his curses and spells, held in the archive of the Bibliotheque Jacques Doucet (BJD). Sitting humbly beside the Pantheon, the BJD holds his greatest gifts, and cruelties – protective spells, sent throne-side from Artaud’s messianic reckoning on the island of Anishmore (for details, see Stephen Barber’s Artaud 1937 Apocalypse, 2018, Infinity Land Press). Riddled with desperate scrawling text and broken through with cigarette burns, these letters engage the surface of the page as though it were a veil between physical and metaphysical worlds. Broken by fire and bridged by intention, these letters are hauntological specimens – Artaud’s prescient vision of a world on the brink of war, warning friends and damning enemies in preparation for the End Times.

What have I to do with these letters, this performance of Apocalypse in graphite, pen and paper? Precluding Apocalypse as an inevitable feature of my own time period, my childish grasping for existential agency has found footing in a delusional narrative – that I somehow had some purpose within the grand schema. Not of messianic description, but more the urgency of the disciple. In thinking through the contingencies of life in these End Times, my own sense of powerlessness finds the page its only solace – a space to imagine the impossible, to find kin with the elements (further than Donna Haraway’s fetid familials*), as curse and spell. Through breathwork, dream-chasing, indulgence in delusion, psycho-poetic fragmentations, or self-induced televisual schizophrenia, I have tried to make the page move – to make it undead.

Artaud, of course, had his own rituals and intensities for re-animating the page – haranguing his models, stabbing at a block of wood, drinking down his laudanum. Artaud’s drawings hide within their intensity, veiling a careful, astute rendering, that can only be found in the language of drawing. His magically imbued letters now sit safely in the great tourist theatre of Paris, still, waiting for the Apocalypse that is never quite ready.

My own spells and curses sit in my desk, somewhere in London’s sprawling suburbia, their magical intentions unfit for task.

SEE IVRY-SUR-SEINE AND MY BETRAYAL

 

* Haraway, D (2016) Staying with the Trouble, Durham: Duke University Press


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