Celebration of Diversity: an interview with Orryelle Defenestrate Bascule

This man, this crea­ture, this artist is true inspi­ra­tion for us. We’ve talked with Orryelle Defen­es­trate Bas­cule about Art, mag­ic and alche­my.

Very lit­tle is known about you here in Rus­sia. Please tell us about your most sig­nif­i­cant (as you see it) past projects and describe what are you’re doing now.

Greet­ings Rus­sians.

I have just fin­ished a sig­nif­i­cant project which took 9 years to com­plete, although I was work­ing on oth­er things also dur­ing this peri­od. The project was the Tela Quadriv­i­um, a four-fold book-web, a series of four inter­con­nect­ed art books from UK pub­lish­ers Ful­gur Lim­it­ed which each relate to a colour phase of the Alchem­i­cal process. So there was the red book Con­junc­tio (2008), the gold book Coag­u­la (2011), the black book Solve (2012); and the final white/colours book Dis­til­la­tio just launched June 2015 with an exhi­bi­tion of paint­ings from the book in Lon­don.

On the sur­face this may seem just to be an art and pub­li­ca­tion project, but the deep mag­i­cal process­es I engaged with to cre­ate this work and its intrin­si­cal­ly cycli­cal nature were very trans­for­ma­tive. As in tra­di­tion­al lab­o­ra­to­ry alche­my, it is not the Mate­ria of the work alone which trans­forms but also the alchemist. I would hope that some of the gno­sis I have attained from this jour­ney trans­mits through the books for those who digest them thor­ough­ly enough.
The four books con­nect in a spe­cial for­mu­la ‑they can be read not only indi­vid­u­al­ly but also togeth­er by plac­ing them in the four quar­ters of a cir­cle and read­ing them around, turn­ing the pages each time one re-turns to the first, so that fur­ther nar­ra­tive and sym­bol­ic sequences unfold by spi­ralling through the four books. The process is cycli­cal and nev­er entire­ly con­clu­sive as there is always more work and play to be done…

“Hekate-Arachne in the Book­web”, an image from the Open­ing of Solve which shows cor­re­spond­ing “spi­der-leg” pages of the four vol­umes of the Tela Quadriv­i­um.

Past sig­nif­i­cant projects are too numer­ous to list, but some have been: The Choron­zon Machine, a rit­u­al the­atri­cal device for gen­er­at­ing ana­logue frac­tals by oppos­ing then bring­ing togeth­er pairs of com­ple­men­tary major arcana from the Tarot; Loom of Lila, a rit­u­al dance pro­duc­tion (with 13 par­tic­i­pants) explor­ing the nature of deity (rep­re­sent­ed par­tial­ly by a life-size clay stat­ue of Kali I cre­at­ed at the time), and of indi­vid­ual and col­lec­tive con­scious­ness; and anoth­er long project recent­ly cul­mi­nat­ed on the sol­stice 2012, hav­ing begun in the year 2000 – The Glob­al Chakra Work­ings, group rit­u­als at var­i­ous sacred sites around the plan­et to align humanity’s ris­ing kun­dali­ni ener­gy with that of the earth, pro­gres­sive­ly from base (Mt Shas­ta in Cal­i­for­nia USA) to crown (Mt Aora­ki in New Zealand).

Now that I have com­plet­ed the Tela Quadriv­i­um I am resum­ing work on anoth­er major project I have been co-ordi­nat­ing off and on for a few years now ‑the Orpheus/Dionysos project, orig­i­nal­ly a piece of musi­cal rit­u­al the­atre called ‘Solve et Coag­u­la’ which was per­formed in Aus­tralia, USA, UK and around Europe in 2011 and 2012. It involved the cre­ation of a life-size Baphomet abdomen formed from 33 small­er wax human fig­ures which unit­ed in black-light pup­petry to make the col­lec­tive larg­er fig­ure beneath a real singing head ‑the dis­em­bod­ied Orpheus call­ing to form a new body via his vic­ar­i­ous expe­ri­ence of oth­ers enjoy­ing their own and each oth­ers’ bod­ies.

Orig­i­nal­ly assem­bled onstage in Aus­tralia and USA 2011, a stop-ani­ma­tion film of the wax con­ver­gence to form the larg­er stat­ue was lat­er cre­at­ed so the show could more prac­ti­cal­ly tour Europe and UK in 2012. I am now devel­op­ing this in com­bi­na­tion with live footage from the per­for­mances into a film of the whole sto­ry. This project now also involves the form­ing of var­i­ous body-parts of the larg­er fig­ure from actu­al (rather than wax) human bod­ies, in rit­u­al (and some­times orgias­tic) com­mu­nion. Some of this will be used in the film and there also images of the com­pos­ite fig­ure pro­gres­sive­ly formed of ink (draw­ing), wax (sculp­ture) and flesh (pho­tog­ra­phy) in the cor­re­spond­ing pages of each vol­ume of the Tela Quadriv­i­um.

How long do you do what­ev­er you do…and what real­ly is your work?

How long I do what I do is entire­ly depen­dent upon what it is. Some projects may take years, some months, some mere hours or even less. As is evi­dent from my answer to your pre­vi­ous ques­tion, many of my dif­fer­ent projects inter­weave. Some­times I will work on some­thing, then leave it for a while as I work on some­thing else, and return to the first project with new inspi­ra­tion from diverg­ing into anoth­er. I work accord­ing to the direc­tives of the Gods, the Mus­es and the Fates.

The same is true regard­ing the con­tent of my work. It is diverse as the stars and the sky and the dust in the desert, the lines of the thumb or the tree-roots claw­ing into the for­est floor. I can­not sum­marise what my work real­ly is, because it has such a vari­ety of both pur­pose and method. The only ele­ment com­mon to all of it would be the cel­e­bra­tion of this diver­si­ty itself.

Do you have some “high­est goal” to achieve, and what this would be?

Because of this diver­si­ty I don’t have a sin­gu­lar high­est goal to which I con­sis­tent­ly work, but there are some underlying/overarching visions and inten­tions which direct it. The devel­op­ment of human con­scious­ness is one of these. I like to fos­ter open-mind­ed­ness, to break down the lim­it­ing shack­les on per­cep­tion and activ­i­ty which are prop­a­gat­ed by mass media and com­mer­cial con­sumer ‘cul­ture’. My work cel­e­brates cre­ative expres­sion regard­less of com­mer­cial val­ue or pop­u­lar trends, and I would hope thus demon­strates the capac­i­ty for cre­ative diver­si­ty the human has, encour­ag­ing that of oth­ers also. I find our mod­ern main­stream civil­i­sa­tion to be most­ly bar­ren, suf­fo­cat­ed by com­mer­cial con­sid­er­a­tions, short-term goals and mere func­tion­al­i­ty. Aes­thet­ics are rarely con­sid­ered now in archi­tec­ture or oth­er such fun­da­ments of how our human world both looks and feels, and I think many of us suf­fer for it in a prison of drab func­tion­al angles and flu­o­res­cent light.

Even in the world of ‘Art’ con­cep­tu­al men­tal mas­tur­ba­tion and mere nov­el­ty often dom­i­nate over beau­ty, emo­tiv­i­ty and depth. But this is begin­ning to change, as a ver­i­ta­ble move­ment of Eso­teric Art sets out to re-enchant this waste­land. I con­sid­er myself a part of the van­guard of this.
Mag­ic and mys­ti­cism were rel­e­gat­ed to the trash-heap of irrel­e­vant mum­bo-jum­bo in the ‘age or rea­son’ but are now begin­ning to be recog­nised again as vital, backed up by quan­tum physics trans­lat­ing their fun­da­ments into the dom­i­nant mod­ern lin­guis­tics of sci­en­tif­ic mate­ri­al­ism.
So this re-enchant­ment of the mod­ern world, through art and/as mag­ic, is one of my pri­ma­ry goals. Much of my work is often con­sid­ered sur­re­al as its draws from dreams, the imag­i­nal, and oth­er mag­i­cal planes which over­lap the phys­i­cal, yet through art brings them into man­i­fes­ta­tion. It is true that with my work/play I hope to make this world a lit­tle stranger, a lit­tle more beau­ti­ful­ly diverse and lib­er­at­ed, well even a lot! Through mak­ing the invis­i­ble vis­i­ble Art is the man­i­fes­ta­tion of mag­ic, offer­ing glimpses into greater real­i­ties and pos­si­bil­i­ties to lib­er­ate minds from mun­dan­i­ty.

Much of human­i­ty needs to be remind­ed of Divin­i­ty embod­ied ‑that peo­ple, trees, ani­mals and even objects are full of spir­it. If we can regain an ani­mist per­spec­tive which recog­nis­es the divine in all we will treat our envi­ron­ment with more awe and respect, recog­nis­ing the val­ue of things beyond their mate­r­i­al func­tion­al­i­ty or mere mon­e­tary val­ue.

A part of this quest is the return of the organ­ic in our civil­i­sa­tion. The rel­a­tive­ly-recent (eg. com­pare renais­sance archi­tec­ture to mod­ern) human obses­sion with straight lines and sharp angles is at odds (or per­haps at evens!) with the rest of the nat­ur­al world, and togeth­er with crass com­mer­cial­ism is destroy­ing our har­mo­ny with it. We must remem­ber that our species are also ani­mals, and need cur­va­ceous, round­ed and flow­ing forms in our envi­ron­ment to feel good and flour­ish.

An under­ly­ing goal of mine is care for our nat­ur­al world ‑the seep­ing of organ­ic forms back into our civil­i­sa­tion to remind us of our own nature, and also the preser­va­tion of that which is already so beau­ti­ful­ly diverse and sen­su­al­ly pro­found, the forests, deserts, jun­gles and moun­tains of this plan­et and their many divine denizens.

Does so-called “black mag­ic” actu­al­ly exist? What is it?

Fear Not! For Fear itself is real­ly the only thing ‘wrong’ with Dark­ness.
My con­cept of ‘black mag­ic’ is quite dif­fer­ent from many, par­tic­u­lar­ly those in the west­ern mag­i­cal tra­di­tions. I do not see black­ness or dark­ness as evil or ‘bad’.

To quote from my Black Book ‘Solve’: ‘If we cast aside all the out­mod­ed and inher­ent­ly racist and sex­ist moral metaphors of light=good and dark=bad which have marred the col­lec­tive con­scious­ness of human­i­ty from the dom­i­nance of fun­da­men­tal­ist reli­gious patri­archies for at least the last two mil­len­nia or so, we will dis­cov­er that Dark­ness itself is actu­al­ly essen­tial­ly harm­less.
The same can­not be said of Light, which can blind or burn, but dark­ness is pas­sive and neu­tral. It is, like silence and still­ness, inte­gral­ly an absence rather than a pres­ence, and only Neg­a­tive in an essen­tial (not moral) sense.

Why then have the con­cepts of evil and dark­ness been so entwined for so long? Dark­ness con­ceals, and while it can­not hurt us what is hid­ing in it per­haps could. So Fear of the Unknown is the essence of our civilisation’s all-abid­ing and inap­pro­pri­ate asso­ci­a­tion of dark­ness with evil.

Occultists (and the very word occult means hid­den) ‑one would at least hope- are less afraid of the unknown; in fact it is our job to explore it, to plunge into the great abyss of mys­tery.

The implic­it racism and sex­ism in the ‘dark equals bad’ metaphor has long served patri­ar­chal cau­casian agen­das in sup­press­ing and dom­i­nat­ing oth­er cul­tures and gen­ders. This kind of big­otry also reduces to fear of the unknown, of the oth­er…’

But the term ‘Black Mag­ic’ is usu­al­ly used in the mod­ern world to refer to mag­ic which is moral­ly rep­re­hen­si­ble or at least putting the self-inter­est of the magi­cian above those of oth­ers. I do not like the idea of morals as they are usu­al­ly mech­a­nisms of social con­trol, but I do have ethics. As a Thelemite (though by no means an adher­ent to all of Crowley’s ideas) I believe in the sov­er­eign­ty of the indi­vid­ual Will, but Will with a cap­i­tal W mean­ing that which is in accord with uni­ver­sal Will rather than the mere short-term desires of the ego. It amus­es me that Crow­ley is often con­sid­ered a ‘black magi­cian’ in the sense of harm­ful mag­ic, as one of his main tenets of Thele­ma is that one should not inter­fere with the Will of anoth­er!

Idun (with the Gold­en Apple of Immor­tal­i­ty) and Hela — cor­re­spond­ing pages from Coag­u­la (Gold Book of the Tela Quadriv­i­um) and Solve (Black Book of the Tela Quadriv­i­um) con­trast­ing the immor­tal­i­ty of the soul and the mor­tal­i­ty of the body.

It seems to us that the so-called “dark side” is very fas­ci­nat­ing for you – from Hecate to Tun­nels of Set. Do you pre­fer it because of aes­thet­ics or some oth­er rea­sons?

As an artist-magi­cian it is tricky some­times to sep­a­rate aes­thet­ics from any­thing else, as when one cre­ates mag­i­cal art aes­thet­ics grow from our deep sen­si­bil­i­ties and essen­tial inter­ests rather than sim­ply being super­fi­cial­i­ty or fash­ion.

I do not know if I nec­es­sar­i­ly have a pref­er­ence for dark­ness as I am quite mul­ti-faceted, cer­tain­ly it is some­thing I explore and as I already talked about in rela­tion to ‘black mag­ic’, I do not con­sid­er dark­ness to be some­thing neg­a­tive in a moral sense.

There is some­thing intrin­sic to eso­teri­cism in explor­ing the dark, as this is real­ly the explo­ration of the unknown which is vital to mag­ic. Indeed the word ‘eso­teric’ itself, like ‘occult’ refers to the hid­den or inner.
Like still­ness and silence, dark­ness seems to scare or intim­i­date many: the fear of absence its(not)self, of the infi­nite void. But as magi­cians we must engage with and unveil the hid­den and the dark­ness of the sub­con­scious fear­less­ly.

I’m not so sure about the epi­thet that ‘Nature abhors a Vac­u­um’ since space and dark mat­ter are such a vast part of nature, but human nature cer­tain­ly seems to, espe­cial­ly in our mod­ern world where every pos­si­ble space and moment is filled by the morass of mul­ti­me­dia dri­v­el and bright dis­trac­tions, and con­stant activ­i­ty is seen as the har­bin­ger of progress. There are too few who ever stop doing long enough to actu­al­ly reassess what it is they are doing, and why…

And per­haps with good rea­son for the ulti­mate unknown is our own sub­con­scious, that great morass of dark mat­ter which influ­ences every­thing, yet can only be com­mu­ni­cat­ed with through still­ness, dark­ness and dream­ing. To me mag­ic lies in the con­nec­tion between the sub­con­scious (or occult­ed) and the con­scious.

For as I wrote in ‘Solve’: ‘…when we do stop, when we sur­ren­der to the still­ness and the dark­ness, we may find it to be nur­tur­ing. It might seem heavy, fore­bod­ing and seri­ous, but dark­ness is also ulti­mate­ly deep, calm and reju­ve­nat­ing. To embrace the black­ness allows us to return to the light renewed and with a fresh appre­ci­a­tion for its won­drous colours, rigours and vigours…’

Anoth­er impor­tant point of your life and art is Androg­y­ny, uni­ty with lunar, fem­i­nine side. What does this con­cept means for you?

As a genet­ic male this is per­haps relat­ed to the for­mer ques­tion ‑for the lunar and fem­i­nine side is that of the night, and of dark­ness as the yin or recep­tive aspect of nature, bal­anc­ing the solar active mas­cu­line. I mean these as very gen­er­al ener­getic ten­den­cies, as obvi­ous­ly both men and women have diverse aspects to their natures.

To me it is the bal­ance between which is vital. In mag­ic it is impor­tant to explore polar­i­ties but also to ulti­mate­ly tran­scend them, often by their con­ver­gence. The Great Rite can occur with­in the Self, as the Alchem­i­cal Mar­riage which unites the mas­cu­line and fem­i­nine aspects with­in an indi­vid­ual. From this process one becomes a com­plete being, and able to open more to all phe­nom­e­na, enjoy­ing the dance of form with an aware­ness that all appar­ent dual­i­ties may con­verge.

I took my jour­ney with the Alchy­im­ic Mar­riage much more lit­er­al­ly than most, reify­ing to an extent my inher­ent her­maph­ro­ditism in phys­i­cal form. This is of course not nec­es­sary and was a fol­low-up only to the inner work, but as an artist-magi­cian I am quite obses­sive some­times about results on the mate­r­i­al plane, so I decid­ed to take female hor­mones (I grew small breasts), stretch my ure­thra (cre­at­ing a kind of two-in-one gen­i­talia) etc. while invok­ing var­i­ous God­dess ener­gies for nine moonths, after which I had an Alchem­i­cal Wed­ding as an actu­al semi-pub­lic cer­e­mo­ny, rather than it just being a spir­i­tu­al metaphor. Because I went through this jour­ney as a mag­i­cal prac­tise, work­ing on many lev­els, I was able to main­tain some of the changes even after I stopped tak­ing the oestro­gen (back in 2000), and it cer­tain­ly altered some of my per­spec­tives on gen­der and some of the larg­er relat­ed mat­ters of dual­i­ty and union.

Some pieces of Orryelle’s new Alchymic Chess-set (bronze, clay & glass), in front of Alchem­i­cal instal­la­tion incor­po­rat­ing glass­ware by Cas Dav­ey (Flame­glass), and in the back­ground one of the dig­i­tal images for Dis­til­la­tion which inspired the chess com­mis­sion.

Tell us about the most unusu­al thing that hap­pened to you recent­ly.

It depends if you mean unusu­al to me specif­i­cal­ly, or what would be con­sid­ered unusu­al by most peo­ple!

I am accus­tomed to hav­ing an ‘unusu­al’ life so it is actu­al­ly unusu­al when I expe­ri­ence brief peri­ods of ‘nor­mal­i­ty’ with a min­i­mum of mag­i­cal occur­rences. This some­times hap­pens when my cre­ativ­i­ty goes through a brief fal­low phase, as I rest or recov­er after a major under­tak­ing to allow my ener­gies to regen­er­ate.

How­ev­er I sus­pect you are more inter­est­ed in things oth­ers might con­sid­er unusu­al, so:

I am cur­rent­ly engaged in two new projects inspired by a series of mag­i­cal syn­chronic­i­ties:

Some­body at the oth­er end of Aus­tralia recent­ly emailed me won­der­ing if he could com­mis­sion me to make an Alchem­i­cal chess set, inspired by some of my dig­i­tal art­work for ‘Dis­til­la­tio’ (White Book of the Tela Quadriv­i­um) I’d shared online which includ­ed such imagery, for exam­ple white and black swans as the knight pieces, Apol­lo and Artemis Mul­ti­mam­mia as Red King and White Queen. I love the idea and it occurred to me that the best medi­um for some of them would be glass. Con­tact­ing a local lamp glass-blow­er about col­lab­o­ra­tion, I dis­cov­ered she has a pen­chant for the whim­si­cal sur­re­al­ism of children’s author Dr Suess, which is reflect­ed in her glass-work. It also has a deep-sea-crea­ture ele­ment remind­ing me of the work of H.P.Lovecraft. Now as it hap­pens I had been dis­cussing only a few nights ear­li­er a necro­man­tic col­lab­o­ra­tion with my friend Araignee ‑we would each con­jure the spir­it of a dead author then work togeth­er on a piece of writ­ing, jux­ta­pos­ing appar­ent­ly incon­gru­ous cre­ative aspects. We had decid­ed a per­fect­ly hilar­i­ous mis­match would be H.P.Lovecraft and Dr. Suess, result­ing in ultra-vio­let verse that will tran­scend Lovecraft’s pur­ple prose in sheer hor­rif­ic cos­mic absur­di­ty.

While also a bit of a joke, the under­ly­ing pro­fun­di­ty is these authors’ oppos­ing atti­tudes to strange­ness, one a xenophil­i­ac and the oth­er a xeno­phobe. And its reflec­tions (through and in sur­re­al alchem­i­cal glass­ware!) in the syn­chro­nous chess-set project are fas­ci­nat­ing me, espe­cial­ly as I had already devel­oped a new song (with vio­lin, voice and cel­lo) relat­ed to the imagery of Albe­do (white phase of alche­my) and Nigre­do (black phase of alche­my) chess-boards and the strange hybrid crea­tures which inhab­it them. So recent­ly I’ve been per­form­ing this while mov­ing the fig­ures on a rei­fied sculp­ture there­of at the Lon­don launch of Dis­til­la­tio.

All this inter­twined sym­bol­o­gy and con­cep­tu­al imagery coa­lesced won­drous­ly in a recent vis­it to the astral tem­ple of the Sil­ver Dusk dur­ing our Samhain (south­ern hemi­sphere) full moon cir­cle. I expe­ri­enced visions of amor­phous alchem­i­cal glass archi­tec­ture which apart from being grandiose on an astral lev­el, also appar­ent­ly seem to be on their way to pro­gres­sive man­i­fes­ta­tion into form…

One of the best things about hav­ing a mag­i­cal per­spec­tive is how blur­ry the ‘line’ is between what ‘hap­pens’ to you and what you do. The acti­va­tion of True Will obscures the delin­eation between indi­vid­ual Will and destiny/Fate.

Orryelle’s music: www.soundcloud.com/orryelle

Orryelle’s visu­al art: www.crossroads.wild.net.au/esoterotica.htm

Dis­til­la­tio (white book of the Tela Quadriv­i­um) avail­able from : http://fulgur.co.uk/shop/titles/distillatio/

Face­book artist pro­file

Orryelle can be con­tact­ed via odxob@yahoo.com

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