Summer, Art, Magic: Some Thoughts

Okay! Done with classes. 1 Week, 2 Papers, 1 Exam, and 1 Quiz stand between me and whatever comes on the other side of next week–which is, I suddenly realize, something I have to figure out rather quickly now. I’ve been talking for months about trying to get a job at a local art gallery and school, the Hyde Park Art Center: I’ve got shittons of tour guide experience, part of my current job is running art programs for elementary school kids, I have recs from at least 4 professional artists–I’M IMMENSELY HIREABLE. As long as they’re hiring, and as long as I ever actually go out there and apply for a position that may or may not exist.  (If you’ve read the few posts preceeding this one, you’ve probably noticed that I’m not the most driven person in the world. Hmm…)

So, summer is coming quickly. At this point what will probably happen is something like this: I’ll end up living with George and Theo again this summer (I lived with them + Lizzie last summer), I’ll finally get around to learning Arabic, I’ll devote a large amount of time to what I’ve been calling my magic apprenticeship (I’ll tell you more about that eventually), I’ll learn Klingon!, and I’ll explore a selection of self-employment options including trying to produce some art with the aim of 1) finally doing what I’ve wanted to do for years and 2) try and get some stuff shown somewhere? It sounds like a tall order… but I heard something recently that has been jangling around in my head quite a lot. They’re famous words from the minimalist composer La Monte Young–and it’s a Chaos Magician’s call to arms if I’ve ever heard one: “Draw a Straight Line and Follow It”.

Those words remind me to show up. Show up to my work, show up to my life. And get the work done. I (obviously) haven’t been living up to this much recently, but maybe summer will give me the tabula rasa that is exactly what I need to start–such a straight line, after all, would probably be drawn on a blank sheet of paper! (Maybe.) So, we’ll see; or rather, I’ll make it so. Time to take charge and get some stuff done!

Since I’ve already brought up chaos magic as well as (nearly) contemporary art, I’ll just mention something else I’ve been thinking about a lot. That is the relationship between magic–theurgy and thaumaturgy, or wtfever–and art. And from two directions: Not often do we think about, say, the artistic value of the sigils found in the Key of Solomon, or the minute detail and drama of Dee’s Sigillum Liber Aemeth, besides the fact that it’s confusing as fuck:

[Deleted: Image of Sigillum Liber Aemeth (Jan 2011)]


But also the magical potential found in contemporary art. Why don’t we play around in that murky realm between magic and art more often? I mean both art-as-image/sigil-as-image/sigil-as-art type territory, but also in the more mystical all-magic-I-do-is-art sort of place.

Just as I write this, I’m tempted simply to take the Sigillum and use it in the same way that one would conduct a “Sol Lewitt instillation”–by following the directions. Now, most of the thoughts I’ve been having come from my love of minimalism; but why haven’t I heard more from the likes of magicians about 20th century art? I’m not talking about “Magical Art”, whatever that is–I’m talking about the art produced by everyone else, by the art community, by raving lunatic genius artists! All I’m saying, really, is that I think if magic (Chaos Magic (capital c, capital m), in particular) needs an injection of energy, maybe we should look in new places?

If you have thoughts or a good book about the intersection of magic and art, definitely let me know. Now. That was definitely a rant, but oh well. Wasn’t the whole point of this blog to get me to start writing again?

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About John Harness
John Harness is an artist and educator in Chicago. He is a member of Socialist Alternative and the Klingon Language Institute. He writes about political activism and roleplaying games.

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