Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Chaos Magic and Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable


Somewhere between lies and truth lies the truth.

Damien Hirst, Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable

When I was in Venice I had the fortune to find myself in Damien Hirst's exhibition ''Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable'' at the Palazzo Grassi and was provided with ample opportunity to reflect on Chaos Magic, its efficacy (or lack thereof) and its absorption by the mainstream.





The whole space is set up like the British Museum and the conceit is that Team Hirst have rescued and restored the antiquities recovered from a sunken wreck - there are numerous films whch show their work in action, exploring a seabed littered with glimmering treasure in the form of golden coins, weapons, ornaments and statuary - shoals of fish swimming by.  One of the first things I noticed was how everyone was really into it, they entered that headspace as if they were in a museum studying genuine relics and artefacts and only after a while did people seem to snap out of it and well... get the joke.



It was at this point in the exhibition that I reflected on the relative lack of success chaos magicians had had with working with thought-forms such as Mickey Mouse or Batman and how they tended to resort in the end to working with saints or ancient spirits.  From my understanding the post-chaos argument (that leads into the grimoire revival) seemed to be that older entities had had longer to gestate in some kind of astral womb or had been fed more by sacrifice and prayer and were therefore more capable of granting boons and inflicting banes than Scooby Doo was.  I wondered for a moment whether this was down to the presentist perception that is dominant amongst magicians, and whether there was an eternalist approach to the conjuring of cartoon characters that took into account that they would exist for centuries and therefore would grow stronger as belief in the older Gods waned.  Could you tap into that from the present, summon them from the future?


 As I reflected I attempted to sense some kind of eternal something emanating from these ''treasures'' but there was nothing there. It made me wonder that whether the connection that some people claim to have with antiquities at museums is more to do with their own mind than any kind of ''energy'' or ''spirit'' resting in the statue or tool itself.  In the end I concluded that it might be the case that in this timeline the relics of the modern world are brutally swept away by some catastrophe and so never have the time to ''gestate'' or ''feed'' in the astral even from an eternalist perspective.  Perhaps these cultural trinkets are only here for a brief moment, never amount to much and the inheritors or our civilization, human or otherwise, have no further interest in archaeology.  They might symbolise a culture that doomed the Earth and there may be another great iconoclasm?



Although the reverential air to the sacred past was broken after the first encounter with Mickey and other Disney characters the majority of the exhibition is made up of a selection of statues of deities and mystical figures from around the world - so it is very much like the British Museum.  Was it possible to connect with spirit/memory through these artworks or only to admire them aesthetically?   It seemed like there was nothing in these statues either apart from great beauty, and although surely noone had conjured spirits into them (Damien...?) it was impossible even to connect with the idea of the spirit through them.


Later in my pathwalking I ended up in the Temple of Zeus in Olympia and the Parthenon in Athens so I had a lot to compare and contrast with the exhibition and although the experience of Treasures from the Wreck of the Unbelievable was spiritually underwhelming it was really very very funny.  A lot like Chaos Magic in that respect.  Let's hope it doesn't start taking itself too seriously.






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