Archives for posts with tag: multiverse

The end of summer. Time for Laboratory of Dark Matters take down at Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum.

1710 The Forms

During the six week exhibition and many trips to the north east where we were made so welcome I became very fond of all those involved at the museum and the dramatic backdrop of the North Yorkshire coastline. Sad to pack the work away and leave.

1710 Diazôgraphô

Boulby Mine became a familiar sight and distinct reminder of the surreal journey underground and project conception over a year ago.

1710 Boulby Mine

It was a genuine coming together of disciplines and communities which I think we all gained from. Pinning my hopes for the future on similar undertakings.

1710 CIMM and EU nostalgia

 

We are better together.

 

 

 

Straight onto making new work for Deptford X Fringe show Supposedly Predictable Phenomena with [ALLOY] artists.

1710 etching plates

Etching 12 plates, then screen printing the centre circles as 4 colour separations. The printed images are from crystal ball photographs taken out in the woods.

1710 screenprint over etch

A portal for the imagination as well as a folding in of space.

1710 screenprint on aluminium

Meanwhile I was invited by The Institute of Physics to speak at the INTERACT conference in Birmingham. I was able to participate in some interesting workshops alongside the physicists  and listen to Jim Al-Khalili and Alice Roberts in conversation about the shifting perspective of the academic world in relation to public outreach and the role of women in the sciences.

I was introduced to The Planeterrella, an incredible artificial demonstration of the Northern Lights. The aurorae are created by charged particles from the Sun travelling along the Earth’s magnetic field lines and exciting our atmosphere.

1710 Planeterrella

In this experiment most of the air is sucked out of a glass chamber to recreate the conditions about 100km up in the Earth’s atmosphere. The large sphere represents the sun and the small sphere the Earth which contains a very strong magnet to represent its magnetic field. A voltage is sent from the Sun to the Earth to recreate the solar wind which excites the electrons in the field enough to give off light at characteristic frequencies.

1710 Planeterrella 2

Listened to Gravitational Waves

1710 Gravitational Waves

and picked up a useful leaflet on cosmic rays which were first discovered by Victor Hess in 1912 using an electroscope to measure ionising radiation in the atmosphere 5300 metres up in a hot air balloon. The higher up the higher the radiation therefore the effect must be caused by something extra-terrestrial.

1710 Victor Hess

One high energy primary cosmic ray gives rise to a cascading shower of secondary particles that scatter across the earth, colliding and decaying in a constant stream. Mostly passing straight through us and the matter around us but sometimes there will be a direct hit at a subatomic level from a particle having travelled from outside our galaxy.  1704 Cosmic Trail 3

Lizzie Cannon ‘Liminal Matter’ at The University of Greenwich explored the constantly shifting dynamic of the shore and its material.  Through the process of art-making, critical reflection and dialogue; this exhibition continues Lizzie’s research to address questions around human and nonhuman agency, temporal and spatial flows of matter and meaning, and an ontological fluidity that allows for an understanding of materiality as a reciprocal and generative relationship between humans and environment.

1710 Lizzie Cannon In Transition Detail 1

Lizzie Cannon detail of the mighty In transition

Wandered the set at South London Gallery of Tom Phillips IRMA: An Opera Opus XIIB. This 1969 mini opera was drawn from Tom Phillips magnum opus which was in turn born from an idea that he would alter every page of the first book he came across for 3d. W H Mallock’s 1892 novel A Human Document thus became A Humument. 

1710 Tom Phillips

1710 Tom Philips Humument.jpg

Further wanderings during London Open House weekend led to the architectural hybrid of Lloyd’s Register.

1710 Lloyds Register Open House

Hidden within the Richard Rogers glass and steel is Collcutt’s palazzo with grand marble staircase leading to the ornate General Committee Landing dominated by The Spirit of Maritime Commerce 

1710 Spirit of Maritime Commerce

and the bronze frieze sculpted by Frank Lynn Jenkins, inlaid with silver, mother of pearl, turquoise, coral and pearl.

1710 Lloyds Register Bronze Frieze 2

1710 Lloyds Register bronze Frieze

The landing opens onto the Italianate opulence of general committee room with its barrel vaulted ceiling and more exposed left breasts of various symbolic maidens

1710 Night

Lloyd’s Register was founded in 1760 in Lloyd’s Coffee House as a means of registering the seaworthiness of wooden commercial ships sailing from British ports. An attempt to plan and predict.

A tight turnaround from ideas, to making work, to installation of Supposedly Predictable Phenomena at no format Gallery in time for Deptford X.

Very happy to be showing alongside Jessie Sheffield and Lauren Ilsley. 1710 SPP 8

This was new work that investigates the themes of sequence and consequence

1710 SPP

Contained Nascent
Acrylic, wood, water, powdered minerals.
Lauren Ilsley, 2017

Apparently linear processes, psychological and physical, are rendered unpredictable and essentially chaotic due to their inherent and entangled sensitivity.

‘Supposedly predictable phenomena’ relates to the concept that if all contributing factors could be mapped and understood, then the outcome, theoretically, should be predictable.

1710 Jessie Sheffield

FixPoint 36
Steel mesh, wood, acrylic.
Jessie Sheffield, 2017

The results of this is a calculable universe and suggests a trajectory that is not only logical but also predetermined.

1710 SPP 2

Tools for Transition
Ceramic, aluminium, wood.
Lauren Ilsley, 2017

This raises the question of the alternative – Chaos Theory, and in turn free will.

1710 SPP 7

Duodecimēns
Etched aluminium, screen print. 12 pieces.
Susan Eyre, 2017

Duodeci – 12    mēns – minds……or Twelve thoughts, one from each multiverse

1710 ssp exhibition

no format gallery space worked well for us, if slightly on the edge of the festival bounds. It faces onto Propeller Foundry with 4 floors of artist studios many of which invoke studio envy with their big windows and vast spaces. Found a few old friends in here. There was some opportunity to head out to see some of the other work on show around Deptford.

Ambient Occlusion was another excellent curation at Gossamer Fog. Muted as the first step towards the synthesis of human and computer, the attraction of virtual reality evident by the queues to experience Jakob Kudsk Steensen’s Terractic Animism. It was terrific. Hyper-real. Which cannot be conveyed in this image or the Vimeo link demo.

1710 Jakob Kudsk Steensen

Other mesmerising work was Alan Warburton’s 3 channel video Primitives

1710 Alan Warburton primitives

and Katriona Beales video with mixed media Working Table II

1710 Katriona Beales (1)

Bearspace was showing Bella Easton Breath

1710 Bella Easton

colours slipping from muted to monochrome, an enveloping tangle pieced from oil painted linen still scented with the mediums of its construction.

In the bare bones of St Paul’s House Tom Ireland placed three screens showing voyages across the sea or the galaxies. The Heavens (Deptford Observatory) places the local dockyards and observatory at the centre of the universe from which we embark.

1710 tom Ireland.jpg

New Scientist Live 2017

1710 naked molerats.jpg

Best thing I saw in some ways was these extraordinary fanged tubes of flesh that hold the clues to longevity but I did feel for them being thrust under the spotlight. Exposed. Naked indeed.

 

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My thoughts have been directed to change, counting time and mapping data, the aura of place and sacred sites, and the lure of the apocalypse.

1510 wells clock

As Utopia is no place so Uchronia is no time.

Helga Schmid gave a very interesting presentation on Uchronia at the Material Environments Symposium, University of Greenwich. First used by Charles Renouvier in the title of his 1876 novel which translates as Uchronia (Utopia in History), an Apocryphal Sketch of the Development of European Civilization Not as It Was But as It Might Have Been.

Uchronia suggests an alternative history, a what if scenario. Helga is interested in the possibility of changing the time constraints society forces upon us to allow us a more natural experience of time in tune with circadian rhythms and our natural sleep patterns. Her research looks at the transition from agricultural to urban society, the temporal fragmentation from punctuality to flexibility and the ongoing pressures of speed and acceleration which conflict with the human biological clock. She conducts experiments with groups of people removed from clocks and natural light to explore biological and societal constraints with a view to advocating a new lived experience of time which does not conform to the temporal structure of contemporary technology driven life.

1510 burning man

Creative group Uchronia at Burning Man 2006 http://www.uchronians.org

Another speaker at the symposium, Laura Kurgan uses new technologies to chronicle social change with a view to influencing political ideologies. She has written on the subject of mapping data in Close Up at a Distance.

1510 Laura Kurgan

Satellite data images are built from pixels radioed from outer space. These statistics often record situations of intense conflict and can express fundamental transformations in our ways of seeing and of experiencing space. This data was intended for military and governmental uses but Laura Kurgan repurposed it to open up new spaces and present new views.  Technology has brought about a revolutionary shift in our ability to navigate, inhabit, and define the spatial realm. The traces of interactions, both physical and virtual, charted by the maps in Close Up at a Distance define this shift.

Laura Kurgan presents two of her projects which map the movement of people in this link: Human Geographies

1510 Laura Kurgan 2

Native Land looks at economical migration and money transfers, migration due to natural disasters exacerbated by climate change, loss of forests and loss of native language. Through a series of animated maps and graphs she shows major social change happening on a global scale in an easy to grasp visual format.

What we’ve traditionally called “the universe” — the aftermath of “our” big bang — may be just one island, just one patch of space, in a perhaps-infinite archipelago. There may have been an infinity of big bangs, not just one. Each constituent of this “multiverse” cooled down differently, ending up governed by different laws. – Lord Martin Rees

Current theories in physics that debate the possibility of us living in a multiverse challenge our perceptions of space and time.

1510 multiverse

This subject was tackled in Constellations a play by Nick Payne.  It was superb theatre acted impeccably by Louise Brealey and Joe Armstrong and powerfully directed by Michael Longhurst.

Constellations by Nick Payne

Constellations by Nick Payne

Constellations takes one relationship and looks at alternative scenarios and the possible outcomes of infinite possibilities. What if we live in a multiverse and every decision we make is somewhere else happening just slightly different? The twists and turns and subtleties that these actors brought to life in funny and heart rending moments was astonishing in itself and then the ideas that this play throws up about the big questions of our place in the universe and our relationship to death added depth and resonance to a play that stays in your heart. It helped to analyse the concept of a multiverse in very human terms.

We are fascinated by the disaster. The allure of the sublime always contains some element of death.

Shown by curators Coates and Scarry in Complicit Kate MccGwire’s sleek feathered sculptures and Juliette Losq’s muted watercolour landscapes take you to the edge where beauty slides into a sort of dissonance.

Kate MccGwire Taunt

Kate MccGwire Taunt

MccGwire’s amorphous shapes that gleam and curl in upon themselves sit well with the lost spaces Losq creates in both 2D and 3D where she physically tears through the paper landscape drawing you further in to a world falling apart around you.

Juliette Losq Covert

Juliette Losq Covert

The beauty of destruction on an epic scale was showing at Thomas Dane in a screening of Bruce Conner’s thirty-seven-minute film CROSSROADS produced in 1976 from archival footage of the first nuclear tests conducted in 1946 at Bikini Atoll.

Bruce Conner Crossroads

Bruce Conner Crossroads

As terrifying as it is beautiful, CROSSROADS plays witness to the detonation of a nuclear weapon as powerful as the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki, ninety feet below the surface of the ocean, under a fleet of decommissioned naval ships as test subjects for the bomb’s destructive powers.

Sixty-four aircraft with 328 cameras (some of which were radio-controlled drones) circled the detonation site using high speed film and equipment that would take a million pictures in the first few seconds of the explosion. This event was to be the most comprehensively photographed moment in history.

Conner was able to draw upon this extensive footage allowing the viewer to experience the detonation repeatedly in a constant succession of waves, overwhelming in its beauty and tragedy creating an unbearable ecstasy.

Bikini Atoll caught in the crossfire symbolises the dawn of the nuclear age, despite its paradoxical image of an earthly paradise.

Bikini children leaving the island 1946

Bikini children leaving the island 1946

The terrible legacy of the nuclear tests lives on through the forced displacement of the indigenous people of these islands whose homes and health were sacrificed.

Peter Kennard

Peter Kennard

The politics of Peter Kennard are blatantly siphoned into his art with no apologies.

I visited his major retrospective at the Imperial War Museum which I found moving in its directness.

Peter Kennard

Peter Kennard

I was interested in Matt Gee’s exhibition Nutri-Artifice at  Gallery 286 for his use of crystals and human intervention in landscape. He shows us an unreal beauty. Chemical colours and textures mingle in an unclear divide between the artificial and the organic.

Matt Gee Mountain Bend

Matt Gee Mountain Bend

Marc Quinn was also exploring desire and the artificial in The Toxic Sublime at White Cube, Bermondsey. In his Toxic Sublime series the use of sugary colours echoes the formulaic image of the sun rising over the ocean that he takes as his starting point and then the sickly sweet is attacked, frottaged with municipal street architecture, blasted to aluminium before finally being bent and geometrically distorted.

Marc Quinn The Toxic Sublime

Marc Quinn The Toxic Sublime

If it was the vulgar Quinn wanted to expose with this process then it works and the repetition in the gallery adds to this toxic overload. The sculptures in the same show vary dramatically from a similar overdone crudeness to the sublime.

Marc Quinn Frozen Wave

Marc Quinn at White Cube

Frozen Wave, in highly polished stainless steel, has all the magnificence of a weight of water about to crash. It embodies the frisson of disaster that holds you in awe of its power and beauty. Vast and primordial Frozen Wave (The Conservation of Energy) makes connections between nature and humanity that resonate deep within us.

Marc Quinn

Marc Quinn Frozen Wave (The conservation of energy)

1510 Dartmoor

I was pleased to be invited to take part in the Rising Stars exhibition at Coombe Gallery, Dartmouth, Devon.

Coombe Gallery

Coombe Gallery

For this show I mounted some of the screenprints I had made on paper from the everydaymatters series.

Susan Eyre everydaymatters (tropical SE16)

Susan Eyre everydaymatters (tropical SE16)

I used laser cut mdf circles and painted the backs with fluorescent paint so they radiate a glow on the wall behind.

1510 fluorescent

One step to my independence has been the purchase of a power saw to cut mitre joints for sub-frames to hang work. Not very exciting but I was able to make my own subframes for this work so they can sit a little out from the wall.

Susan Eyre everydaymatters(tropicalia SW3)

Susan Eyre everydaymatters (tropicalia SW3)

I have been pleased that I was able to transfer the screenprints I had made on fabric onto mdf too. I have been able to collage these with new sublimation prints and am quite pleased with the outcome.

1510 clock

A lot of my time since leaving the RCA seems to have been taken up by admin, submitting proposals, writing statements, framing up or mounting work, delivering and picking up.

Susan Eyre everydaymatters (palm SW4)

Susan Eyre everydaymatters (palm SW4)

I used the trip delivering work to Dartmouth to stop off and look at some Neolithic landscape as part of my research looking at ancient rituals and then considering their modern equivalent.

1510 Wood Henge grave

Dating from 2300 BC, Woodhenge is thought to have marked a particular stage in the evolution of human religious belief and community organisation. Originally believed to be the remains of a large burial mound the concrete markers that stand there today replace the six concentric rings of timber posts which are believed to have once supported a ring-shaped building. The small grave in the centre believed to be of a child is still paid homage to with candles and flowers today.

1510 Wood Henge

On the day I visited there were TV cameras and helicopters overhead as news was broadcast that archeologists have discovered evidence of the hidden remains of  a massive Neolithic stone monument, thought to have been hauled into position more than 4,500 years ago completely rewriting the history of Stonehenge and the surrounding area.

1510 Cuckoo Stone

While I was in Devon I was also able to visit Widecombe Fair famed for the ditty from which this verse is taken…

When the wind whistles cold on the moor of the night.
All along, down along, out along lea.
Tom Pearce’s old mare doth appear ghastly white,
With Bill Brewer, Jan Stewer, Peter Gurney,
Peter Davy, Dan’l Whiddon, Harry Hawke,
Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all,
Old Uncle Tom Cobley and all.

Widecombe Fair

Widecombe Fair

I was interested to see if I could identify any ancient rituals being passed on and adapted

Widecombe Fair Town Cryer competition

Widecombe Fair Town Cryer competition

Widecombe Fair Prize Vegetables

Widecombe Fair Prize Vegetables

1510 Widecombe Fair beetroot

Widecombe Fair Viking

Viking re-enactment with mystic raven

Widecombe Fair

Widecombe Fair Morris Dancers

In another excursion west I was pleased to have my sculptures everydaymatters selected for the Wells Art Contemporary by judges Richard Wentworth, Mariele Neudecker and Donald Smith.

Susan Eyre everydaymatters

Susan Eyre everydaymatters

Susan Eyre everydaymatters

Susan Eyre everydaymatters

As space was tight in the Wells and Mendip Museum where the exhibition takes place it was only possible to show three of the seven but I did have a great backdrop in Wells Cathedral.

Susan Eyre everydaymatters

Susan Eyre everydaymatters

While in Wells I took the opportunity to visit their impressive Cathedral. Set upon the source of ancient springs (or wells) there has been a sacred site here since the first human settlements.

1510 Wells Cathedral

This most ancient Cathedral is also famous for its astronomical clock and it was a real treat to see it theatrically strike the hour.

The clock is inspiring not only for its immense age but the intricacies of its design and mechanisms. The ornamental dial depicts the pre Copernican geocentric view of the universe, with the sun and moon revolving around earth at the centre.

1510 Wells_cathedral_clock_dial

Above the clock sitting in the corner is a figure, known as Jack Blandifers, who has been counting time for over 600 years. Every 15 minutes he hits a bell with a hammer and two bells with his heels while above the clock a troupe of jousting knights hurtle around a podium.

1510 Jack Blandifer

Carsten Höller intends for his work to bring about ‘moments of not knowing.’ For his exhibition at the Hayward Gallery Decision you enter through Decision Corridors a dark tunnel which twists and turns and divides. It is a hesitant journey made by feeling along the walls and punctuated by screaming teenagers careering though at speed.

Carsten Holler Flying Mushrooms

Carsten Höller Flying Mushrooms

I liked the Flying Mushrooms mechanisms of interconnecting cogs and rotating orbs which seemed to represent an alternative solar system. There was the opportunity to push a bar which in turn moved the cogs.

Haywood Gallery

Haywood Gallery

BBC Drama Block

BBC Drama Block

Most of the exhibits in this show were participative in some way and the decisions were much about whether to push the bar, take the pill, or ride the slide but some did interfere with perception in an uncomfortable squeaky chalkboard sort of way.

Carsten Holler The Forests

Carsten Höller The Forests

I found I couldn’t cope with The Forests a dual screen video shown on a headset that splits your vision in two as one eye takes a route in the forest one way and the other eye another. This made me squirm as I felt my brain trying to cope and reconnect to one single image made from both eyes.

1510 Ben Rivers 3

The mysterious title of Ben Rivers cinematic installation The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers  originates from a whispered warning overheard in a Tangiers café by Paul Bowles.

Ben Rivers

Composer and novelist Bowles and his wife Jane settled in Morocco in the forties. In turn inspired by this landscape Ben Rivers films weave in and out of fiction and reality layering the violent narrative from Bowles short story A Distant Episode of a European abducted by bandits though re-enactment by non actors using the abandoned film sets that litter the Atlas Mountains.  By chance while in Tangier, Rivers meets and subsequently films Mohammed Mrabet now 79 who once inspired the Bowles couple with his stories of local folklore.

Ben Rivers The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers

Ben Rivers The Two Eyes Are Not Brothers

Another serendipitous opportunity  for Rivers to add yet another layer was meeting artist Shezad Dawood on location independently filming for his own work.

1510 ben rivers 1

This palimpsest of stories, real and fictional, is then appositely presented in the former BBC Drama Block at White City currently due for demolition.

Ben Rivers installation at BBC White City

Ben Rivers installation at BBC White City

Led into a world that has moved on there is the chance to explore the vast BBC studios before they are erased.

1510 bbc centre 5

1510 bbc centre

In an interview in the Paris Review 1981 Paul Bowles responds to the question of violence in his work

“Yes, I suppose the violence served a therapeutic purpose. It’s unsettling to think that at any moment life can flare up into senseless violence. But it can and does, and people need to be ready for it. What you make for others is first of all what you make for yourself. If I’m persuaded that our life is predicated upon violence, that the entire structure of what we call civilization, the scaffolding that we’ve built up over the millennia, can collapse at any moment, then whatever I write is going to be affected by that assumption. The process of life presupposes violence, in the plant world the same as the animal world. But among the animals only man can conceptualize violence. Only man can enjoy the idea of destruction.”

1510 bbc centre 6

Up Projects with The Floating Cinema presented a series of events for Extra-Terrestrial London a highlight of which was the screening of Shezad Dawood’s Piercing Brightness.

1510 up projects

Before the screening Shezad gave an informal talk aboard a canal boat to explain how the film had come about and how he found Preston to be the perfect setting for a film about what it means to be alien.

Shezad Dawood Piercing Brightness

Shezad Dawood Piercing Brightness

There is a loose narrative to the film. Two alien youths land in a spaceship outside Preston. Their mission is to re-establish contact with the ‘Glorious 100’ sent to earth millennia ago in human form to study and observe the development of another race.

Shezad Dawood Piercing Brightness

Shezad Dawood Piercing Brightness

After making contact with one of the 100,  they discover that many of their kind have forgotten their original purpose and have slowly become integrated into their adopted home and no longer want to return to their home planet.

Chudamani Clowes White City

Chudamani Clowes White City

Migration and integration both current and historical were addressed by Chudamani Clowes in her solo show at the Griffin Gallery White City.

1510 Franco-British_Exhibition

White City is the area local to the Griffin Gallery and gained its name from the white painted buildings of the Franco-British exhibition of 1908. At the time it was the largest exhibition of its kind in Britain and presented a number of model villages reconstructed to celebrate imperial achievements. This included Ballymaclinton, a ‘genuine’ Irish village. At the French Senegalese village, complete with imported ‘natives’, visitors could watch traditional dance performances. And at the Indian Arena,  Bollywood-style spectaculars were performed.

Chudamani Clowes White City

Chudamani Clowes White City

Chud, moved by news of the current migrant crisis uses the analogy of the jellyfish as migrant without borders caught in the ebb and flow of life to offer us the chance to rethink what it means to be other.

Chudamina Clowes Jellyfish dance

Chudamani Clowes Jellyfish Dance

For the opening event the audience took part in a jellyfish procession from Griffin Gallery to White City tube station via the modern monolith of Westfields shopping centre and the current redevelopment of the BBC studios.

1510 Chud White City 4

As colourful and spirited as her work Chud led the procession majestically trailing silver tentacles as we followed wearing Chud’s trademark bonnets creating the sparkling seas from undulating survival blankets in unison.

1510 Chud White City 7

In an Interview. about her work she talks of how she saw desperate migrants on the news having nothing yet looking almost regal wrapped in gold rescue blankets.

Chudamani Clowes White City

Chudamani Clowes White City

Her work aims to highlight perception and distortion and so she used these blankets to make a shelter in which see yourself reflected and distorted, you become other.

Chudamani Clowes White City

Chudamani Clowes White City

Chud talks about how important it is to tell our stories and keep our memories alive. To look at local history and appreciate that the oasis’ of culture we enjoy today are the hubs where migrants settled in the past.

Whenever you go down the roads in Britain, you travel not in three dimensions but in four. The fourth dimension is the past. And as we move to and fro in this fourth dimension, we see not only landscape but the economic, political and social forces at work behind the landscape, shaping it, forever changing it…

Travis Elborough and Bob Stanley

1510 st etienne

My second viewing of the film How We Used to Live was further enhanced by the live accompaniment of Saint Etienne playing the beautifully beguiling soundtrack.

1510 how we used to live

Splicing old BFI colour film footage of a lost London we are transported back to a pre digital world to witness the change from capital of industry to financial hub.

1510 light

I am interested in the aura of place and how this is defined.  I joined The London Occult Walk led by practising witch Delianne Forget who promised to point out the haunts and meeting places of magicians, witches and secret societies. Following a route from Embankment to Covent Garden we were encouraged to speculate on what might have occurred at certain sites along the way. We were asked to imagine the grand houses that once lined the embankment where nobility of the 16th and 17th centuries lived and the beliefs they held regarding the supernatural.

We began the walk on Villiers Road. I have had lots to research from this walk as many historical names and events were mentioned along the way.

There were stories of George Villiers  (1592-1628) who became the favourite of James I and then Charles I and who was a big influence on the royals but not popular with the government due to some of the other company he kept such as John Lamb who was accused of performing black magic. Both George Villiers who became The Duke of Buckingham and John Lamb were murdered, the first ambushed by a peeved army officer and the second stoned to death by a mob angry that due to his noble friends influence he had escaped justice for the violent rape of a young girl.

1510 Occult Walk RSA

We stopped at the grand Royal Society of Artists building.  Founded in a Covent Garden coffee house in 1755 the RSA moved in 1774 to this purpose built home set on the ancient site where the episcopal palace of Durham House once stood.  Durham House dated from 1345 and was home to Sir Walter Raleigh while he was a favourite of Elizabeth I.

Around 1592 Sir Walter Raleigh led the esoteric group The School of Atheism later nicknamed The School of Night  where alchemists, astronomers, astrologers, mathematicians and poets met and mingled their philosophies. This sort of debate was disapproved of by the church who wished to stamp out any interest in the sciences and preserve a geocentric view of the world.

1510 Dee wax disc

This trace from the past led us from Sir Walter Raleigh and Elizabeth I to the famed astrologer and occult philosopher John Dee who was the Queen’s trusted advisor and interpreter of the heavenly auspices. He would be summoned to Windsor for his opinion at the sudden appearance of a comet. There was no delineation between science and magic at the time. John Dee believed contact could be made with the spirit world via his crystal ball and obsidian scrying mirror.

John Dee's magical artefatcs held at The British Museum

John Dee’s magical items held at The British Museum

He was keen to work alongside other mediums who could contact the dead and thought he had found the ideal partner in Edward Kelly. There is a tale of the pair visiting Preston to raise a body dug up in St. Leonards graveyard from the dead with incantations. Relations with Kelly didn’t go so well after he forced Dee into a wife sharing co-op and the once famed alchemist pair split. Kelly ended up falling to his death from a window in an attempt to escape prison and Dee returned to his home at Mortlake out of favour now the Queen was dead, never quite having made his fortune and dying penniless in 1608.

1510 Dee disc

Stopping to look at the 1512 building of Queens Chapel of the Savoy, a tiny church owned by the crown we were told this was the ideal place for an Elizabethan grave robber’s work. What went on and who visited where was much speculated upon and the stories encompassed the past and spread to other figures who are remembered in history for their occultist interests.

Simon Forman was another Elizabethan astrologer who gained fame and notoriety studying the occult arts and practising as a physician until he was banned for not having a license. Despite his creepy and lecherous reputation he was able to get a license from Cambridge university and continue his practise and many of his fascinating case studies are held at the Bodlein Library on Oxford. William Lilly followed in this line of astrology publishing the Christian Astrology in 1647 and even gaining the approval of Oliver Cromwell.

1510 Thames high tide

We walked along the Thames to the incongruously sited ancient Egyptian obelisk known as Cleopatra’s Needle.

1510 obelisk

Here early on a December morning in 1937 as the sun entered Capricorn  Aleister Crowley gathered a small crowd representative of each race of mankind and gave each one a copy of his book The Equinox of the Gods. He gave a short speech including his mantra – Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.  The book contains an image of the Stele of Revealing held in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo whose significance for Crowley is the depiction of the three chief deities of Thelema.

1510 stele of revealing

The origins of the Lyceum Theatre date to 1765 and we stopped to gaze up at a window where Bram Stoker worked as assistant to actor manager Henry Irving at the end of the 1800’s. Dracula was published in 1897. Stoker had an interest in the study of the occult and knew members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn but there is some dispute as to whether he was a member himself.

Our walk ended in Covent Garden where the original Hell Fire Club was founded by the Duke of Wharton to engage in the popular new pastimes of satire and blasphemy. These clubs were banned in 1721 by George I in a  Bill “against ‘horrid impieties”.  The most notorious Hell Fire Club set up by Sir Francis Dashwood in 1746 was known at the time as The Order of the Friars of St. Francis of Wycombe. I am reading a history of this club written by Donald McCormick published in 1958 which seems to seek to defend the ‘amorous knights of Wycombe’ as mere sensualists perfectly able to hold respected public office despite their recourse to excessive drinking and ‘wenching’. The sexist and homophobic 1950’s views in this book are just as repugnant as the 1750’s behaviour they defend.

Rich and powerful these men created their own playground and their own rules. The striking golden globe on top of the tower of St. Lawrence’s Church built by Dashwood in 1761 can comfortably seat 4 men and was according to John Wilkes ‘the best Globe Tavern I was ever in.”

St. Lawrence's Church West Wycombe

St. Lawrence’s Church West Wycombe

Recently passing West Wycombe I stopped off to have a look at the Church.

St. Lawrence's Church West Wycombe

St. Lawrence’s Church West Wycombe

The Dashwood family mausoleum also on the hill overlooking West Wycombe Park is another flamboyant statement.

Dashwood Mausoleum

Dashwood Mausoleum

A visit to the caves where the brotherhood met will have to wait for another day.

Medmenham Abbey was the headquarters for the Knights of Saint Francis of Wycombe before the caves which became their home were dug out and Dashwood based its refurbishment to his purposes on the Abbey of Thélème inspired by his love of the works of Rabelais and embracing the Thélème motto “FAY CE QUE VOUDRAS” (Do as you please)

Medmenham Abbey

Medmenham Abbey

I was interested to note that the Abbey of Thélème has no clocks as Gargantua believed  ” the greatest loss of time that I know is to count the hours.”

Going through my old sketchbooks I came across a cutting from the Sunday Times Culture Section dated 22/10/2006 written by Bryan Appleyard who quotes royal astronomer Martin Rees as predicting that we have no better than a 50/50 chance of surviving the 21st century.

1510 Archipov

It has always been the case that every culture and age sees the End of the World as imminent as though it were hard wired into our species to live in anticipation of destruction. The article Headlong into the Flames is actually a scathing book review of James Martin’s The Meaning of the 21st Century. Appleyard’s own analysis is that there is absolutely no prospect of people ever overcoming enough of their differences even to start to save the planet.

1510 mars to the multiverse

Hearing Lord Martin Rees recently speak at Second Home his analysis of our odds to survive might not have changed but if we do survive he thinks “Evolution will not follow the Darwinian timeline, but instead a new, technological trajectory…..Those who witness the explosion of the sun in four billion years time will be as different to us now as we are to insects”