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The Transvocatory Media of Barry William Hale

An Interview by Robert Fitzgerald. Originally published in Abraxas Journal #2

For the past twenty years or more, the Australian artist Barry William Hale has been quietly, riotously, chaotically and methodically creating a body of artwork and magical artifacts, both physical and sonic, that stand alone. From his first published work of ink drawings, ASH (1995), and the multi-media collaboration of sound, image and ritual that is NOKO, to the most recent book of demonic paper-cuts, Legion 49 (Fulgur, 2009), and all the graffiti and manic sigillic scrawls left on serviettes, walls, books, scrap paper – in fact any available surface left unprotected– Hale demonstrates a rare originality and fluidity of both line and execution. The impact of his art is felt within the eye and beneath the skin. It instills a viral seething in our very blood. Here he talks with his friend, the author Robert Fitzgerald.

RF: Describe your personal and magical relationship to dreams and dreaming.

BH: I’ll open with two apposite quotations, the first from Liber Aleph: ‘The True Will chooseth to reveal itself within a phantasmagoric phantomine of dreams unruly and strange’ and the second from Deleuze ‘What appears in the phantasm is the movement by which the ego opens itself to the surface and liberates the a-cosmic, impersonal, and pre-individual singularities which it has imprisoned. It literally releases them like spores and bursts if it gets unburdened.’

For me the Phantasm is seen as a line between the conscious and the unconscious, a thread that traverses back and forth from the interiority and exteriority via passionate forms of communication. These forms are liminal events poised on phantasmic thresholds, ravished by the phantasms of desire. They are irrepressible gravities drawing us into intoxicating delirium; marvelous masquerades of mimesis, subtle seducers satisfying unfulfilled desires, harvesting the imperfections of sleep; ravishing reveries, harlequin coats composed of diamond facets of being and non-being in an endless orgiastic spectacle. The will is clothed in robes of symbolic order partaking of luminous hieroglyphic pageants. Such is the power of dreams and non-corporeal being generating profound transformations within our psyches, and touching our sensorial bodies with an inscrutable tangibility, in that there is no differentiation between the real and non-real. For the occultist and magical practitioner these chthonic forces are harnessed and utilised – dream incubation, deliberate repression, and conscious sublimation – willfully calling forth libidinal energies, loosening pure desire.

Regarding my own dreams and practice therein… in one dream I was given a large and incomplete book from a Tibetan aesthete who had the appearance of a B.n-po Master. He was the present custodian of this book which reached back via a long lineage of demon-quellers and ghost-catchers into antiquity. Its richly illustrated pages depicted a

NOKO: ORDER 41 ‘Conjuration of Beelzebub’at the 17th Australian Arts Biennale. Photo: © Elinor McDonald, 2010

myriad of catalogued demons and other supernatural creatures. As I watched him draw the final picture with masterful execution and in a distinctly traditional Tibetan style, replete with blank unfolded pages to the side, he passed the book to me, so that I might continue to collect the beings that belonged in the pages of this never-ending book. In the waking world, Legion 49 was one of my first contributions to this curious tome. Yet there remains an endless array and catalogue of demons, known by either name, signature or description of appearance, attributes and function.

RF: Would you say that ritual while dreaming should be considered in the same manner as when awake?

BH: Well, the B.n and Buddhist traditions of Tibet believe the application of spiritual practice or performance within dream produces exceptional results, and some say this type of praxis is nine times more effective than when performed during the waking state. Personally, I would say that this kind of dream-working is a sign that the magical practice, or particular ritual, has been fully absorbed by the individual, because if I have been practicing a particular ritual it is only when I perform that ritual in dream that I know it has become an essential part of my practical repertory. The Star Ruby ritual has, for example, been used by me on numerous occasions in dream. I had to use this ritual in a dream that was instigated by the genii of Liber 231, following the construction of my first two wheels in that series of works, wherein I was visited by a genius of Sumerian proportions. Just gigantic! Another occasion occurred in London during my morning practice, in which the execution of the Star Ruby was disturbed. That evening a minor misunderstanding with a good brother ensued and my sleep tormented by a demon in his form. This identification was ascertained by looking into his eyes, for his identity could no longer be concealed. Thereupon I began to perform the Star Ruby unbroken, and following the NOX formulation my mouth became a vacuum through which the demon was rapidly sucked into and annihilated. More often than not, these experiences of ritual dream spontaneously heralded a subconscious reflex fusing their exaction in both realms. There are many other experiences relating to the Star Ruby and the application of the NOX formula, and demonic attack is representative. Another common occurrence was that a ritual would begin in dream and I would later become aware that I was awakening and my consciousness would create a thread between the two worlds – and so it became of the utmost import that the ritual was completed.

I once had a dream-within-a-dream in which I felt incredibly tired. I lay down to sleep and had another dream within-a-dream that I was in the back of an old ute being driven by two men of African origin down these dirt roads with tall fields of yellow crops browned by the sun. I had no idea where we were going and was a little apprehensive of the whole situation. We finally arrived at a dusty clearing filled with a congregation of other Africans. There was a small four-posted open structure with a galvanised roof. Everyone was dressed in dusted white clothes; most of the men had no tops and white rolled up pants, and the women wore simple white dresses with scarves tied around their heads. There were two men who seemed to be in charge. One had a machete and a pirate flag draped over his shoulders; the other wore a short sleeved shirt and straw hat. A collection of drummers began to play a rhythmic battery, whilst a repetitive chorus of song broke out and the congregation began to sway. I found the words of the song coming out of my mouth and the dance began to make my entire consciousness real; side-to-side steps with a small bob and turn of the head. With each bob I could feel my awareness falling away and I recall a few of the congregation looking intently at me with piercing eyes. Then my consciousness fell away again and I found myself in an awe-inspiring grotto with the roof and walls lined with human skulls. Within was a circle of water with a small island in the center where a tiny amorphous figure with two black eyes captivated me. Then I found myself waking in the dream state where I had fallen asleep and then I began to hear the birds of morning in the mountains overlooking the valley of the waters with the song ringing in my head. As I awoke from this very unusual dream, my girlfriend at the time asked if I was alright because I was covered from head to toe in perspiration and my legs had been moving vigorously in my sleep.

Dreams may also be given as an initiation, or as seal upon an initiation. In the Middle East, the initiation to become a geomancer is transferred by spittle and is usually performed in graveyards. The potential initiate would know the power had been transferred if s/he dreamt of horses that night. Some Voudoun initiations require that one must remain in the temple and sleep with your head upon a rock for up to 21 days. Receiving or seeking knowledge by the process of dream incubation has a long history. The seeker sleeps in the tombs of saints or grottos sacred to the gods, like that at Delphi. One slept in these places in order to receive a revelation in dream. There are accounts of tertons or treasure-finders of the Himalayas retrieving physical sacred objects in dreams, terma-teachings guarded by dakinis and hidden by ancient Masters in clouds, trees, rocks and holy statues. These await disclosure and for the resonant keys to be unlocked; teachings and tantras received in dream when the time is ripe for their reception, dissemination and practice. The techniques and examples are vast.

I think the occultist, via praxis and willful engagement with the night side, uses a greater portion of their lives in sleep as an opportunity to gain valuable magical

NOKO: HYPERCuBE 210 / VEH. Photo: © Michael Strum, 2010.

experience. Applying ourselves within this sphere, we are able to greater expand our abilities. Crowley writes in Liber Aleph, ‘Inner Silence of the Body being attained, it may be that the True Will may speak in True Dreams; for it is written that He giveth unto His beloved in Sleep.’ For when the body is pure the ‘Lord bestoweth a Solar or Lucid Sleep, wherein move images of pure Light fashioned by the True Will.’ These are not the dreams of common men, but rather the keys for obtaining spiritual knowledge, the Sleep of Shiloam, and the dreams of the Immortals.

RF: For years you have been drawing upon any available surface beings you call ‘auto-demons.’ What are they, exactly, and where are they from?

BH: These drawings, in contrast to my paintings, seem to have a completely different feel. Instead of originating from a self-contained ideological system, they emerge from an intimate and fleeting experience and capture the momentary and contingent. The technique of their summoning resembles the Surrealist automatic drawing: anthropomorphic shapes emerge out of filigrees of wandering lines or figures captured in a cloud of smoke. I produce these scribblings in ectoplasm in a relatively short amount of time, and in quick succession. They tie into the image without resemblance as the process produces myriad entities without any genealogy – just begetting and consuming themselves in an endless continuum. The demon hordes are not produced by any process of filiations; rather they are more likened to contagion and agency. These drawings seem to have the capacity to act as an after-image. For Derrida, this retention has already repeated something that is no longer present. The trace is a ghost of production and a trace that is necessarily present inscribed in a halfway house.

Actually, my first major engagement with the process of automatic drawing was via ink, pen and paper following the performances of the Mass of the Phoenix – Liber 44 – alongside a reading of Liber Tzaddi from the Holy Books of Thelema. I would scribble in ink on standard size thick cards and place them on a wall in sequence from left to right. I repeated this process every sunset for 144 days. They were largely abstract gestural expressions and were exhibited alongside an early series of graphical works known as ASH in 1995. The next engagement was drawing with glow-in-the-dark chalk upon the surfaces of my room. You could only see them, naturally, when the lights were off at night. This became a rather obsessive process I called ‘Nocturnal Emissions’ and during this period the abstract gestural surface of the previous series morphed into coagulated forms defying anything recognisable as possessing form.

The process continued its transformation in Mexico, as more noticeably figurative forms began to emerge. This occurred during my travels through the Yucatan peninsula and beyond, along the Mayan trail, so to speak. One of my Mexican traveling companions commented that what I was drawing was Maya! And that the forms emerging during our travels possessed strong psychic or structural resonances with Mayan writing, although this was not apparently evident in any formalistic sense. But what I began to notice in looking for said resonances, was that all of my automatic figurations were drawn in profile. The repetitive similarity did indeed bear more than a passing resemblance to Mayan hieroglyphs. It is interesting that both Mayan and Egyptian art found on walls, codex and papyri depict figures or gods from a side perspective. Developing upon this idea, I filled small spiral-bound sketch pads with automatic drawings I then called ‘Peripheral Spectra,’ as these entities could only be seen from the side because they emerge out of our peripheral vision, or from beyond our conscious field of vision. This series was exhibited in the Front Room, Sydney, Australia, in 2003, and contained over nine hundred drawings. Most of these drawings emerged from the filigree embellishments of the signature: a mark of authenticity each time it is executed and through repetition its style is re-forged into a distinctly observable aesthetic.

Recently my automatic drawing process more closely resembles Wittgenstein’s ‘disinterested gazed,’ because it derives, not from an explicit trance-state, but more from a simple occupation of time. In many respects the ‘automatic’ in my work is related to gestural memory, and so drawing in this fashion becomes purely organic. There is no ‘lust for result,’ just the act or process itself. Who knows what these auto-demons will have in store for me in the future…

RF: So, would you say that development of the automatic process can lead to a deepening induction, or initiating experience?

BH: Well, there have been numerous times when I have experienced trance induction through sigilisation. For example, one such occurrence happened at the final working of a 49 day BABALON operation that involved working with seven pomba-gira serving as avatars. Each of the seven pomba-gira was worked with by seven different participants, along with Exu. Each week culminated in a rite to each of the Red Ladies at the T-roads, with a BABALON rite in temple. The last ritual was comprised of all seven T-roads and all the pomba-giras being thanked for their participation over the previous seven weeks. At the final T-road, the signature of the pombas unfolded in a particularly surprising manner. During the chalking of the sigillic forms, they unraveled in a continuous manner from the hand, and in so doing affected the induced trance state; the hand became the possessed medium of the Scarlet avatars. This was an automatic, cryptographic and direct expression: the glyphs became a type of unconscious writing serving to anchor the connection with these formidable entities in a quite miraculous manner. There are many examples during the rites of the Afro-Caribbean diasporic traditions whereby the signature of the spirit is drawn and blessed during possession.

RF: You mentioned Mexico, was it there you first became interested in Mexican paper-cut art?

BH: Yes. Generally, I am attracted to folk forms, as for me they display a vibrant exuberance and a raw complexity.What also attracts me are the distinctive aesthetics that emerge from strong local traditions, where fabrication is seasonally recurrent, ephemeral, and functions in meaningful cultural contexts. They are carriers and custodians of spiritual tradition. Mexico is alive with these folk traditions, which are different in every region. It’s like walking through a witch’s gingerbread house… and I followed the crumbs to the striking paper-cut tradition of the Otomi Indians. Their deities are represented by cut-outs from tree-bark, which are then used in their rituals and ceremonies covering all aspects of religious life, including shamanic and sorcerous practices. One aspect I found enthralling was that it seemed a fusion between the chthonic Otomi tradition and the infernal hierarchies of the Spanish Inquisition. Paper-cuts are used for cursing, casting and removal; taking away bad luck, misfortune and disease. These demonic dukes, kings and queens take on the features of the Spanish conquerors, complete with goatee beards, bald heads and boots. Montezuma is even incorporated into this pantheon. It was this cultural fusion with its potent aesthetic that gave me the inspiration to work with the demonic pantheons of the Western Occult Tradition.

RF: Speaking of which, in your first published book, Legion 49, the Servants of Beelzebub are paper cuts. Did they suggest the idea to summon them in this manner?

BH: Legion 49 is a survey of the conjurational arts, magical techniques, methodologies, and it analyses of some of the key texts wherein Beelzebub is featured. Among these are the descriptions of the 49 servitors of Beelzebub that were mentioned in a footnote to the poem, ‘The Jinn Vision’ in Crowley’s collection of homo-erotic poems, The Scented Garden of Abdullah the Satirist of Shiraz. It is interesting that in The Testament of Solomon Beelzebub is associated with inciting sodomy. Anyway, Crowley’s footnote also mentions that the images of the servitors were received via a prominent Irish woman psychic. Gerald Yorke has an annotation in one of Crowley’s manuscripts of the Goetia that sheds further light on these images: ‘The following description of the 72 evil spirits of the Goetia are taken from pp 39-40 of the Bagh-I-Muattar by A.C. They follow the actual results of a well known Irish lady as a result of research work undertaken by WB Yeats, then an active member of the Golden Dawn. Yeats merely showed her the sigil of each – or so he told me at a Ghost Club dinner.’ The Ghost Club, formed in 1862, was a paranormal research organisation that included some prominent members of the Golden Dawn. The annotation goes on to say the psychic was also shown the sigils of the 49 servitors of Beelzebub from Mathers’ edition of The Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage. This suggests that perhaps the Golden Dawn had in its possession a set of sigils for these servitors, implying that there were in existence sigils for the entire retinue of Abramelin demons. Another thing that became apparent during my study of Abramelin was the direct relationship between the Beelzebub squares and the names of the servitors; the servitors’ names featured prominently within the acrostic, double acrostic and palindromic squares. I also discovered that Mathers’ attribution of some of the squares to Beelzebub was incorrect, as the servitor names were missing from them. Inspiration from the Mexican paper cut tradition combined with the list of psychically received images of the Servitors to give me what I needed to produce the 49 Shadow-Kuts contained in Legion 49.

Papercuts from Legion 49, Fulgur Limited, 2009

RF: Any future paper cut projects in the works?

BH: I have produced a smaller series based on the descriptions of the Rulers of the Qliphoth given in Liber ARARITA. And another series will illustrate Levi’s Ten Philosophers of Decadence. I have also begun shadow-kuts for a BABALON book incorporating mixed media. And, as always, I am working on a catalogue of demons from some of my favorite grimoires.

RF: So where did the ideas originate to create the iconography behind the Liber 231 wheels? And why gargoyles?

BH: I guess being a visually-oriented artist, the 44 sigils from Liber CCXXXI have always fascinated me. In that Holy Book, they are divided into two sets of twenty-one sigils, one for the genii of the Domes and the other for the Cells, or Prisons, of the Qlippoth. They are the intelligences that inhabit the twenty-two paths on both sides of the Tree of Life. However, I chanced across an old copy of Magickal Link where there is a note that cites Crowley speaking of an alternative arrangement for the sigillum of Liber CCXXXI, one in which they might be arranged in a circle, a wheel girded by the four cherubim. This alternative is exactly the kind of thing that feeds my artistic temperament, because to my knowledge, a graphic demonstration of this had not been realised. My initial elaboration was two pencil and ink drawings dealing with the Wheels of the Domes and Cells separately, produced in 1996. There was also another double composition in black and white, along with a full color painted canvas. In these early renderings the Wheels were treated separately and singularly, but the idea evolved to a point where both sets of twenty-two sigils became interlocked, creating the collusion of the realms of Heaven and Hell in the same composition. The cherubic figures gave way on these doubled wheels to interlocking demons, angels and figures drawn from a broad range of cultures. This series, ‘Heralds of the Apocalypse,’ was first exhibited at the Horse Hospital, London, in 2004.

RF: And this collusion of realms proved fruitful for you?

BH: I have always been fascinated with the depictions of heaven and hell, in both literature and art: anthropomorphic citadels, the gates of hell, the underworld and its inhabitants, the visionary experiences of the Prophets and, of course, the Apocalypse of Revelation. Other elements include alchemical and hermetic emblemata, magical motifs and religious iconography. Yet another powerful influence, especially for the color paintings, is the art of the Carnival. The very nature of Carnival best captures the realm of the fantastic, with all its mythic and dream-like qualities of childhood fascination. It produces a sense of wonder and amazement, with its gypsy caravans, swirling magical creatures, fortune tellers, cryptological anomalies, and endless spectacles of the imagination.

RF: And this menagerie is your palette?

BH: Well, this can be seen in the next series of 231 Wheels, which were eleven large-scale color paintings that were exhibited in Sydney and Melbourne in 2004. They depict a wide array of mythical creatures and divinities, angels and demons. The inspiration for these emerged from the genii of the Wheels themselves. There is a natural tension created between the Wheels that imply various cycles of symbolic manifestation, and creating them was induction into a completely immersive visionary experience. One painting would usually take up to 80 hours of intense focus over a five-day period, I slept only long enough to get up and paint again. During this time I fell into a visionary lucid state where my attention was absorbed into the field of the painting. Reality and the canvas bled into a continuum of experience.

As to the nature of the compositions themselves: the cherubim represent the four demarcation stations equally distributed about the ring of the Zodiac. Each symbolises an element. Within the wings of these four beasts are contained all astrological possibilities and admixtures. Biblically, they are the four animals beneath the Chariot of God. From an astro-talismanic application of the Merkabah, the dust beneath the feet of these beasts generates a matrix of creation. The organisation of demons in an astrological framework appears to be a hallmark of the earliest magical traditions. The demonic divisions of the thirty-six zodiacal decans from The Testament of Solomon; the planetary hours of the seven days of the week in The Hygromantia of Salomonis; the 72 sub-decans and demons of the Lesser Keys of Solomon – all illustrate the Shemhamphorasch, or seventy-two lettered name of God. It seems as if there is no season, month, day or hour not subjugated to demonic possibility. Many descriptions of demons bear strong resemblances to the symbolic representations of the early zodiac. Chimeras, for example, were once mythical creatures made of the parts of three of more different animals, and represented a tripartite year. When one begins to consider the astrological nature of demons, one sees that there is no end to the elemental combinations.

NOKO: ORDER 41 ‘Conjuration of Beelzebub’at the 17th Australian Arts Biennale. Photo: © Richard Abraxas, 2010.

RF: And the gargoyles?

BH: The gargoyles are grotesques, those populating medieval church roofs, and serving specifically to prevent water erosion of the stone work. Some of the earliest examples of these are the lions that line the roof of the Temple of Jupiter. Many are embodiments of the seven deadly sins, and comprise both virtue and vice in one. The grotesques inhabiting the various perches, rooftops and spires are reminiscent of the retinue of demonic workers who fashioned the First Temple of Solomon, constrained to the strictures of the faith via magical means and supernatural agency. In the paintings they serve as wards of both genii and qlippoth.

RF: Tell us about NOKO.

BH: NOKO is an art research project which represents the performing aspect of my esoteric engagements. It has provided me with a creative mode of exploring and developing magical ritual practice and involves longstanding collaborations with Scott Barnes [sound realization] and Michael Strum [visualizations]. We met at Sydney College of the Arts in 1993 and have an ongoing friendship that provides absolute creative freedom within a structured ritual work environment. The products and residues include sound recordings, AV works, installed works, live performance, 2D mixed media, animation, writing and photo documentation.

RF: What started you guys working together?

BH: Our earliest work was an exploration of the Four Great Watchtowers of the Enochian magical system of John Dee and Edward Kelley. This project spanned several years and culminated in an exhibition, NOKO MADA (1995), which included art residues, an AV compilation VIDEO CHANOKH, and an audio cd, NOKO TEX. The series included the contributions of Michelle Moo, who was also a member of NOKO from 1993-99.

The working process used the magical technology of the Enochian keys or calls to investigate the subquadrants of the Enochian watchtowers in their entirety. Michael created visuals incorporating 2D and 3D animation with processed live video recording of the rituals, whilst Scott responded sonically with pre-recorded material and live improvised content. These events were recorded live as a residual documentation of the workings.

Later came NOKO: Q231, magical sound works undertaken with Scott Barnes generated from magical workings with the Qlippoth of Liber 231. This was followed by a catalogue of further magical sound pieces by Scott that revolved around a new investigation into the Enochian magical system, with particular focus upon the Angelic alphabet: NOKO:210, NOKO: 7×3=21 sq (which included a sound piece by Daniel Winter), and NOKO: PA Gsq. Scott often creates virtual machines, defining potential phase spaces that provide a variety of sonic outcomes. Raw material gleaned from these data sets is then fed back into the compositional process. The work exhibits plasticity; themes coalesce from disparate elements, or disintegrate into a range of new material. This consequently draws inspiration from a broad palette of musical influence. The sonic response to the ritual is often intuitive and improvisational. And more recently, NOKO ORDER 41: CONJuRATION OF BEELZEBuB was produced in conjunction with my book, Legion 49, and a CD of the audio was included with the deluxe edition, so it’s pretty rare. An AV feature was also produced under the same title which was performed at the Equinox Festival in London, 2009. Other residual products included sound and AV works, notably an audio-visual grimoire of the 49 Servitors of Beelzebub drawn by Michael Strum, and consisting of 49 short animation loops that we have scheduled for a future release.

RF: And recently NOKO were asked to perform at the Sydney Biennale?

BH: Yes, in 2010 we were asked to perform CONJuRATION OF BEELZEBuB as a live AV performance at the seventeenth Australian Biennale. It was great, and since then we have been asked to perform in Tokyo, and elements of our latest project were presented at the Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle [2010] and at the FRINGE festival in Adelaide earlier this year.

RF: And what are you working on at the moment?

BH: Oh, Hypercube 210. It’s the culmination of a long-term magical exploration and an interdisciplinary research project. It has opened a new direction in the investigation of the angelic alphabet system, with particular focus on the Lingua Angelica vel Adamica, received by Dr John Dee and Edward Kelley. It comprises 21 discrete elements, analogous to the 21 letters of Enoch, which have been arranged as a triptych where each of the seven compositions structurally references its numeric correlates.

RF: And how are these elements brought together?

BH: [Laughs] Well, from the start of the Hypercube 210 project we recognised that presentation would be a challenge, but throughout the creative process particular attention has been given to the form that the final published work would take, because it is essential that the final form conceptually reflects its content. You could say it’s a multimedia project that deconstructs the more traditional notions of the book, collapsing linear narratives for a rhizomatic model. It will provide for the participant multiple points for entering the Hypercube 210, and multiple routes of departure. In a sense it is a mapping of the exploratory process that can continue to be expanded upon… the idea is to produce an immersive engagement with the contents that becomes wholly interactive, the conceptual quintessence of the Hypercube 210 being reflected through the multiple facets that compose it. And of course, we are working with Rob Ansell at Fulgur to make this happen.

RF: We shall certainly look forward to it. Thanks Barry.

BH: Thanks Robert, as always it has been a pleasure.

NOKO: L-R Michael Strum, Barry Hale and Scott Barnes. Photos: © Elinor McDonald, 2010


Abraxas #2


Edited by Robert Ansell and Christina Oakley Harrington

200 copies only
with an ORIGINAL signed and numbered silkscreen-print by Barry William Hale entitled Regina Phasmatum.