Monthly Archives: November 2018

Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Considering the fact that Marvel is a multibillion dollar engine of deep state psychological warfare, I am astonished by how much enjoyment I’ve received from the various cinematic installments of the Avengers franchise. Despite repeatedly obliterating the bounds of physical reality with generous helpings of a somewhat formulaic brand of snark, the MCU remains a surprisingly vital blockbuster series. When you have an entertainment property with that much cultural cachet, you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be some deep social engineering behind the cosmic mayhem and Thor: Ragnarok is no exception. Ragnarok is the third installment in the Thor series and the seventeenth MCU film overall. Besides advancing Thor’s arc and teeing up Infinity War, Ragnarok also gives us a very clear window of insight into the agenda of the elites. Specifically with respect to the people of Northern European countries.

Ragnarok opens with Thor in a seemingly dire situation facing off against the fire demon, Surtur. Surtur believes that it is his destiny to fulfill prophecy of Ragnarok and destroy Asgard. He confides that Odin is not really in Asgard and that’s enough for Thor to summon his Mjolnir and start kicking some demonic ass to a choice bit of Led Zeppelin. The decision to use “The Immigrant Song” to accompany Thor’s ass kicking is an inspired and appropriate soundtrack choice, but it also connects to the larger themes of the film as I’ll elaborate below. Thinking he has forestalled Ragnarok by claiming Surtur’s horn/skull helmet, he returns to Asgard to place the object in the vault along with other artifacts of mass destruction. Upon returning to Asgard, he discovers that things have gone awry. Not only has Heimdall been replaced at the Bifrost Bridge, but while disguised as Odin, Loki has rewritten Asgardian propaganda to emphasize his heroism in the battle against the Dark Elves. Thor forces Loki out of his charade and insists to be led back to their father. Being the self-centered twat that he can be, Loki has the geriatric Odin committed to a nursing home in New York City. The Asgardian brothers are dismayed to discover that the facility to which their father’s care was charged had been completely bulldozed. Apparently, if you commit your elderly parent to a NYC nursing home, it’s going to get paved over to make room for parking lots and smart condos. Just remember that, folks.

After discovering that the nursing home has been demolished, Loki is sucked through a dimensional portal, and Thor is led to Dr. Strange’s Sanctum on 177a Bleecker Street. Picking up where Dr. Strange ended, Strange reveals that Odin is chilling out on an empty field in Norway. Hoping to avoid the impending catastrophe of Ragnarok, Strange sends both of them through another portal to join him in the fjords. Odin confesses that not only will Ragnarok proceed as prophesied, but Loki and Thor aren’t his only progeny. They have an elder sister, Hela, who happens to be a goddess of death and he no longer possesses the strength to keep her contained in her extra-dimensional prison. Sorry about that, boys. You’ll have to deal with Asgardian armageddon and your bitchy genocidal sister after all. With great power comes great responsibility. Just then, a gothed up Cate Blanchett shows up in the requisite Marvel bodysuit wearing way too much eye makeup ready to start some shit. Thor hurls his Mjolnir at her and she’s able to crush it likely a plastic toy. Sensing that the things have taken a turn for the worse, Loki and Thor jump through the Bifrost Bridge portal with Hela hot on their heels. She casts them out at different points and arrives at Asgard to begin her reclamation of the throne.

She’s just having a bad hair day.

Thor is deposited on a garbage dump planet called Sakaar inhabited by a multicultural population of slaves who are kept perpetually distracted by a gladiatorial contest. I propose that not only is Sakaar a proxy for the EU, it is a representation of the New World Order envisioned by the elites. Sakaar is a synthetic hellscape of artificial stimuli, and its inhabitants are dispossessed of their culture, history and people. It’s little more than a techno-prison whose sole purpose is to keep the population occupied with the neverending indulgence of pleasure. In other words, it’s an extrapolation of the present. The fact that the Grandmaster of Sakaar is played by Jeff Goldblum, a Jew, is not an inconsequential casting choice. As the Grandmaster, Goldblum’s character is roughly analogous to the oily, soulless showboat played by Stanley Tucci in The Hunger Games, Caesar Flickerman. A name that also has a bit of a Semitic ring to it I might add. The fact that the Grandmasters of the MCU pleasuredome itself were mostly Jews is also noteworthy. In fact, you don’t have to look very hard to find Jews who inhabit every conceivable sphere of influence pushing a multicultural agenda with near unanimity.

Thor is at first attacked by scavengers, but is soon taken into captivity by an alcoholic former Valkyrie of Asgard. She is able to subdue Thor by placing an electronic device on his neck which allows her to administer crippling electrical shocks to his system. I suggest this is yet another piece of predictive programming which reveals the agenda of mass microchipping the technocrats wish to administer to the lowly proles. Excited by his latest acquisition, the Grandmaster forces Thor to compete in the gladiator games against a fellow Avenger, genetically engineered MK Ultra super mutant, the Incredible Hulk. The fact that we’ve seen this same kind of mass media gladiatorial contest in so many films suggests that this is a key component of the NWO agenda. Whether it’s Rollerball, The Running Man, Death Race, Battle Royale or The Hunger Games, an idea that gets repeated that many times is deployed in order to warm people up. The envelope is already being pushed in that direction.

Don’t tase me, bro.

You just said MK Ultra trigger word! Hulk SMASH!

Meanwhile, back in Asgard, Hela has dispatched Volstagg and Fendral. Of course, we’re not allowed any strong, heroic white men anymore, so naturally, they must die at the hands of Hela/Kali the goddess of death. Not only does she wipe out the entire Praetorian guard, she knocks off Hogun, the last remaining man of the Warriors Three. With her main opposition vanquished, she recruits beta cuck, Skurge, to her cause by appointing him executioner. Upon entering the throne room, Hela is disgusted by the quasi-Orthodox iconography in the frescoes which emphasize Odin’s triumphs of multilateral, transdimensional diplomacy within the Nine Realms. Hurling a spear at the ceiling, the facade crumbles to reveal Asgard’s hidden history of unrepentant bloodshed and conquest. With Hela and Fenris at his side, the hidden icons of Asgard reveal an occulted history which casts the ascendancy of Asgard in a much more warfaring light. Extrapolate this into the real world, and that gives us the theological foundations for the entire narrative of the European white man as being irredeemably tainted by the stains of colonialism. Of course Asgard must endure the cataclysm of Ragnarok in order to atone for the sin of existence. And for the unspeakable crime of being home to white Europeans.

Wakanda forever! Wait..no. For Asgard!

As order breaks down, Asgardian loyalists led by Heimdall have sequestered themselves in a Helm’s Deep-like stronghold presumably safe from Hela and her demonic legions. While I don’t have any issue with Idris Elba as an actor, the decision to cast him as Heimdall is one of the dumber moves of this film and the Thor series. Just as the decision to cast him as Roland Deschain in the recent adaptation of The Dark Tower recast the dramatic arc of that story, this decision has similar consequences. Everyone knows that the Thor mythology, both within and without Marvel, is fucking NORDIC. As in the North Germanic peoples. Yet on film, the Asgardian population is also portrayed as being mildly multicultural. Why was Wakanda a racial monoculture whereas Asgard is multicultural? Why did they cast a black man as Guardian of the Bifrost Bridge when he was originally written and drawn as a white Asgardian just like everyone else in the Thor mythology? The answer is obvious to anyone who isn’t a rabid anti-white SJW. The MCU is a vehicle for transmitting the #WOKE racial pieties of the moment, and Asgard cannot possibly be portrayed as a white monoculture because it’s #RACIST or some shit.

The same goes for the casting of a Latinx Valkyrie. Tessa Thompson carries off the role adequately, but why was she cast other than to check off a box on the PC checklist? Why can’t they just be faithful to the way the Valkyries were drawn in the comic canon? How else can this decision be explained other than it’s a subtle form of social engineering? Making this decision even more dubious is the now predictable parade of media lackeys divulging the scuttled plans to make the characters even MOAR LGBTQ/Non-binary/#WOKE. You know exactly what I’m talking about. The stories of the #BRAVE actors and directors fighting back against the bootheel of cisnormative oppression crushing the dreams of LGBTQ #EQUALITY. Yawn.

And why the fuck did Valkyrie need to be bisexual? How would that have advanced the story in a meaningful way? OH, THAT’S RIGHT. IT DOESN’T. But Marvel will continue to plant these stories because they want people to want them. And it gets worse. The Hollywood Politburo will begin to apply a new metric on Hollywood scripts to ensure they meet the new mandates around LGBTQ #EQUALITY. That’s right. It’s not enough to pass a Bechdel Test anymore, bigots. You gotta up your #DIVERSITY game to the next level and pass the Vito Russo test, too. It’s like the Hays Code, but new and improved for the Aeon of #SocialJustice.

This media strategy seems every bit as calculated as the casting decision itself since the exact pattern repeated itself when it was “revealed” that the Dora Milaje in Black Panther were almost lesbian! Way to keep the outrage mob perpetually exasperated by your lack of #WOKENESS, Marvel. I’m sure they’ll finally be placated when you ditch Brie Larson and make Captain Marvel the genderfluid, body positive, trans-racial superhero xe was meant to be.

I know! Let’s make her Latinx!

Ah yes. Much better.

Does the ADL know about that Valknut?

From a symbolism perspective, Ragnarok contains a few noteworthy occult references. As our heroes escape Sakaar, they must steer the spacecraft they stole from the Grandmaster through the Devil’s Anus. It may seem like more juvenile yuks, but I suggest that there’s more to it. The spacecraft is acknowledged to be a party ship on which the Grandmaster hosts orgies. It plausibly sounds like the exploits of a decadent ruler, but given that there are real world stories involving power elites being shuttled to secluded locations to engage in all manners of sexual deviancy, Marvel is probably tipping its hand with this reference. Add in the Crowleyan sex magick connection to the anus, and this strongly suggests something much darker than a cheap laugh.

As expected, an apocalyptic showdown between Hela and the Asgardian loyalists led by Thor ensues. Ironically, the remaining Asgardian civilians are herded onto an ark-like spacecraft by Loki, the Luciferian trickster icon. Thor also suffers the loss of his right eye during combat with Hela. From an occult perspective, the left eye symbolizes the moon, rebirth and magical illumination. From a biblical perspective, the left eye symbolizes a blindness to the good. Not only does this symbolism occur repeatedly in the MCU franchise, it’s nearly omnipresent throughout Hollywood iconography.

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The All Seeing Eye of Agamotto

Ultimately, Thor realizes it’s not about stopping Ragnarok, but causing it. He realizes that Surtur must be summoned in order to defeat Hela. As he sends Loki to the vault, he proclaims that “Asgard is not a place, it’s a people”. Got that, proles? There’s no such thing as a homeland, really. Forget what Dorothy said in The Wizard of Oz. Asgard is wherever you are. Whether your home is decimated by a war, destroyed by a fire demon or your entire population is replaced by immigrants from other countries, it doesn’t matter. Anyone can be Asgardian and Asgard can be anywhere! You should feel no compunction about summoning fire demons who will destroy your land nor should you heed any calls to preserve your “country”. It’s all in your heart. Or something. And we know it’s true because not a single Asgardian shed a tear as they watched Surtur lay waste to their former home. Asgard is toast, but it’s no biggie.

Does all of this mean Thor: Ragnarok is a shitty movie? Of course not. On the contrary, it’s solidly entertaining. They wouldn’t have gotten this far if they weren’t very good at what they did. It’s serving its larger goal. Can they keep this up? Can they continue to make entertaining films while intentionally inserting so much misanthropic programming and heavily politicized content? I guess we’ll have to wait for Captain Marvel and Avengers 4 to know for sure. But even if they tank financially, I don’t expect them to ease up on the agenda.

Mandy (2018)

If you liked Panos Cosmatos’ retro-futurist sci-fi/horror mind trip, Beyond the Black Rainbow, you’ll absolutely love his follow up film, Mandy. Even if you didn’t, Mandy is for you if you want the cinematic equivalent of a Black Sabbath collaboration with Lustmord. Equal parts surrealist Lynchian fever dream and low budget Clive Barkeresque phantasmagoria, Mandy is a heavy metal laden tour de force of postmodern pastiche. Its status as a modern cult classic is guaranteed. When a film features “Starless” by King Crimson over the opening sequence, you know you’re watching a movie that’s swinging for the fences.

Plot wise, Mandy is a fairly straightforward revenge fantasy that’s a grittier arthouse analogue to the gothic industrial urban fantasy portrayed in The Crow. Similar in tone to the foreboding mysticism of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising, the effectiveness of the film lies in Cosmatos’ expert pacing, psychedelic visuals, brooding soundtrack and ever escalating aura of cosmic doom. Like his prior film, Mandy is also loaded with esoteric symbolism.

As Red Miller, Nicolas Cage adds yet another iconic performance to an already eclectic and celebrated body of work. Is it his best? I don’t know, but it’s a supremely entertaining performance and he inhabits it with all of his Cagey charm. As he shared in an interview with Empire Magazine, Cage will go the extra mile to ensure that a performance has the right….spirit. There are at least a couple scenes which belong on a Cage career retrospective highlight reel. Miller is a lumberjack somewhere in what we presume to be the Pacific Northwest who lives a peaceful life of seclusion with his girlfriend, Mandy. In the titular role, Andrea Riseborough channels an equally iconic metalhead chick who is both an accomplished illustrator and avid fantasy novel reader. In her two pivotal scenes, she’s wearing a vintage Mötley Crüe pentagram shirt and Black Sabbath shirt from the Never Say Die period. Like Quentin Tarantino, Cosmatos is both attentive to detail and explicit about his sources of inspiration.

I wonder if Nic Cage is into the occult.

The film contains a lot of occult symbolism, and one of the most significant ideas is revealed during an intimate moment between Red and Mandy. Mandy asks Red to name his favorite planet, and he confesses that Saturn is his favorite. This foreshadows Red’s supernatural rampage to come and casts the overall story arc in a distinctly Gnostic light. Within the Western esoteric tradition, Saturn has a myriad of associations with Yaldabaoth the demiurge, the Lord of Time and Death, the black cube, the devourer of children and the dominion of this world. Even the bedroom in which they sleep resembles a black cube.

Mandy is also reading a book called Seeker of the Serpent’s Eye. It’s a fake book, but it sounds like something that could have been written by Michael Moorcock or Robert E. Howard. As we hear Riseborough’s voice over, the film cuts over to an animated segment that’s a double layered reference to the 1981 classic, Heavy Metal. We see a naked woman who extracts a green orb from the corpse of some fallen creature. The green orb is the Serpent’s Eye, but it’s also a reference to the mysterious Loch-Nar that was the embodiment of all evil in the universe. I suspect this also ties into the reference to the demon Abraxas that will occur later in the film.

Under the crimson primordial sky a wretched warlock reached into the dark embrace. His fist closed around the serpent’s eye, strange and eternal. It glowed from within, strange and eternal.

Miller reads as a Gen X-er who has chosen a simple life over the materialistic rat race that was ushered in by the Reagan administration. As he drives home from a job, we hear Reagan delivering a homily which extols traditional American pieties. Miller promptly switches off the radio. I believe this was meant to be read as a boilerplate rejection of American conservatism and strip mall Christianity, but given how the rest of the film unfolds, I think the film can be interpreted more broadly as Gen X meting out a brutal vengeance against the false utopianism and plastic idealism of the Boomer generation.

Their life is torn asunder when a hippie Jesus freak cult discovers Mandy taking a walk through a normally untraveled country road. As the leader of Children of the New Dawn, Linus Roache’s Jeremiah Sand is a captivating amalgam of Charles Manson, Jim Jones, and David Koresh. Using a perfect combination of slow motion, colored filters, and a doom laden soundscape, Cosmatos imbues this meeting with a menace and dread that you don’t encounter often enough in contemporary horror.

Though they are properly viewed as a representation of cults like the Children of God, the Process Church of the Final Judgment, or the Branch Davidians, Children of the New Dawn will be seen simply as a proxy for all of Christianity for most viewers. For the average person who watches Mandy, they’ll see no distinction between Jeremiah Sand, Pope Francis, Joel Osteen, Billy Graham or John Hagee. At the end of day, the theological distinctions between these individuals may be negligible, but the fact that this film can present such a lurid caricature of Christianity and get away with it says quite a bit about how effectively Hollywood has both hastened and capitalized on the decrepit state of the Christian church in America.

Jeremiah is obsessed with claiming Mandy as a new concubine/disciple so he summons Ned Dennehy’s Brother Swan to his side. “You know what to do,” he says as they exchange a knowing look. Sand asks if he has the Horn of Abraxas and Brother Swan offers a smile of reassurance. He sends Brother Swan on his way and then summons the mind controlled Sister Lucy to his room for ritual abuse.

Brother Swan drives to a clearing in the forest with his dimwitted lackeys in tow. He walks into the field and pulls out what appears to be an ocarina. With a name like the Horn of Abraxas, you expect something like what Tibetan monks play, but the ghostly melody that emanates from the instrument is sufficiently creepy. Up until this scene, Cosmatos has been skirting the edge of reality, but this is the point when it tips over the edge into madness. After Brother Swan admonishes his dimwitted lackeys to shut up and wait, a demonic biker gang that looks like leftovers from the Hellraiser universe emerges from the forest. Astride very loud motorcycles and ATV’S and decked out in infernal, post-apocalyptic bondage gear, you just know some bad shit is going down. Their entrance alone is one of the film’s best scenes and reveals Cosmatos’ visual panache. Upon their arrival, Brother Swan offers a jar filled with a gelatinous substance that’s some kind of highly concentrated LSD paste which will figure prominently in subsequent events.

Mandy is abducted and Red is bound with barbed wire. Before she is brought before Jeremiah, she is dosed with LSD and intentionally stung with some nasty looking giant insect. In a parallel of Beyond the Black Rainbow, Mandy presents a charismatic hippie-esque cult leader who uses drugs to seduce and control his subjects and to artificially enhance his promises salvation and spiritual liberation. I believe both films open a window of insight into experiences and events which shaped Cosmatos’ worldview. Since drug induced mind control is a prominent theme in both films, the question over whether these experiences involved mere observation or his own trauma and emotional distress is an open one.

As she is escorted into their inner sanctum, she’s wearing the 44 jersey we see on Miller in the film’s opening. IMDB claims this is either a reference to Reggie Jackson, Mark Twain or serial killer, David Berkowitz, but I suspect it’s a Crowley reference. In chapter 44 of the Book of Lies, there is a ritual called the Mass of the Phoenix. The ritual calls for the consumption of a “cake of light” which includes bodily fluids. Nothing resembling this cake is eaten, but I suspect Mandy herself is the cake of light. Both Miller and Sand represent two different but pure expressions of the Luciferian ethos of Do What Thou Wilt. This above all else appears to be the film’s overriding message.

Sand is modeled after Manson, and like Manson, Sand is a failed musician who uses music as a method of mind control. In yet another Cosmatos masterstroke, Jeremiah pulls out a vinyl record of his own music which features an original folk prog track called “Amulet of the Weeping Maze” that sounds like an outtake from Jon Anderson’s Olias of Sunhillow. Sand hoped that the drugs and the music would elicit the feelings of ecstatic reverence that it apparently inspired in his flock, but Mandy’s reaction was not the one for which he hoped. For the transgression of humiliating Sand, Mandy is subjected to a horrific execution while Red is forced to watch. Cage channels a level of emotional anguish that’s pretty wrenching.

From this point forward, Mandy takes on a supernatural, post-apocalyptic fantasy horror vibe. The film suggests that the drugs aren’t just tools for mind control, but are a simultaneously a portal into other dimensions, a source of superhuman strength and a conduit for demonic hallucinations. After Sand and his minions leave him in his state of despair and trauma, Miller frees himself from his barbed wire bondage and sets out to exact his revenge. He takes on the quality of a superhuman, Saturnian dark avenger.

Red seeks out the one man who can supply him with the weapons of vengeance he needs, and that man is named Caruthers. He is played with the slow burn gravitas of Bill Duke, and he evinces the steely cool of a man who is completely comfortable with the idea of taking a life. It’s a vibe that one gets from quite a few actors in Hollywood, and it makes you wonder whether or not it’s acting. After acquiring a crossbow from Caruthers, Mandy goes completely batshit as we suddenly find Miller in a metal forge. In what is by far the film’s greatest scene, we are treated to Nicolas Cage in mirrored shades making a battle axe by hand from molten steel. This scene is worth the price of admission all by itself. Besides being an utterly outrageous weapon, it’s also intentionally shaped like the ‘F’ in the Celtic Frost logo. Since Celtic Frost famously featured Giger artwork on their album To Mega Therion, I believe this is another meta-reference to Crowley.

Armed with his mythical Luciferian battle axe, Red ingests the LSD paste and sets out on his quest for retribution. We’re treated to some brutal combat scenes mixed with dollops of black humor. Just when you think the Celtic Frost battle axe couldn’t be topped, Cosmatos scores another victory of sheer excess by giving us a chainsaw duel. After dispatching the demonic bikers and delivering a gruesome comeuppance to Brother Swan, Miller’s bloody trail of corpses finally leads him to the Temple of the Children of the New Dawn.

The Order of the Trapezoid.

The film concludes with the inevitable confrontation between Miller and Sand, but Cosmatos sets it up with a long march through torchlit tunnels and grinding doom fanfare that is completely epic. You’re rooting for Miller, but what Cosmatos is ultimately serving up is just another serving of black hearted negation and nihilism. The Luciferian dark avenger vanquishes the corrupt Jesus cult leader. The penultimate vision of the film is seeing the chapel crucifix burn as the triangular A-frame is engulfed in flames. It’s tempting to think Cosmatos was showing us that the god of the Children of the New Dawn was actually Satan in first place. But I don’t think that’s what he was saying. There’s a vague sense of cosmic justice being delivered, but it mostly feels like he wants to revel in the smug satisfaction of watching his Christian straw man get crushed and burned. There’s nothing wrong with art that’s a descent into the abyss, but when that idea comprises most of the messaging coming out of Hollywood, it feels a tad malevolent and misanthropic. Don’t get me wrong. This film is among the finest of its kind, and if you have any appetite for what Cosmatos is serving, this film is unparalleled.

The author wishes to thank Eddie for offering his deep insight on the symbolism contained in this film.

Marina Abramović: The Cleaner – Palazzo Strozzi, Firenze

Self-portrait

If you know who Marina Abramović is, you probably already have an opinion about her. Chances are you aren’t neutral or lukewarm about her either. This is understandable because Abramović has actively courted controversy throughout her career, and the controversy certainly isn’t limited to her artistic output. Though I’m someone who’s spent his artistic career on the modern and avant garde end of the spectrum, my own familiarity with Ms. Abramović prior to this exhibit was limited to the controversy surrounding her secretive exploits with ruling elites rather than her public artistic output. While I realize that making a distinction between her public art and the darker clandestine activities may be a dubious proposition, I initially hoped I could set aside all allegations pertaining to the dark underbelly of her work for the purpose of this review. After seeing this exhibition, I’m not sure that distinction can be made between these two spheres of activity.

The Cleaner is a career retrospective running at the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy. Her appearance at the Palazzo Strozzi is partially due to the fact that the early years of her career were spent in Italy. I must confess that after taking in so much classical beauty in Florence, the content and fanfare surrounding this exhibit was jarring when stacked up against the city’s numerous treasures.

The exhibit features her earliest visual works and performance pieces up to her present works which invite participation from the audience. At the most superficial level, Abramović belongs to a well established “tradition” of provocative performance artists that runs the gamut from Annie Sprinkle to Chris Burden up to rock agitators like GG Allin and Marilyn Manson. The notoriety she’s received as a performance artist provocateur is noteworthy because her visual works reveal no deep artistic skill whatsoever. This is, of course, a critique that has been leveled at avant garde artists since the beginning of the modern era. Since she doesn’t aspire to classical standards, it’s unrealistic to expect them. Like all of her predecessors, Abramović is not aiming for any kind of classical conception of beauty or objectivity. In the text that accompanies her piece Art Must Be Beautiful/Artist Must Be Beautiful she openly confesses her intention to “destroy the image of beauty”.

Fuck beauty, man!

Abramović aims to provoke, upset, shock and challenge the audience. This urge to negate, agitate, disrupt, invert and dismantle is the quintessentially Luciferian/Gnostic impulse that animates the modern age. This is precisely why I believe Abramović performances are correctly viewed as rather explicit occultic invocations and ritualistic workings despite her contention that it is art.

The most obvious examples are three of her most notorious performance pieces, Rhythm 10, Rhythm 5 and Rhythm 0. Whether the text was written beforehand or afterwards is not clear, but they sound very much like the rituals one would find in Thelemic scripture or the Babalon workings of Jack Parsons. I suggest that even the numbers and performance durations contain occulted meaning. All involve self-inflicted injury or the possibility of extreme harm. Whether ingesting prescription drugs to induce seizures or subjecting herself to various forms of self-mutilation, Abramović repeatedly tests the limits of her own physical stamina and the boundaries of the audience’s patience. Because she is able to affect (channel?) an air of detachment, she invites a ghoulish and sadistic fascination. In the case of Rhythm 0, she seems to be actively encouraging the audience to drop their inhibitions and violate her. Apparently, that’s exactly what happened when it was performed in Naples in 1974. It’s difficult to imagine Rhythm 5, a piece in which she lies in the center of a burning 5-point star, as anything other than a magickal invocation of some kind. It was supposedly a “challenge” to her parents and her communistic upbringing, but if that’s what she really wanted, she’d have converted back to Orthodoxy like her grandfather. That would have been genuinely transgressive. The notion that this piece is a challenge to any state or religious institution is laughable.

On a side note, I couldn’t help but think that the knife trick scene performed by the replicant Bishop on Bill Paxton’s character in the 1986 film, Aliens, bore a similarity to both Rhythm 10 and the Ulay/Abramović collaboration AAA AAA. This may seem like a leap on the surface, but given the Crowleyan overtones of the Alien series, I suggest it’s not as far off as it may seem. In Rhythm 10, Abramović lays out 20 knives and proceeds to stab the knife between her fingers as fast as she is able. Through the course of the performance, she records the rhythms of the knife impact while ignoring the bloody cuts to her fingers. A similar ritual involving the blood of goslings and cats is outlined in The Key of Solomon, an ancient grimoire designed for the conjuration of 72 demons. Abramović performed this piece at age 27 which is an inverse reference to the number of entities summoned.

The Lips of Thomas

The piece that perhaps best embodies this combination of lurid allure, occultic invocation and pretentious twaddle is the Lips of Thomas. Inspired by the androgyny of Swiss artist, Thomas Lips, this is a piece which begins with Abramović consuming a kilo of honey and then a liter of wine. She proceeds to carve a 5-pointed star on her abdomen just above her pubic area. Naturally, she carves the shape in such a manner that her navel appears as the All Seeing Eye atop the bloody flesh pyramid. She lies down on a crucifix of ice blocks with a heating lamp placed above her body sigil. After some time, she then proceeds to flog her numbed backside with whips until the audience cannot stand it any longer. The piece is meant to last seven hours, but I simply can’t imagine that people would actually submit themselves to that kind of experience. This reinforces the proposition that Abramović is making the audience unwitting participants in a ritual. She is actively seeking the obliteration of the self and to bind herself with the audience in an alchemical union.

It was like an electric current flowing through my body, as if the audience and I had become one. A single organism. The sense of danger in the room had united the audience and me at that moment: we were here and now and nowhere else. – Marina Abramović : Autobiography (2016)

The merging of opposites into a transcendent unity is not just a recurring theme in her work, but it’s the animating principle behind most of the Western esoteric tradition. This was a very explicit theme in her numerous collaborations with artist and former lover, Ulay. In addition to the video screens projecting vintage performances of the various pieces from their peak period, there were two naked performers recreating Imponderabilia. In this piece, the two performers form doorposts between which the audience members are asked to pass while choosing one subject on which to gaze. The relentless ululations of Abramović and Ulay leant an air of ritualistic ardor that was somewhat disquieting. Is this a reinvention of the Masonic symbolism of the pillars of Boaz and Jachin with Abramović and Ulay standing in as living manifestations of the male and female divine principle? I suggest it is. The ideas of duality and symbiosis fusing into an alchemical whole is the recurring theme throughout her work. Many of the textual explanations of the pieces make aggrandizing references to the authorities shutting down the performances. Ironically, I was instructed not to video anything while I was exploring the exhibit. Obviously, she’s proprietary about her work, but I find it funny that she affects a pretense of flaunting authority but expects her audience to respect the authority of the museum staff and follow the rules. You’re such a rebel, Marina.

Transcendence and portals into the world of the spirit seem to be the themes unifying most of the installations and performance pieces from the recent decades. The usage of crystals and stones has a longstanding association with followers of New Agey hokum, Wiccans and practitioners of witchcraft, but Abramović takes the idea to a whole new level. The Cleaner featured several installations involving crystals that people were invited to use. If crystals are meant to either channel energies from higher realms or invite entities from other dimensions, Abramović left no doubt that this was the purpose of these installations. Video footage from her 1997 spirit cooking “performance” indicate that these stones were a critical component of this “exhibit”.

While I’m glad I had the opportunity to see this exhibit and judge her work for myself, I also left having the distinct impression that Abramović had achieved her purpose. In other words, her ideas already permeate the culture. Maybe I’ve become so inured to the omnipresence of these ideas that none of it felt transgressive or shocking. In fact, much of it felt juvenile, pointless and stupid. Whether it’s the Crowleyan grotesqueries of Fecal Matter, the sadomasochism of the Genitorturers, or the overt references to Satanism and witchcraft that fill the mediasphere, Abramović’s work feels hackneyed and redundant even if she played a seminal role in mainstreaming the ideas. Given the fawning adoration she receives from the celebrity class, the fact that her work is regarded as a method for spiritual development, and her close proximity to the highest echelons of the power elite, there is little doubt that Abramović was given a sanction to blur the line between ritual and performance art. But the truth is that Abramović’s work should be shocking because she’s dead serious about this shit. This isn’t some pimply faced adolescent goth buying a votive candle from the occult bookstore to light while reading HP Blavatsky. This is someone who gets celebrities to eat cakes shaped like humans. And given that this is someone who paints the walls with pig blood for the public, who the fuck knows what’s in that cake? You wouldn’t have charismatic Youtubers like Jaclyn Glenn happily chirping about the benign virtues of crystals and witchcraft without Marina Abramović blazing the trail first. Occult ideas are so commonplace, very few think twice about them. It’s increasingly bound together with the gauzy platitudes of contemporary SJW piety. And for that reason alone, Abramović and her work should be regarded with skepticism and contempt.

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The joke’s on you, proles.