Friday, April 30, 2010

Surrealism and Sorcerous Pursuits, Part One

"Each of us, in his timidity, has a limit beyond which he is outraged.  It is inevitable that he who by concentrated application has extended this limit for himself, should arouse the resentment of those who have accepted conventions which, since accepted by all, require no initiative of application.  And this resentment generally takes the form of meaningless laughter or criticism, if not of persecution.  But this apparent violation is preferable to the monstrous habits condoned by etiquette and aestheticism"
Man Ray, The Age of Light (1933)

It should come as no surprise that the number one threat to a sorcerer is another sorcerer.  Scholars oppose and thwart other scholars, adepts face-off against rival adepts, heretics and cultists fear their peers and fellows far more than any outsider.  In Riskail, as in life after Walt Kelly's Pogo, we are each our own worst enemies.  And that is with dopplegangers, feral reflections, autonomous simulacrae, disentangled shadows, clones, clobots, and virtual avatars clamoring for attention and vying to become the dominant expression of those personalities they have seceeded from or seek to replace.  A sorcerer can, and often quite literally is, their own most dangerous rival.  A sobering thought for some, a cautionary tale for others an unparalleled challenge to the most narcissistic and a tragic outcome for those wracked with self-loathing.  The old admonition to 'Know Thyself' is no trivial cliche in Riskail.

Consider that one of the earliest techniques most earnestly sought-out amongst some sorcerers (and a few others as well...) is the means and methodologies employed in crafting a sympathetic portrait of themself, one that they enmesh themselves with body and soul so that it takes on the corruption, taint, toxicity and negative traits that otherwise would cripple or kill them like a sorcerous empowered morality-filter.  These paintings are much sought-after by those driven to gain direct, personal experience at any cost, those who desire to sample forbidden things, and those who would defer the cost of their activities to another, later date.  But these paintings only defer the inevitable, they do not endlessly absorb the badness, ugliness, hurts and wounds suffered by their subject, they merely accumulate those things until such a time as saturation is reached and then there is a price to pay, a horrific price that will assuredly be paid.  Though there are those who think that thay are clever enough to find some way to escape the inevitable, to cheat their painting and remain forever young, incorruptible, vibrant and unmarked by any and all excess or wickedness.  None have ever escaped their fate, no matter how lengthy the reprieve their painting granted them.

A sympathetic painting reveals much about its subject, alas all too often far too late for them to do anything about such knowledge.  But it is a folly of youth and a vice of the young to seek cheap and easy immortality, is it not?

"An effort impelled by desire must also have an automatic or subsconscious energy to aid its realization.  The reserves of this energy within us are limitless if we draw on them without a sense of shame or propriety.  Like the scientist who is merely a prestidigitator manipulating the abundant phenomena of nature and profiting by every so-called hazard or law, the creator dealing in human values allows the subconscious forces to filter through him, coloured by his own selectivity, which is universal human desire, and exposes to the light motives and instincts long repressed, which should form the basis of a confident fraternity.  The intensity of this message can be disturbing only in proportion to the freedom that has been given to automatism or the subconscious self.  The removal of inculcated modes of presentation, resulting in apparent artificiality or strangeness, is a confirmation of the free functioning of this automatism and is to be welcomed."
Man Ray, The Age of Light (1933)

The realization of desire via the automatic or spontaneous release of limitless subconscious energies drawn from deep within the practitioner by way of various secret and aesthetic efforts rooted in ritual and art.  Not a bad definition of sorcery.  Surrealism has a great deal to offer any would-be sorcerer.
Dictionary: Surrealism, n. Pure psychic automatism, by which one proposes to express, either verbally, in writing, or by any other manner, the real functioning of thought. Dictation of thought in the absence of all control exercised by reason, outside of all aesthetic and moral preoccupation.  (after Breton's definition)

Encyclopedia: Surrealism. Philosophy. Surrealism is based on the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of previously neglected associations, in the omnipotence of dream, in the disinterested play of thought. It tends to ruin once and for all other psychic mechanisms and to substitute itself for them in solving all the principal problems of life. [Surrealist Manifesto; Breton, Andre; 1924]
The omnipotence of dream combined with the disinterested play of thought sounds vaguely Zen-like, until you read further into Breton's work.  Trust me: a little Andre Breton can go a long way.  Really.  The basic concepts and some of the techniques of Surrealism, especially after Breton managed to run-off any other contenders or claimants to the term in the Twenties, are absolutely fascinating both in terms of art and in manufacturing an approach to sorcery.  With all due respect and to paraphrase Aragon: There are other relationships besides the real that the mind can grasp and which are just as primary, such as chance, illusion, the fantastic, the dream. These diverse species are united and reconciled in sorcery, at least in Riskail.

Of all the various techniques experimented with and explored by the Surrealists, I feel that Automatism and Oneiristry are two of the most interesting from the stand-point of a sorcerer, so I'm leaning towards making them Class Abilities.  The rest of the Techniques below are derived from actual Surrealist techniques (see link above), but have been adapted to better reflect the needs and activities of a sorcerer in Riskail.  They're still a bit rough around the edges, but it's a start and I expect to revise and edit this list several more times before it's finalized.  Even then it'll probably get expanded or improved upon as it gets used by play-testers and other people.

A Sorcerer gets to select 1-10 of these techniques based upon their Wisdom, Intelligence or Charisma, depending on which attribute they designate for the acquisition of powers.  What I'm seeing here is that a sorcerer would get to pick and choose a few techniques that they cna then work with to help shape, influence, modify and adapt their spells.  Thus those subconscious powers are filtered through them, colored by their individual selectivity.  The list below is a bit larger than I expect to have once I've gone over everything and sorted it all out as to which ones make better spells or spell-components.  Most likely the Techniques will get boiled down to a few (like say 10) common ones like Automatism and Oneiristry, and a few (like say 20) Extraordinary ones like Sympathetic Paintings (see above).
(I'll post the pertinent tables after I get the whole Attribute to Chakra stuff wrapped-up and posted first.)

This is all a work-in-progress, so it's still sort of rough and definitely subject to change and revision.

An Incomplete Survey of Surrealist to Sorcery Techniques

Aerography is a technique in which a 3-dimensional object is used as a stencil with spraypainting, aerosol pigments, tint-mists or other means. Nanopaints have been developed that allow the sorcerer to manipulate the paint in response to the movement of the object to create three-dimensional animations, reverse forms and to craft mockeries and replicas that are extremely convincing optically, yet are completely hollow and false-forms.

Automatism. Automatic writing, painting and drawing. Surrealist automatism is often scrupulously differentiated from mediumistic automatism, what was once termed psychography, but if you dig back into the roots of the movement and Andre Breton's own experiments, there is less and less of a distinction to be made that really matters in any significant way. The distinction is one that moderns insist upon as they tend to see the more mediumistic practices as the outdated and unfortunate relics of outre beliefs that are no longer in fashion. Whatever. Automatism is about contacting the unconscious, creating things spontaneously and without conscious or critical self-editing. One enters into a 'Wave of Dreams,' assumes a trance as Desnos was reputed to have done, and that allows them to get on with the work of revealing, uncovering clues and images that lie dormant within the materials used or within the subconscious of the artist involved.

Bulletism is literally shooting ink at a blank piece of paper or a suitably bare wall. The artist can then develop images based on whatever forms and shapes present themselves in the course of the shooting. Some sorcerers can string together random bullet holes with various media in order to fashion peculiar glyphs, sigils, or other forms that can then be used for a variety of purposes ranging from divination to spell-delivery mechanisms, to phantasmal frameworks and even spontaneous pseudo-golems. One sorcerer at least has also mastered the art of creating a negative sculpture by manipulating the implied space outlined by random bullet holes while in the midst of combat during a period of civil unrest. Another is reported to have mastered the means of using the form created by Bulletism to draw out already spent bullets from walls, doors and dead bodies and form them into a violent construct.

Calligrammes are text or poetry in which the words or letters make up a shape, particularly a shape connected to the subject of the text or poem, which are then released as short-term dream-fragments, feral figments, phantasms, shadow-glyphs or similar structures. A version of this technique is used to summon a variety of creatures, some of which appear to be made-up on the spot by improvisational sorcerers.

Collage is a method of assemblage that uses different forms to create a new whole. Where artists once used ribbon, photographs and newspapers to form the basis of their collages, sorcerers can work with anything including body parts, machine parts, shadows,colored lights or different types of liquids, so long as they possess the means to properly manipulate the media either manually or through telekinesis or otherwise. Frankenstein's mythic creation would e considered a cadaverous collage in Riskail.

Coulage is a kind of automatic or involuntary sculpture made by pouring a molten material (such as metal, wax or chocolate) into cold water (or other clear fluid) and as such it resembles the age-old practice of divination where an egg is dropped into a glass of water such as was toyed with in Salem just before the trials. In coulage, the material employed takes on either a random or a revealed/aleatoric form, based upon the specific properties of the materials involved. A sorcerer can make use of more than one material at a time or in succession, both for divination and for servitor-construction and other applications.

Cubomania is a method of making collages in which a picture, drawing, painting or psychograph is cut into squares and then reassembled into a fresh image. Other geometrical forms can also be used.

Cut-ups are a technique in which a particular text is cut up at random and rearranged to create a new text, or one could just as easily randomly number the lines of a text and roll dice to determine their order and sequence. Nostradamus employed this technique with his cryptic prophecies, so it has a very long pedigree. Converting an existing scroll or text into a cut-up work can drastically alter the effects and outcomes, often in wildly unforeseen ways. A variation on the cut-up technique is the game called latent news in which a text of one type or another is cut into individual words (or perhaps phrases) and then rapidly reassembled to create a new text altogether.

Decalcomania is a process of spreading thick paint upon a prepared surface and then—while it is still wet—covering it with further material such as paper, canvas or aluminium foil. This second covering is then removed before the paint fully dries, and the resultant pattern becomes the basis of the finished painting. One can also pour paints out into a tub of water and then drag paper or other materials across the surface of the water/oil to pick-up the paints/pigments, similar to

Drafting a Dream résumé takes the form of an employment résumé but chronicles the sorcerer's achievements, employment, or the like, in dreams, rather than in waking life. Most also have references, locales explored, etc. Obscure references are extremely easy to come by, but acquiring a reference that is more easily tracked-down by others or shared with a larger group, that is far more prestigious precisely because it is verifiable and provable.

Echo poems are poems composed by one or more persons, working together in a process in which each stanza is "mirrored" it in some fashion to create the following stanza and the last line most often serves as the title. In Riskail an echo poem is a type of spell that is composed forwards and backwards simultaneously, often via some form of automatism, and they almost always have some sort of mirroring effect bound up with them, either in terms of their components (mirrors) or repeatable effects.

Eclaboussure is the technique where pigments (oil paints or watercolors are good choices) are laid down and water, gasoline or turpentine is splattered over the paint and then the solvents are soaked up to reveal random patterns where the media was removed. This effect can be incorporated into a variety of glyph-making, visual spell-media, talismanics, etc. At least one forensic necromanceress has developed a means of applying this technique to the blood of innocent victims, the pattern revealed by the removal of the blood forms an image that explains or details the means of death and sometimes the killer.

Entoptic graphomania is the automatic method of drawing in which dots are made wherever one finds any impurities in a blank sheet of paper a wall or someone's skin, and lines (either curving or straight) are then drawn between the dots to reveal a pattern similar to the age-old methods of geomancy, only this pattern is directly tied into the material (or location or person) one is drawing upon, thus it can be more finely tuned to acquire more intimate information. This is sometimes used as a non-invasive form of interrogation.

Étrécissements (Anti-collage) Where collage adds pieces together to form a whole, Étrécissements are achieved by the cutting away of parts of images to carve out a new form from out of the old. This is sometimes taken up by the more sadistic sorts and then applied to various forms of reductive dermabrasion, flensing, flaying or outright cutting into muscle and bone. It can also be employed on inanimate objects and can be mistaken for skrimshaw in some cases.

Exquisite corpse or Cadavre exquis is a method by which a collection of words or images are collectively assembled. It is based on an old parlor game known by the same name (and also as Consequences) in which players wrote in turn on a sheet of paper, folded it to conceal part of the writing, and then passed it to the next player for a further contribution.

Found Objects are randomly acquired objects of everyday provenance that take on special meaning according to the way they were found, acquired or discovered and thus are well-suited for the creation of spontaneous amulets and involuntary talismans or ritual objects.

Frottage is a method of creation in which one takes a pencil or other drawing tool and makes a "rubbing" over a textured surface. The texture so captured by the scraping of the drawing tool over the surface serves as the basis of an image to be used in various forms of divination, glyphistry, or whatever. Enough samples gathered in this way can be compounded into a servitor. It is also rumored that there are secret geomantic techniques for unlocking such rubbings as though they were keys to the surfaces so captured, possibly allowing for apportative effects.

Fumage is a technique in which impressions are made by the smoke of a candle or lamp on a piece of paper, canvas or other surface. One can then work with the image made thus or further work it into a more refined image through other techniques.  A variation on fumage could be 'umbrage,' whereby one works the shadow-stuff into new forms, literally the sculpting of shadows.

Games. In sorcery as in surrealism, games are important as a means of investigation and competition. The intention in most such efforts is to cut away the restrictions imposed by the rational mind and allow things to develop more freely in a more spontaneous, free-flowing and random manner. The aim is to break rigidly held patterns of thought and facilitate original outcomes that would not have been possible through other means.

Grattage is a technique in which paint is scraped off the canvas, but the technique can be used in a variety of other media or applications whereby a layer can be removed to reveal something of interest below.  A logical extensionof this technique would include removing layers of skin or flesh from a target, possibly at a distance by rubbing a blade over a textured rubbing already keyed to the target by a bit of frottage previously.

Heatage is an automatic technique in which the subject is heated (usually from below) to the point of distortion in a random fashion. Some sorcerers have mastered the ability to manipulate this distortion as though sculpting warm clay.

Indecipherable writing is intentionally made illegible in such a manner as to confuse and befuddle anyone attempting to decipher it without the appropriate key-word or phrase.  This could very well be the basis of a physical form of cryptography.

Involuntary sculpture are those made by absent-mindedly manipulating some minor everyday object such as rolling and unrolling a lottery ticket, bending and re-bending a paper clip, or manipulating a bar of soap so as to create new and previously unforeseen forms that can then serve as visual catalysts for divination, spell work or even the creation of minor constructs.

Movement of liquid down a vertical surface is, as the name suggests, a technique of making pictures by dripping or allowing a flow of some form of liquid down a vertical surface.  Not the most exciting of premises or ideas, but it could take on whole new levels of meaning and menace when coupled with a Pendulum, guillotine, or perhaps an iron maiden...

Outagraphy is a photograph in which the subject is cut out so that it becomes a negative space.  Does this remove the object, block its effect upon an area, or banish/collapse it into a void-space until re-summoned?

Paranoiac-critical method is a technique invented by Salvador Dalí which consists of the artist invoking a paranoid state (fear that the self is being manipulated, targeted or controlled by others). The result is a deconstruction of the psychological concept of identity, such that subjectivity becomes the primary aspect of the artwork.

Parsemage is an automatic method in which charcoal or chalk dust is scattered on the surface of water and then skimmed off by passing a stiff paper or cardboard just under the water's surface.  Any fine dust that will float via surface tension on oil or water can be used for this technique, and it might be usable for determining the course of events in a particular area such as a battlefield or ancient ruin.  Perhaps if one used the dust of a mummy or other undead, it would be possible to learn some of their secrets, gain access to their long forgotten lore and spells?  Dangerous, but you know someone will try it.

Psycho/Photomontage is making of composite picture by cutting and pasting any number of photographs, psychographs or other images.  Done automatically, this would be a highly visual form of divination.  It can also be applied to video.

Soufflage is a technique in which liquid (usually) paint is blown (often by a straw) to create an image.  This might be a good way to develop particular forms of sigils or glyphs, maybe even used ritually to incorporate breathe into the symbolism, perhaps in the case of animating origami, awakening calligraphy or creating ink-sprites.

Time Travelers' Potlatch is a game in which two or more players say what gift they would give to another person, usually an historical person, personal ancestor or a descendant. Then one player has to get the gift delivered to that person while the other player(s) try to stop them. Obviously this is not so simple a game as time travel of some sort is implied.

Triptography is an automatic psycho/photographic technique whereby a roll of film is used three times (either by the same photographer or, in the spirit of Exquisite Corpse, three different photographers), causing it to be triple-exposed in such a way that the chances of any single photograph having a clear and definite subject is nearly impossible.
There, now that we have a list of these things, I can begin to work out which ones make better spells or which of them only work as forms of divination or creative expression.  Several of these techniques can be combined or rolled-into one another as sub-sets of each other.  I'll also break out the games like Consequences and Time Traveler's Potlatch so that I can get the tables and rules worked out for running them as part of a sorcerous salon.  Then there's the whole joining/getting kicked out of a Movement, forming Cliques, and of course Manifestos, both as magical items and as weapons.

1 comment:

  1. The Ars Magica as art techniques. I like that! It's certainly a novel take.

    And The Picture of Dorian Gray riff is also clever.


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