Research Ramble

I’ve had a bit of a holiday, a few weeks away from most things.  Just to regroup really and start to gently plan a focus for the second half of my research.  It’s been a natural break, my work over the last five years has been focused on the bizarre, the Gothic, and the tension between magic with a ‘k’ and magic without a ‘k’.  I’ve been mostly gimmickless and have been banging on about folklore and collective delusion too long.  

I was able to round things off in July at The Locating Fantastika Conference hosted by Lancaster University.  In my paper, ‘Strange ceremonies: The laboratory, library and the living room; creating imaginative spaces in bizarre magick’,  I discussed how, through theatrical ritual and ceremony, Bizarre Magick could lead the the participant to the edge of credibility   (to borrow a phrase from Burger).  I was clear that these ceremonies draw from fantastika (ref) and communicate fictive landscapes through tropes of horror, science fiction, and fantasy.  It was a nice way to finish as it brought me back to the notion of performance magic, rather than the grey(er) areas I had been discussing previously.  I was able to round those areas off in another paper; ‘Fairy Goblet of Eden Hall to Hunting Mammoths in the Rain – experiencing the paraxial through performance magic and mystery entertainment.’ presented at Reading the Fantastic: Tales Beyond Borders Conference at Leeds University in April.  Here I drew from Mangan and wider notions of the paraxial to suggest ways in which mystery entertainer can place themselves in a performative grey area situated between illusion and disillusion.  This seems to be the heart of experiential magic where there is a complex interplay between the facilitator and the performer.  

This work is nicely bracketed by two published chapters the first; “Performing Fabulous Monsters: Re-Inventing the Gothic Personae in Bizarre Magic.” has been published in  Monstrous Media/Spectral Subjects: Imaging Gothic from the Nineteenth Century to the Present, edited by Catherine Spooner and Fred. Botting. (Manchester University Press.)  Co-written with my partner in crime at The Journal of Performance Magic, the chapter represented our first forays into the bizarre and was based on a presentation and performance given at the Ninth Biennial Conference of the International Gothic Association: Monstrous Media/Spectral Subjects at Lancaster University in 2009.  The second; ‘Impersonating Spirits: The Paranormal Entertainer and the Dramaturgy of the Gothic Séance’ was published in New Directions in 21st-Century Gothic: The Gothic Compass edited by by Lorna Piatti-Farnell and Donna Lee Brien  (Routledge) as the title implies I closely examined the dramaturgy of the Gothic Seance in relation to the Gothic and my light of my work on the folklorist notion of Ostension and Collective Delusion.  The chapter was also a close reading of the work of Mystery Entertainer and writer Paul Voodini (with his permission of course).  It was great to bring this work together as many of the ideas for the paper had been bounced around in those mysterious ‘magician only’ publications.  ‘Magic and the M Word’ (with Madelon Hoedt) in Liber Mentis edited by Steve Dury and published by Psycrets: The British Society of Mystery Entertainers; ‘Collective Delusion and the Madness of Crowds’ published in Freddie Valentine’s  Occult Magic 2: Into The Darkness, and  ‘Can We Perform Real Magic? (a provocation). Paul Voodini’s, Aye Demon!.

So my intention is to go back into the studio and work on practice for a while.  All of the above provides a foundation to what comes next, and so does my early studio reflections published as ‘Out of Tricks’ in The Magiculum edited by Todd Landman (EyeCorner Press).  

At the moment I’m going over all of the above work ready to begin this new phase in September, and this blog post is all part of that process….

I hope to blog a little more as I dig deeper!