Saturday, November 23, 2013

The magic of illusion and vice versa

Magic is not only a cultural sphere consisting of compensatorily inclined individuals with inflated egos wallowing in arcane structures and symbols (I can hear you: "Look who's talking!", right?). Let's call that "Sphere 1". There is also another cultural sphere based on trickery, illusions and mentalism that goes by the same name: "Sphere 2". Sometimes they seem to co-exist.

The megavolume Magic 1400s-1950s, recently issued by Taschen, touches upon Sphere 2 and its related cultural impact. Amply illustrated, the book is also a mind blowing tour of classic advertising for magic shows and other alluring events. Flyers, posters, photos and reviews are superbly reproduced, and it's an absolute joy to flip through the 650 pages of this truly heavy volume.

It's in this image material and in the introduction to stage magic that Magic 1400s-1950s earns its merits. Textually, it draws many erroneous conclusions in comparing Sphere 1 and Sphere 2 far too superficially. Simplifications about how self-transforming techniques in essence are but stage magic tricks and nothing more sets a somewhat nincompoopish tone, but I'm sure this is unintentional.

Sphere 1 and Sphere 2 are essentially independent of each other. Always have been and always will be. But sometimes they overlap, for example when a stage magician actively imposes his or her will on an audience because that's the best environment and technique for that specific magical working. But it's certainly not a given that all magic is stage magic. Nor that stage magic is magical in essence. Far from it. Illusions are of course not the same as tangible existential changes.

But this beauty of a book is worth getting for its overabundance of examples of awe-inspiring commercial advertising and a jargon usually associated with P.T. Barnum and like minded circus/sideshow entrepreneurs. It's a huge chunk of romantic yearning for a time when people could still become goo-goo-eyed because what they saw simply couldn't be rationally interpreted. Where would we find a similar kind of experience today? Nowadays, the human mind is programmed to be immersed in clinical cynicism, and the result is of course a general nivellation that walks very well hand in hand with existential complacency. The WOW-factor is long gone, sawed in two by unbelieving rationalists.

Magic 1400s-1950s is a weird and revealing excursion into the relationship between the tricksters and the tricked. And, as such, a beautiful exposé of a symbiosis that has permeated mankind since the birth of the first stage magician ever, and his well needed counterpart: the wide eyed "rube". A question here comes to mind: Where's the fun in everyone being equal and equally void of emotion? Perhaps better to believe in an illusion that to believe in nothing at all?

[Magic 1400s-1950s, edited by Noel Daniel. Taschen 2013. Written contributions by Jim Caveney, Jim Steinmeyer, Ricky Jay]

All material on this blog is copyright © Carl Abrahamsson, unless otherwise stated.
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Monday, November 18, 2013

Hafler Trio book launch in Stockholm

On Wednesday the 20th of November, at 7 pm, there will be a The Hafler Trio event at Fylkingen in Stockholm. It's not a concert but a book launch for the amazing book "''''''' " (being an exposition and elucidation of an eternal work by The Hafler Trio), published by TRAPART. Andrew McKenzie will be present to sign your copy and he will also give a lecture/talk.

The book focuses on Andrew's highly interesting workshop concept, in which musical creation is integrated in a holistic self development setting. For more information about this, please check out my blog post from October 9th.

See you in Stockholm at Fylkingen next Wednesday!

All material on this blog is copyright © Carl Abrahamsson, unless otherwise stated.
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Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Mother, Have A Safe Trip

My first novel, Mother, Have A Safe Trip, has now been out for a month. It's been very exciting to talk to people about what they think about the book. A mixed bag, but very positive feedback on the whole. I haven't really sent out review copies yet, but will do so soon. (If you have a blog or write for a magazine, please feel free to get in touch.)

I have so far received one great review already though, by Henrik Dahl from UK web site Psychedelic Press. Henrik knows a good book when he sees (and reads) one!

"... Abrahamsson clearly belongs to a tradition of western anti-authoritarian authors leaning towards libertarian or anarchist ideas. Whatever one may feel about the overriding sentiments of Abrahamson’s writings, Mother, Have a Safe Trip is a highly entertaining and thought-provoking novel. Chock-full of psychedelia, the book is also a much welcome addition to the far too few fictional works published dealing with psychedelic culture."

The review can be read in its entirety at the PSYPRESS site.

So far, there have been three different launches for it, and I've had a lot of fun talking about the book and listening to people's immediate feedback and questions. The first one was at the Norwegian Edda evening at Cappelens Forslag, the best bookstore in Oslo. Then followed legendary oasis Rönnells in dear old Stockholm, and now, most recently, very cool occult book- and stuffstore Catland in New York.
Fredrik Söderberg and myself at Cappelens Forslag. Photo: Christine Ödlund.
At Catland in New York. Photo: Phil English
Coming up is a book signing in Copenhagen, at Nekropolis. December 7th, 2013. I will also give a talk there, so drop by if you have the chance.

In preparation right now is an exhibition based on or connected with the book. It will take place at the Martin Bryder Gallery in Lund, and will contain pages and photographs that have been influential and instrumental in the creation of the book. More information about this will follow, but you can note the dates already now: January 11th to February 9th, 2014. The exhibition can travel, so please get in touch if you're interested in arranging something closer to you.

You can order the book from Edda. Very convenient! If you're in the US, you'll save on postage by ordering it from JD Holmes. Thanks.

All material on this blog is copyright © Carl Abrahamsson, unless otherwise stated.
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Monday, November 11, 2013

Cotton Ferox return to Poland

On November 17th, Cotton Ferox will play in Warsawa, Poland, at the Trans-Wizje festival. Incidentally, it was on the same date 12 years ago that Cotton Ferox played live for the very first time (at Fylkingen in Stockholm). To celebrate this magical cycle, Highbrow Lowlife will re-release the first Cotton Ferox album, First Time Hurts, in the digital ether on November 21st.

Here's some information culled from the Polish site:

Miejsce: Laboratorium CSW, ul. Jazdów 2, Warszawa
Bilety: 55 zł. (do 17 października) / 66 zł. (po 17 października)
Start: 17 listopada 2013, godzina 17.00

I also have a text in the most recent issue of the Trans-Wizje magazine, which will be launched on Sunday, about the strange relationship between human beings and dolls:

"The eerie and sometimes even terrifying encounter with glassy eyed porcelain dolls or even mute teddy bears, especially when one sees many of them at the same time, clearly distinguishes the thin line between death and magical life. By mere will, an inanimate object can go from being a scary-zombie-voodoo-horror film-nightmare item to something that is "cute", "cuddly" and, not forgetting, "mine". And then also integrated in harmonious playing, alone or together with friends. It's what the human imagination invests in the object that makes it come alive."

I hope to see you in Warsawa on Sunday!

All material on this blog is copyright © Carl Abrahamsson, unless otherwise stated.
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Sunday, November 10, 2013

If you've got nothing to hide, hide it well?

Have you given some thought to your own freedom lately? Freedom is certainly not a given, nor is it a "right" that is handed out by some altruistic force larger than life. Freedom is kept up by free people, often at a cost. But as we all know, consciously or not, freedom is the most valuable thing there is. So of course it's worth it.

With that in mind, perhaps it's relevant to ask yourself why are there morons who can only find compensatory safety in sheepishly repeating what some "think tank" has decided to be the control catch phrase of the season? "If you've got nothing to hide, then why are you so opposed to monitoring / surveillance / bugging / increased control?" There's a logical inconsistency in this, isn't there? If I don't say anything, does that inherently imply that I mean No when someone else claims Yes? Of course not. A potential dialogue has been dragged down to the level of Kindergarten coercion.

If you've got nothing to hide, it's nobody's business but your own. Your essential worth as a member of society is not decided in terms of obedient "transparency" or immediate binary response but rather of what you choose to contribute when you so desire. Keep that in mind.

Transparency brain washing also removes the focus from where it should be: Criminals should be punished by removing their freedom. They have no longer earned their freedom. That makes Draconian sense. Free and law abiding individuals should not be punished by being intimidated into obedience through sheepish double-speak mind fucks.

Companies and organizations are entitled to have as many secrets as they want. If that wasn't a part of bedrock business policies, competing companies would steal their ideas and inventions. The same goes for nations. The same goes for journalists who protect their sources. Sharing secrets enables trust. Violently disclosing others' secrets enables distrust. Disclosing national secrets is usually called treason and is often severely punished. Why then should individuals have to loosen integrity slack without a very good reason? Demands of decreased individual integrity for the sake of some vague, undefined "greater good" is an abomination that will make our civilization go hollow and, yes of course, totally "transparent".

I'm not referring to the cliché of waiting in security lines at airports. That is not a problem at all. I'm referring to the critical point when an engineered slogan becomes mindlessly integrated in a monotonous and banal jargon of everyday life. When double-speak concepts come to life through vulgar repetition.

Please memorize the following... The person who expresses this programmed phrase – "If you've got nothing to hide, then why are you so opposed to monitoring / surveillance / bugging / increased control?" or any variant or derivative – is the person who indeed has something to hide: the fact that he or she is no longer an individual who is willing to take responsibility for his or her own freedom. And, who knows, more things might lie hidden beneath the surface too.

Be forewarned: as soon as you hear that slogan, you know ill will is present. Ill will, or just mere stupidity. Or, even worse, a combination. The reply needs to be swift and merciless: "Mind your own business!" Also works as "Mind: your own business!"

All material on this blog is copyright © Carl Abrahamsson, unless otherwise stated.
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Monday, November 4, 2013

New York, New York!

Why is New York such an inspiring place for creative individuals? One could argue that there's a traditionally will driven atmosphere around, based on entrepreneurship and esteem of achievement. Also, that success is not looked down upon. Sure, these could be seen as American traits in general. But there's definitely something else buzzing in New York that makes the place very special compared to other grand hubs, and to America in general.

I believe one contributing factor is the concept of conducive anonymity. Meaning that people in New York are genuinely interested in what you do but only to the extent that it won't disturb their own creative goings on. In New York, time is tight and no one wants to waste it on overindulgence in other people's monomania. Genuine kudos for others, yes, but not to an extent that will hamper your own schedule. When a mutual display has been taken care of, inspirational or not, it's back to one's own business. This generates an intense and real-political attitude in which there's always a high priority on the work itself. In an overflowing, tempting and crowded environment as big as New York, you not only can but perhaps also must retract to conducive anonymity to be able to get anything done.

Another important factor is of course stratification. The general atmosphere is not one of equality, likemindedness and harmony. On the contrary, there is brutal competition going on all the time, between businesses and individuals alike. This not only creates an edgy presence of inventive thinking but also actually a great sense of genuine service. People care because they take care – of business.

On a recent trip to this delightful megapolis to continue shooting the An Art Apart-film together with Genesis Breyer P-Orridge, and launch my novel Mother, Have A Safe Trip, I was again struck by New York's ability to enhance and further the process of creativity. It really is as if the city is an entity in itself, whose well being is dependent on a constant influx, a constant flow of nutritional ideas and projects. Very likely, this has to do with its traditional position as a gateway into the USA for people from many different cultures and energies. A hot stew indeed of transition and transformation: important processes in any creative life, whether individual or collective. The best analogy would again be food, I think. A repetitive and too homogeneous cuisine depletes nutrition, energy and life force. Simple as that. The remedy? Quaquaversal flux soup and a bite of the Big Apple. It always works.

Many thanks to Genesis Breyer P-Orridgethe people at Catland and many private (conducively anonymous) individuals who made this trip so satisfying and remarkable!

All material on this blog is copyright © Carl Abrahamsson, unless otherwise stated.
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