The Wild Hunt Interview and Madman Meandering

Me working on Wayne’s “Bacchante” after Bouguereau

I’ve been working a lot and have not had an opportunity to announce here that an interview about me was published on The Wild Hunt over the weekend. I wish to express my thanks to Heather for her editing prowess, I’m overall happy with the interview, but I wish there were some more specific questions about my beliefs of devotion and it’s function. Maybe that will be addressed in the future. Something I’m grateful that Heather edited out was some of the too much information about my childhood. It wasn’t exactly fitting for such a public article. Yet, part of the process of healing is being more open about things. As my spiritual mentor said to me, (paraphrasing), “I’d be worried if a Dionysian was not fucked up”.

On 20th of February I experienced a complete and potentially deadly mental breakdown. I had been fasting for four days and consuming nothing but wine, I required outside help to come save me. Since then, I’ve been sober and seeing doctors to help with my broken brain. I’m diagnosed with PTSD, agoraphobia, anxiety-depression (of which I had been self-medicating with alcohol). Spiritually, I’ve been suffering from Acedia.

The PTSD is pretty basic: related to childhood abuse by my step father, an alcoholic, disabled and all rounded fucked up individual. As a result of this abuse large chunks of my childhood are wiped from my memory, however it has left emotional scars that haunt me to this day.

The agoraphobia is related, but more nuanced… it’s an irony that I’m a public performer and put myself in the most vulnerable position in the agora – on the street. To me this phobia is not a result of personal fears, but rather the overwhelming illness of our society. The function of it: the spiritual and apathetic decay of humanity. I have a fear for the future of humanity, this fear is that prophesied as the Last man by Nietzsche. An apathy that leads us to nihilism. This shit is fucking serious and I’m exposed to it every day when I work, when I go to the shops and when I watch people. The Mysteries of the world and the spirit are lost on people. This is something I did not address in the interview: it’s my hopes of not only opening doorways to what has been forgotten but also jerk people out of this dangerous nihilism. So why does this manifest as a fear? Well I find myself failing in my goals. I find myself falling for the Last man and becoming completely apathetic, jaded, generating as a hatred towards humanity… which sets off Acedia.

A Dionysian travels a narrow path between blissful enlightenment and mind-shattering madness. At times I veer from the path and head deep long for the madness. This is not a bad thing, but to lose sight of the path can result in being lost forever. When I had my breakdown I felt was lost, to the point of no return, but I’ve been crawling back since and every day I feel the catharsis of madness, a lesson I must accept in order to know who I am and know my place.

That is the point of The Dionysian Artists, to make art for the divine: still the theatre requires an audience for the performance to work its magic.  It’s active work, direct and open to nature and human minds.

Now, I’ve been reading Antonin Artaud of late and find myself agreeing with his concepts of The Theatre of Cruelty. I’ll have to finish reading his Theatre and its Double, but so far I believe there should be a balance between the terror of Cruelty and divine good. Our culture is too saturated in the cruelty; nearly every household in the “West” is exposed to it every day, if not through television, the internet. It’s tearing communities apart, (even the microscopic “community” of Pagans). This is when the Dionysian Artists are most needed, it’s time we direct our attention to healing through art, it does not matter which art – nor how good one is at it, just make art to the gods. Let’s kill this Last man and escape to fantasies that make reality. We need to redirect our attention from ourselves and towards our audience or else we’re going to just find ourselves in a nihilistic and fruitless omophagy.

The Theatre and the Divine

(Note: I’m going through my old blog and republishing choice articles here. Eventually the old blog will be deactivated.)

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Classical Greek theatre was radical. It most likely begun as a private ritual performance between the elite, even leading with direct interaction between actors and observers in the form of mystery plays, maybe as satyr plays. As it progressed the theatre became more open to the public. This is how it was radical, at the time in antiquity, public performance was limited in surrounding nations. In Egypt we have references of street performers, the equivalent of buskers, they also performed rituals in public, but nothing on such scale and public domain as the Greek theatre.
It was an equaliser of class, a place which the common people could actively observe the gods.  What’s more, we have common people as writers and performers freely criticising and mocking kings, nobility and public figures, which gave birth to our concepts of free speech.  The theatre was a place for religion, politics, expression and entertainment.
A sacred domain dedicated to Dionysos.

So how does the theatre prove that the gods exist? This is summed up in two ways, one the actor, two the observer.

  1. The actor playing a role relinquishes themselves to their character. In simplest terms they are invoking a character, allowing it to possess them and reflecting that possession. If you’re familiar with how Greek plays were performed then you’ll know that there was only three actors on the stage at one time. These actors would play various roles throughout the play which was illustrated by what mask they wore. The masks themselves were the characters and the actor was a living moving prop or host for the mask. In this function when they assumed the role of a god they were host to the god. To the Greeks, they were witnessing, in every sense, their gods on stage.
  2. The audience brought the gods to life. The base function of performance is suspension of reality. In order to appreciate the performance the audience must allow themselves to be fooled. They have to accept the fantasy in front of them and believe in its existence. By believing in the play they are demonstrating their faith in the gods.

So how is this any different from now? This is a good point and one that has been discussed with the pop culture pagans.  I will not dismiss their beliefs, but my personal opinion is that the difference between modern people watching a film and ancient Greeks watching the theatre is audience attitude.  An average person does not enter the movie theatre with the expectation of watching something divine and religious. For the Greeks, not only were they entering a sacred domain, but also observing a devotional, religious performance.

To understand this concept is realising how disenchanted modern people are. Over exposure of media has led us to become jaded, whereas ancient people would only observe these performances once or twice a year. It’s not lost on me that we call celebrity actors “Stars”, “Idols” which further serves as a point at how wrong modern people are when enjoying a production. This is why it’s difficult for some to come to grasps with the idea that watching or participating in a performance is a sacred act.

 


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Cont. The DA Philosophy 1

Dver left a comment on my previous post here.

I believe my reply merits a blog post:

Thinking back through my artistic ‘career’ it’s hard to find a time where my work was not devotional in some sense. But it’s only when I experienced my initiation experience in late 2015 that I really ‘clicked’ to what I was doing and turned it into my primary form of devotional expression/engagement. Taking on the mantel of Dionysian Artist and name Δ.
Thus my devotion looks a lot different from others that consider themselves “Hellenic Polytheists” or even Dionysians.

The ultimate idea of ‘Art for god’s sake’ is that it is more liberating to the artist than ‘Art for art’s sake’, even if the work is unpleasing to the human audience, it does not matter. The opinions of human’s is only consequential and unnecessary. Devotional art is therefore free of any criticism from mankind and the artist need not worry of others opinions. From your comment Dver, you certainly understand my intention here.

Others… it can be difficult to explain. I recently had a conversation with a fellow artist, who is also an art historian / theorist / critic and teacher. He was dismayed at the fact that we do not do shows and rarely sell our work. I explained to him I’d rather see the art burned than sell it to some hipster who just likes the work because “it’s cool”. Our art, especially the street art, is not designed to be decorative. It’s designed as dedication to the gods. It is not owned by me, I am only a mere creator and custodian of the work. That is not to say I am forbidden to sell the work, just that if sold it has to go to someone who understands and respects the sacredness of the work. And boy… have I turned down mega offers that would make most impoverished artists wet their pants, as the destination for the work was an office space, or a cafe…

This behaviour has caused dismay in not only my admirers, but family and friends (including the one I mentioned). They cannot understand the purpose of this art, it is not an object, it is not a thing to be brought and sold in the stock exchanged (aka, art market), it is a piece of work dedicated to the gods and any human appreciation should be reverence over any other methods of our culture views art now.

The DA Philosophy 1: What is Devotional Art?

“Dionysos” by Δ

What is Devotional Art?

Art for art’s sake is a relatively modern idea credited  by the art critic, Théophile Gautier in the 1800’s. The concept became popular through artists like James Whistler (made famous by the “Whistler-Ruskin Trial, 1878″) and was continually echoed through the modernist period until now. The basic idea is that art should exist for itself. It should be free of any political, personal, religious, reactionary meaning. If these ideas were involved in the conception of the art, the viewer should be able to appreciate it as art without knowing the ideas behind it.

This concept was radical at the time as it gave artists liberties in attempting to define art. With the advent of art movements such as the Dadaists and then the Modernists the definition of what is art became blurred, in some cases it became totally atheistic with a reductionist mentality applied to art to the point artists ambitions was to destroy art itself.

There is a certain irony in this as when Art for art’s sake was coined it was actually a socialist concept to bring art to the people, bring it down to base level and indeed many of the Modernist artists and thinkers were socialist / communists in their intentions of making art. The irony is the reduction of art disconnected artists from their general audience. Art became elitist, with its only admires being the educated bourgeoisie.

Criticism of the art world aside, these artists and thinkers did achieve a new definition of what is art, which has granted artists liberties. The basic modernist definition of art is: anything can be art as long as there is an artist to define it as art. This is why we have pieces like Duchamp’s ready-made urinal, “Fountain” being considered a major landmark in 20th-century art and why artists like Damien Hirst have pickled animals in some of the world’s major art galleries.

Now that we have a crash course on the very bare basics of how art is viewed today, let’s explore my concept of devotional art. The Dionysian Artists (Devotional artists) definition of devotional art is an amalgamation of Modernist ideology but also a rejection of Art for art’s sake, instead the phrase of a devotional artist should be Art for god’s sake.

The Dionysian Artists should accept the Modernist definition of art, that anything can be art, but also with an added bonus: devotional art should be dedicated to the gods. Artwork created by the artists should not be made for humankind – it’s intended audience is the gods themselves – any human appreciation for this divine art is consequential. How an artist applies their devotion is totally up to the artist themselves. Like how an artist can define anything as art, a devotional artist can define anything as devotional art.

What this definition allows is anyone can call themselves a Devotional Artist (or a Dionysian Artist), its more so a matter of mind state being aware of ones actions when committing art to the gods. Art does not need to be something permanent, devotional art can be an expression, gesture, a dance, acting, singing etc. Or it can be a ready-made object, appropriation of existing art, a painting, stick figure drawing, crude votive statue, or a master piece.

As long as one is doing this for the gods, they may consider the art devotional and themselves Dionysian Artists.

1.Related reading
2.Related reading

Icon painting by Wayne McMillan

My partner Wayne is offering icon oil paintings on board. 6 by 8 inch icon is $350USD. Larger sizes are possible increasing from the base price.

These are original, one of a kind, pieces of devotional art. Created to be used as sacred icons.

As these are religious work there are some terms and conditions:

– Wayne maintains the right to deny work for whatever reason.

– Payment for the artwork must be up front before work begins.

– Payment preference is PayPal or direct bank transfer.

– These pieces are painted in the highest professional quality oil paint on prepared board, they can take a few months to design, create, dry and ship. We expect clients to be aware of how much time they can take.

– As of now this is part time work, we both have multiple projects going. Clients are welcomed and encouraged to request updates if there are delays. But please respect that these take time, you have been warned. (Twice now.)

– Wayne and myself are experts on the Hellenic / Italian pantheons, these cultures are a preference. Other pantheons such as: Norse, Celtic, Middle Eastern, Hindu and Asian etc. may be possible. For obscure or unfamiliar gods we expect client input. We will go through an interview process if required. Monotheist religious icons *may* be possible, this has to be negotiated, we are polytheists… there are plenty of talented Christian iconographers out there.

– Clients are welcomed to give input, but the artwork is final. Alterations to the design based on client input may require extra funding at our discretion.

– Paintings can be shipped by post, but must have insurance, tracking, etc. If clients prefer we can ship by courier or other options, obviously, expect much higher costs for these services.
Our shipping fees to the US range between $40 to 60+USD.
Australian postage is between $20 to $30+AUD.
International courier prices are between $90 to 170+ USD.
We prefer to give a quote and request the amount for shipping when the painting is packed and ready to ship. So please set some money aside for the final shipping quote.

– It is possible to order multiple paintings which can be shipped together. Note that there is an insurance threshold for standard post, $2000 AUD.

– Wayne owns the copyright of all artwork. Clients may request limited licensing for prints and sales. This must be negotiated prior to use.

We attempt to be as fair as possible with our clients and we both take this work very seriously as a devotional duty. Each piece is consecrated with prayers and offerings during the creation and the packing process.
My input is limited, however I aid Wayne in some areas such as spiritual services and research. I act as liaison between clients and Wayne. If you would like to take a commission you may contact me at: markos.gage@gmail.com

Art Galleries and the Sacred, (misuse and abuse of ancient art by the NGV.)

Here is an excellent post by John Beckett, and something I’ve been bringing up for a while.

 

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Archaistic Kore (damaged by NGV staff)

In Australia we don’t have big museums like the British Museum, instead ancient artefacts are found in art galleries. The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) has some beautiful examples of Greek and Italian marbles, especially a nicely preserved Athlete torso and a beautiful Kore statue (now damaged). They also have an okay collection of Greek pottery and Egyptian pieces including seals, burial objects, statuettes, tools and weapons. The problem with keeping these sacred objects in art galleries is that they are not treated with respect, nor viewed as artefacts, but rather viewed by the modern secular understanding of art.

The NGV is the first major art gallery in Australia and still one of the largest. It’s layout is meant to be designed based on the history of art, the ground floor being ancient art, then each floor continues with subsequent time periods with contemporary art on the top floor.

In the last couple of years the NGV has gone under a ‘business remodelling’ making the gallery more approachable for ‘common people’ and family orientated. The first thing they did was shut down the Egyptian and Greek display areas on the ground floor and convert them into a kids corner! So now in the kids corner are the Egyptian pieces, you literally have a playground decorated by burial objects, no fucking joke.

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Only pic I can find online of the kids corner, notice on the right is archaic pottery?

As for the Greek pieces… they are now scattered all over the gallery, before it was damaged by the mishandling of incompetent staff, the last time I saw the Kore was in the textiles area! It had a fucking blurb stating it was, “a juxtaposition of the advancements of fashion, blah, blah.” Nothing to do with the actual fucking sacredness of the statue, but a secular view solely based on an outward material idea of fashion.
The athlete torso gets moved around a lot, my latest visit found it was in the 1800’s art area next to a Neoclassical work to again illustrate “juxtaposition”.

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Torso of an athlete
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The Torso found in the 1800’s salon gallery. Why?!?

As for the Greek pottery, they can be found in a corridor leading to the toilets!

Here is the problem with art galleries, gallery curators are trained in art schools, they are essentially failed artists who focus more on art theory rather than art itself. The art theory is a pretty toxic place for history and religion as it falls under the domain of modern art philosophy that views art a secular concept of just objects. They intentionally strip away the context of why the art was actually made and apply a modern context to it which is objectifying i.e., a statue of a god, is just a marble statue. They disregard the holy to claim it for themselves so it “fits” into their understanding of “art history”. This means they intentionally ignore the history and true meaning behind the work – especially if it once held a religious significance.

This is a form of cultural appropriation that is really sickening and something that upsets me so much I often walk out of the NGV shaking in anger.