One look at the conspiracy subreddits is enough to see that, while a perverted puppet controlled by an alliance of Russian spies, dodgy Deep State types, and actual goddam Nazis squats in the Oval Office curling one out on the Constitution,an awful lot of credulous creeps still think the real story is top Democrats raping every missing child in the world in a (presumably TARDIS-like) dungeon underneath a pizza joint and – le sigh – Marina Abramovic’s supposed puissance as a necromancer.
It’s stuff like this that makes you realise that while magic and conspiracy theory are both subsets of Weird Shit, their Venn diagram doesn’t have 100% overlap. There is a lot of absolutely rubbish supposedly parapolitical writing which consists of little more than shrieking about the machinations of ‘THE OCCULT’, as if there is only one monolithic form of that complex of ideas, as if all the world’s magicians are working together on a devious plan to sacrifice us all to Cthulhu when, if my experience hanging out on one of the Internet’s best ever occult fora in a previous life is any indication, most of us can’t even agree on how tall the actor playing V should be.
A good rule of thumb in these overlapping fields is that the people to place the most trust in aren’t the good-versus-evil simplifiers but the ones who most often say ‘it’s more complicated than that’. And so it is with the question of magic and performance art. As someone with a tentacle in both camps I feel I’m somewhat suited to speak to this.
What the people pearl-clutching about Marina Abramovic (and, latterly, Milo the Boyfucker, proving it isn’t only Tori Amos he rips off) playing around with pig’s blood and calling it a Satanickal Ritualle are missing is two things. First, there is no significance to it being pig’s blood except that it looks the most like the human stuff and is fairly easy to source from most butchers’ because black pudding is a (delicious) thing; and, two, that there is a fundamental difference between magic and performance art, which is this:
A ritual magician sets out to achieve a goal.
A performance artist sets out to ask a question.
Or to put it another way, when I did my Public Address piece for Apples and Snakes (ZOMG HAIL ERIS) I set out to ask questions about the ways in which we define love, when I take part in the worldwide anti-Trump ritual it will be because I intend to bring down the current government of the United States of America.
In my younger days I dreamed of being an occult terrorist. Funny how things turn out, isn’t it?