Bodies of pure intensity : drawing as magical apparatus

Ryken, Joseph (2020) Bodies of pure intensity : drawing as magical apparatus. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


This practice-based research has been driven by the question, ‘how do you make a hallucinatory artwork?’ It uses ritual magic as both a method and allegory through which to explore performative methodologies in drawing. It suggests drawing as a Body of Pure Intensity - an always imminent body, capable of operating as actant and agent in the production of idiosyncratic forms of knowledge and subjectivity. My methodologies defend drawing as a special form of embodied analysis, reflexivity and hauntological dialogue, through its mimicry / imitative notation on and alongside the drawings of Antonin Artaud. I am asking, what can a drawing do when done as an act of magic, when magic is seen not as symbolic, allegorical, or metaphysical, but as a literalising act — with phenomenal and plastic e/affects? At the centre of this research is a series of drawings, made sequentially in a notebook, using techniques of self-induced altered states of consciousness to manifest the drawings. This series is in response to Artaud’s posthumously published notebooks, 50 Drawings to Murder Magic (2004). This project walks alongside Artaud’s drawings, conspiring with them in their respective collections and archives, mimicking their gestures and intensities as though rehearsing a jailbreak. This project, in five parts, presents small, discrete drawings as potential staging spaces for magical acts, calling upon a ghost cast of insurgent surrealists (including Unica Zürn and Austin Osman Spare), reanimating their intensities through acts of hyper-empathic mimicry that seek to reembody, and thus find supra-sensory dialogue with, their radical theses for drawing. Accompanying sections focus respectively on heuristic and diagrammatic journals, archival quests and performative assertions for drawing. Bodies of Pure Intensity presents an urgent reappraisal of drawing and magic as adaptive practices and methodologies within contemporary art research. This project situates its methods in relation to contemporary drawing practices that explore magical motifs and entranced states, such as Matt Mullican, Suzanne Treister, and indigenous Shipibo-Conibo artist Sara Flores. Wider implications of these findings present novel methodologies for drawing as a resistant act, producing new knowledge from within otherwise inaccessible and incorrigible perceptual experience.

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