For the Los Angeles artist Brian Butler, magic (or “magick,” as the case may be) is as modern as technology. Certain teachings may be ancient, he notes, but that doesn’t make them any less relevant. “In the modern world of computers, the same energies are still operating,” he says.
Butler was premiering his film, “The Dove and the Serpent,” at the LAXART Annex in Hollywood last year, and a gritty, glamorous crowd had gathered to watch a live musical performance featuring the legendary underground filmmaker Kenneth Anger.
Initially drawn together by a shared interest in Aleister Crowley and the occult, Butler and Anger have worked together for more than a decade, Butler producing Anger’s last few films and acting as creative director of the trippy short he made for Missoni’s fall 2010 campaign. Anger appears with Vincent Gallo in Butler’s film “Night of Pan,” and the two also formed the band Technicolor Skull.
The Dove and the Serpent is a meditation on alchemy; the title references the Hermetic principle “as above, so below.” Filmed at a castle in Normandy, France, with some friends he rounded up during Paris fashion week last fall, including Dash Snow’s sister Caroline and the cinematographer Edouard Plongeon, whose family provided the locale, the two-and-a-half minute piece is beautiful, hypnotic and vaguely sinister.
Shadowy figures shape-shift and meld with the elements, occult symbols flash and fade, and there is some covetable fashion on display, including a Masonic robe and an ivory silk gown by the London designer Qasimi.
The Bartzabel Working is a performance based on a ceremonial evocation of the spirit of Mars, first written and performed in London in 1910 by Crowley, the ritual later became part of Los Angeles history in 1946 when Jack Parsons conducted his own version of this rite with the intention of placing a Martial curse on a pre-scientology L. Ron Hubbard.
For his reinterpretation of this historical performance, Butler conjures Bartzabel, the spirit of Mars, evoking on the site that was once home to late sci-fi author Ray Bradbury and currently comprises L&M Gallery. And bellow is also a little gem of a video by Mr. Butler for The Black Lips…