Language of the Birds: Occult and Art @ 80WSE Gallery

language_03Paul Laffoley “Astrological Ouroboros”

In 2014 MOCA Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles, California opened Cameron: Songs for the Witch Woman. Marjorie Cameron was the wife of scientist and O.T.O. Thelemite Jack Parsons, a follower of Aleister Crowley. Through her husband Cameron also became a practicing ceremonial magician. Her greatest magical workings, at least that we are privy to, are her works of art that she left us. Each work reflects those experiences in ritual and realization that are private to Cameron.  But they are not entirely personal. The subject matter of her works deals with concepts that others can interpret or have experienced, especially those who have undergone the rituals that she performed.

The phenomenon of spiritual rituals is that they are tools created for the masses to have an individual experience. Spirituality and religion at its essence is a personal experience that separates the individual from all that which is not self, yet mysteriously unites the individual with all. Religion is like any other group interest. People with similar interests, experiences, and goals are inclined to congregate to encourage each other, share their experiences, and seek friendship within a community. And so it is with spiritual traditions where individuals have a community to relate to and a space in which to thrive.

In the art of Cameron both those fellow ceremonial magicians, as well as the general public are given the chance to participate in the ritual of art. In this context art becomes a religious experience, and perhaps the ideal religious experience.

language_01Leonora Carrington “El Nigromante” c. 1950

Pam Grossman of New York University’s 80wise Gallery has curated the show Language of the Birds: Occult and Art that emphasizes or perhaps shows evidence of this connection between the spiritual experience and art. With over sixty contemporary and modern artists, including artists such as Kenneth Anger who is well known for his magical films (Lucificer Rising, Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome), Breyer P-Orridge, Leonora Carrington, William Mortensen, and Aleister Crowley. Many of these artists exhibiting in the show are practicing ceremonial magicians, and all reveal a deep understanding with occultism philosophically or historically.

language_05Barry William Hale “Pomba-gira Maria Mulambo – Grande Circulo de Pontos Riscado


In the holy land Vrindavana, India it is believed that the parrots in their bird language are reciting verses of the Vedic scriptures, thus maintaining the auspiciousness of the sanctified land. Throughout most spiritual traditions around the world higher states of consciousness is symbolized by the sacred communication between man, beast of the earth, and bird, beast of the air. Communication bridges separated spaces. This idea reveals the purpose of magic. Both man and bird exist within the same sphere though they seemingly appear to live in different worlds, which symbolizes one’s physical/lower self and their spiritual/higher self. Though they feel worlds apart they are together as one.

In magic this language of the birds is a system of symbols, blinds, and operations that remain hidden to the uninitiated and are to be revealed to the initiated. This exhibit Language of the Birds is an homage to this divine language in both its historical context and in its eternal model as a revelation of the hidden nature of things.

language_02Kurt Seligmann “Sabbath Phantoms

Ceremonial magic, occultism, mysticism, alchemy, and mythology have long been elements in Western and world art for as long as our historical records extend. The literature of past magicians might not be so readily available for the masses to learn, but the artistic tradition of many late and living magicians has provided keys to the code of understanding the mysteries of hermetically sealed traditions. MOCA’s Cameron: Songs for the Witch Women on the west coast and NYU’s Language of the Birds on the east coast have set two pillars for the rest of the country to pass through from the mundane into the spiritual.

And how interesting that it is through “Songs” and “Language” that the mysteries are revealed. In Genesis creation was manifested through the Word. In Qabalah the letters of the Hebrew alphabet are the building blocks of creation. The Hebrew alphabet is also extensively used in Hermetic magic and divination such as Tarot.  Sacred syllables are also associated with creation in the Vedic scriptures. Traditionally, brahamanas, Vedic priests, were expected to pronounce each syllable of a mantra perfectly in order to manifest the intention of that recitation. In magic it is through enunciating the names of angels, spirits, elements, or demons that the magician is able to call such personalities forth.

Our voice is the vehicle to manifest and attract. It’s also the vehicle that can destroy. Observe the chaos in the world both big and small and much, if not all, is due to poor communication whether it be a lack of communication or abusive language. Language has the power to divide. How many times have you heard an American say, “If you live in this country learn the language!” Language can create social hierarchies and class division. It has the power to oppress.

language_08Alison Blickle “New Keys”

Both literally and figuratively language is how we engage the world. It reveals who we are. It reveals our character. It reveals our intelligence and our ignorance. The Biblical saying goes, “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise; When he shutteth his lips, he is esteemed as prudent.” Language is our relationship with everything outside of our self. But there is more, because we have an internal dialogue. We have thoughts. We can be just as criticizing to ourselves as we are to others. Books like The Secret and other manifestation philosophies seek to correct one’s internal communication. Going beyond manifestation through rituals, esoteric philosophy, meditation, or yoga, a person seeks to not only correct or understand the language within themselves, but also how the internal dialog corresponds to the greater dialog of the universe.

language_06Delia Gonzalez “Hidden Forms”


Language of the Birds: Occult and Art, will be on exhibit January 12 through February 13, 2016 at 80WSE Gallery, NYU.

Along with the Language of the Birds exhibition there will also be events that have already begun but can still be attended. Here is a copy of the schedule:

Weds, Jan 27:  The Language – Performance of a theatrical piece written by playwright Matthew Freeman, commissioned for Language of the Birds.  7pm, free and open to the public
Fri, Feb 5 – Sun, Feb 7: The Occult Humanities Conference  at NYU Steinhardt – a weekend long symposium of 14 lectures and performances which explore the influence of magical thought upon art, history, and contemporary culture.  Tickets required.  (Please note: conference will be taking place offsite at 34 Stuyvesant St – Full conference details below)
Weds, Feb 10: Art Workings – Lectures and panel discussion with Professor Susan L. Aberth, Jesse Bransford, and William Breeze  7pm


Language of the Birds: Occult and Art

Curated by Pam Grossman

January 12 – February 13, 2016

80WSE Gallery, New York University
80 Washington Square East, NYC

Participating Artists

Kenneth Anger * Anohni * Laura Battle * Jordan Belson * Alison Blickle * Carol Bove * Jesse Bransford * BREYER P-ORRIDGE * John Brill * Robert Buratti * Elijah Burgher * Cameron * Leonora Carrington * Francesco Clemente * Ira Cohen * Brian Cotnoir * Aleister Crowley * Enrico Donati * El Gato Chimney * Leonor Fini * JFC Fuller * Helen Rebekah Garber * Rik Garrett * Delia Gonzalez * Jonah Groeneboer * Juanita Guccione * Brion Gysin * Frank Haines * Barry William Hale * Valerie Hammond * Ken Henson * Bernard Hoffman * Nino Japaridze * Gerome Kamrowski * Leo Kenney * Paul Laffoley * Adela Leibowitz * Darcilio Lima * Angus MacLise * Ann McCoy * Rithika Merchant * William Mortensen * Rosaleen Norton * Micki Pellerano * Ryan M Pfeiffer & Rebecca Walz * Max Razdow * Ron Regé, Jr. * Rebecca Salmon* Kurt Seligmann * Harry Smith * Kiki Smith * Xul Solar * Austin Osman Spare * Charles Stein * Shannon Taggart * Gordon Terry * Scott Treleaven * Panos Tsagaris * Charmion von Wiegand * Robert Wang * Peter Lamborn Wilson * Lionel Ziprin

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