Critical Writing Index

On the Nature of Light: The Cinematic Experience as Occult Ritual

by Raymond Salvatore Harmon

PAJ: A Journal of Performance and Art, 2009, v. 31, no. 1, pp. 91-97

The first screening/performance of Harmon's Rites of Eleusis took place at the Horse Hospital Gallery in London on March 7th, 2008. The piece is a three-channel video environment staged by Harmon and based on seven public rituals performed by occultist Aleister Crowley in 1910. The installation/performance itself is a form of occult ritual, writes Harmon, and draws on the spiritual and experimental in order to reach a state of "transcendental cinema". Harmon invokes the history of cinema in order to explain how film opens up the viewer to a world other than reality, and explains that transcendental cinema uses specific techniques in order to access the inner mind of the viewer, both the conscious and the subconscious. Harmon cites his own piece, Rites of Eleusis, as a prime example of transcendental cinema. The video component of the piece is made up of abstract patterns, which are manipulated in a live performance by Harmon himself. Harmon uses "circuit-bending" in this piece, which is a method of playing with input and output video signals. In an attempt to access the unconscious, Harmon also input the text of Crowley's rituals into the video, with the words flashing by in as little as one thirtieth of a second. Harmon's first transcendental piece, YHVH, uses video feedback and a VCR to create shifting forms that Harmon believes work as an entry point into the viewer's subconscious. In transcendental cinema, Harmon explains, all elements are carefully calibrated in order to access the viewer's subconscious. Harmon also highlights the importance of the relationship between the viewer, the content, and the performer in a piece like Rites of Eleusis, with each element feeding the other. Harmon concludes that in the modern world in which we use heightened technology on a daily basis, transcendental cinema must utilize the technological in order to access the subconscious and explore the spiritual.

ITEM 2009.147 – available for viewing in the Research Centre

Videos, Artworks and Artists Cited

Rites of EleusisRaymond Salvatore Harmon

YHVHRaymond Salvatore Harmon