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Elijah Burgher

Stop 203 from Whitney Biennial 2014

Mar 6, 2014


Elijah Burgher


Elijah Burgher: I started making the large drop cloth paintings in the context of rituals that I was performing. 

Narrator:  Elijah Burgher. 

Elijah Burgher: So I wanted to paint something like a temple floor on which to perform a given ritual. I reference a system of magic developed by this early-twentieth century occultist whose name is Austin Osman Spare.

Narrator: Spare advocated the creation of magical symbols called sigils.

Elijah Burgher: You write down a specific wish or desire—and it can be really mundane, it can be, “my desire is to find my lost iPod.” And you take each of the letters that spell out that desire and you recombine them into a new form, just based on your own sensibility, your sense of invention. He then thought you had to charge your sigil, basically you have to cast a spell, by visualizing your sigil, or staring at it, during a no-mind experience, such as might be obtained through meditation. Spare, though, thought that the most expedient method for charging a sigil was to visualize it during a moment of orgasm. So my initial interest in them was as abstractions to which one masturbated.

There might have been something of the allure of the transgressive when I first became interested in these things. But it’s also the case that I became interested in magic and the occult via art. 

Narrator: Burgher was struck, for example, by the words of William S. Burroughs. 

Elijah Burgher: He said something to the effect of, “all art is magical in origin. It was made in order to produce specific results.” And I liked that idea because it seems like a way to focus intentions in the studio. And also to ground what was being made in the studio in daily-life and real-life anxieties and hopes. 



A 30-second online art project:

Peter Burr, Sunshine Monument

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