Vehicles of Ætherial Fire
Exhibition at Mortlake & Company
117 Prefontaine Place South
Following are descriptions and photographs of the exhibits.
All of the artifacts exhibited here are made possible by transduction: converting variations in one physical quantity to variations in another. The word 'transducer' is from the Latin transducere: to lead, bring, transport, or conduct across or over something. Transduction always occurs across a boundary, such as when the eye receives light and converts it to electrical impulses that travel to the brain in the act of seeing, or when electrical signals from the brain activate motor neurons causing hand muscles to move a pencil along a sheet of paper in the act of drawing.
The Vox-Lux Transducer demonstrates the transduction of voice into light: as you intone a long syllable (or connected series of syllables) into the microphone, a selenite crystal tower illumines, and when you cease vocalizing, the light dissipates.
Löömen (from loom, a tool for weaving, and lumen, light) is an assemblage for experiments in chaomancy (χάομαντεία) and xenomancy (ξένομαντεία) with strange attractors. As described by Clifford Pickover in his book Chaos in Wonderland: Visual Adventures in a Fractal World, the Latööcarfians are an intelligent and social species native to the Jovian moon, Ganymede. Their brains resemble eight-bit computers, and they communicate via intricate light patterns displayed on their heads. The Latööcarfians' chief occupation is dreaming about chaotic mathematical patterns generated by a pair of formulæ. Thus they have earned the epithet "the dream-weavers of Ganyemede," and each Latööcarfian's class within their feudal society is determined by the beauty and symmetry of the patterns they dream.
While wearing an electroencephalographic brain-computer interface, the sorcerer performs a ritual intended to establish telepathic contact with the Latööcarfians. At the ritual's climax, the neuroheadset takes four measurements of the sorcerer's psychophysical state, which are mapped to optimal ranges for the two formulas' four input variables. The outputted image may be read as a divinatory response to a query, or employed as an evocative device to summon the dreamer for assistance in matters under their dominion.
The Hex-A-Tron is inspired by the blinking, front-panel lights on old computers. The machine reads a text file containing hexes (from the German hexen, "to perform witchcraft") or spells, then computes the hexadecimal ("hex" for short) value of each character in the text, and displays it on an array of 16 triangles corresponding to the 16 distinct symbols of the hexadecimal numeral system (0–9, A–F). For example, the hex value of the letter M is 4D, so to display 'M' triangles 5 and 14 (corresponding to 4 and D, respectively) are illuminated. To eliminate ambiguity (for example, the letter E is hex 45, and the letter T is hex 54, but both light the same two triangles in the array), the triangle corresponding to the first of the pair of hexadecimal symbols is lit with half the brightness of its complement.
The spells displayed during this exhibition are from The British Book of Spells and Charms by Graham King, and Spells from the Wise Woman's Cottage by Steve Patterson.
Ouranian Wyrdstone, revered for its mutagenic and transmogrifying virtues, is mildly radioactive (the specimens exhibited here are safe to handle with bare hands), empowering it to act as a source of true randomness. Concealed beneath the dais on which the stone rests are a Geiger counter, wireless transceiver, and two microcontrollers—one to process data from the counter and the other to communicate with the robot priest via the radio.
The robot priest (Machina pontifex) can pray to the stone, or verbally invoke Ouranos or evoke his archangel, Uriel. It can speak randomly selected phrases, or perform various dances and sequences of movement including one to construct new Ouranian Barbaric words.
Before the robot is assembled, its magical name is divined in a performance of the Ouranos Rite, and then sigilized in a mixture of St. Cyprian ink and the sorcerer's own blood on a piece of goatskin parchment. The parchment is then suffumigated in the smoke of blended oakmoss resin and powdered valerian root, before being placed within the robot's chassis. When the robot is finally assembled, the Ouranian Servitor Evocation is performed to bring it to life.
The Theriomorphosistor is a "talismachine" for lycanthropy. Hair samples from a wolf and human are encased in small bell jars with electrical wires running through them, which are connected to the inputs of a digital AND gate implementing logical conjunction. The gate outputs to a small lamp that illumes only when both hair samples are connected to the gate.
Whereas traditional talismans typically employ graphical devices that are magically dynamic but physically static, the talismachines are dynamic in the physical space, and their movements signify their occult purposes.
This assemblage is about keys, gates, celestial orbs, and the ability of music to transport the mind of the listener. The seven keys correspond to the seven classical planets (clockwise beginning with the topmost key: Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, and Moon). Each key has been ritually suffumigated and incanted over at an auspicious hour. Touching a key evokes the sound of the wandering star to which it corresponds, as recorded by NASA spacecraft.
Touch a key, close your eyes, and allow yourself to sense whatever images or feelings the sound evokes…
Arcane artifacts made from electrically conductive materials allow the sorcerer to design interactions that respond to the presence of such artifacts. The sorcerer can map the movement of occult "energy" onto the movement of electricity through the electromagical nexus.
Loom of Saturn. The sorcerer's intention is enciphered and sigilized on a magic square using a length of electrically conductive thread.
Black Pyramid. Sculpted from shungite, a conductive, organic mineraloid, the pyramid is ritually employed as a fetish and reservoir of eldritch power that can be connected to any circuit as needed to amplify the circuit's occult dynamis.
Wishbone. An avian furcula sealed with electrically conductive paint.
Play-dough Talisman. The name-brand stuff works fine, but you can make your own conductive (or resistive) dough using water, flour, salt, cream of tartar, vegetable oil, and colorant, to which you may add essential oils, vital fluids, &c.
The Soul in the Stone
A series of eight quotations were printed on 12" × 18" posters placed around the exhibition room. You can view a PDF file showing all of the posters here. The quotations are as follows:
I. God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. —Genesis 2:7, The Bible
II. All life forms are essentially rocks—made of the same materials, obeying the same laws, as the rocks, stone and sand that surround us. We are rocks that run and swim, climb and leap; that hear, touch and see; rocks that can look out into the vastness and grasp for an understanding of ourselves and the universe that made us. —Johnjoe McFadden, Quantum Evolution
III. Our tissues change as we live: the food we eat and the air we breathe become flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, and the momentary elements of our flesh and bone pass out of our body every day with our excreta. We are but whirlpools in a river of ever-flowing water. We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves.
The individuality of the body is that of a flame rather than that of a stone, of a form rather than of a bit of substance. —Norbert Wiener, The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society
IV. I etch a pattern of geometric shapes onto a stone. To the uninitiated, the shapes look mysterious and complex, but I know that when arranged correctly they will give the stone a special power, enabling it to respond to incantations in a language no human being has ever spoken. I will ask the stone questions in this language, and it will answer by showing me a vision: a world created by my spell, a world imagined within the pattern on the stone. —W. Daniel Hillis, The Pattern on the Stone: The Simple Ideas That Make Computers Work
V. In reality, a computer is more like an electronic tabula rasa or blank slate than any of the fictitious robot movie stars would lead you to believe. If you write nothing on the slate, nothing happens. If you can discover the right kind of patterns to put on the slate, though, the maze of electrical connections within the "slate" will enable your patterns to produce dynamic effects. —Joseph Decken, The Electronic Cottage
VI. Our ancestors once erred gravely on the theory of divinity; they were unbelieving and inattentive to worship and reverence. But then they discovered the art of making gods. To their discovery they added a conformable power arising from the nature of matter. Because they could not make souls, they mixed this power in and called up the souls of demons or angels and implanted them in likenesses through holy and divine mysteries, whence the idols could have the power to do good and evil. —Hermes Trismegistus, Asclepius
VII. The methods nowadays may seem to some childish, hit and miss compared with the original starry wisdom, but modern witches believe that despite the accretions and maybe distortions of the past sixty centuries, there still remains at the center of the cinder a spark of that mysterious dark angelic fire which first breathed life into the clay of this world. —Paul Huson, Mastering Witchcraft
VIII. If you ever code something that "feels like a hack but it works," just remember that a CPU is literally a rock that we tricked into thinking.
Not to oversimplify: first you have to flatten the rock and put lightning inside it. —Ben Driscoll (@daisyowl), Twitter
An essay was published to accompany the exhibition. You may read the text online here, and printed copies including photographs and concept art may be purchased from Mortlake & Company for $10.