Midday Veil and Swahili’s Fall 2014 tour dates:
10/3 Swillery Whiskeybar, Bellingham, WA w/ Spider Ferns, Urban Fantasy
10/4 Art Signified Psych Fest at Red Gate, Vancouver, BC
10/5 The Northern, Olympia, WA w/ Total Life
10/6 Kenton Club, Portland, OR w/ Coronation
10/7 Siren’s Song Tavern, Eureka, CA w/ White Manna
10/8 The Hemlock, San Francisco, CA
10/9 Del Monte Speakeasy, Los Angeles, CA w/WHQLES
10/10 Holland Project, Reno, NV
10/11 1078 Gallery, Chico, CA
Midday Veil and Swahili’s Fall 2014 tour dates:
Those who know me well are aware that I am very nearly obsessed with the Ghent Altarpiece by Jan Van Eyck; specifically the lower central panel of the interior, also known as The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb. The mystical, geometric, and apocalyptic properties of this painting are exceedingly subtle, however once we are initiated into its mysteries, we discover a strange, miraculous painting-within-a-painting that is, like the Kingdom of Heaven it portrays, “hidden in plain sight where men do not see it.”
To be clear: the geometric properties to which I am referring are neither obvious nor visible with the naked eye, at least not immediately. Rather they emerge, to those for whom they emerge, like a three-dimensional stereogram from the picture plane (not unlike an infinitely more sophisticated version of those “Magic Eye” posters that alternately delighted and confounded suburban mall-goers in the 1990s).
In 2009, upon spending several tightly nested eternities absorbing the ecstatic splendor of this strange painting, I managed to codify some of my observations regarding its esoteric optic properties in the form of a blog post called Eyes All Around. Five years later, I consider this post among my favorite things I’ve written, so I recommend getting caught up if you haven’t yet read it, since it is foundational to the paragraphs that follow.
Last night I attended a lecture on the Ghent Altarpiece by art historian Rebecca Albiani at the Frye Art Museum. Ms. Albiani is an adept speaker, and her insight into the art historical significance of the altarpiece was well worth the price of admission. I was somewhat surprised to note, however, that while she spent several minutes talking about the figures of Van Eyck’s donors that adorn the exterior panels of the altarpiece, she spent almost no time at all on the “Mystic Lamb,” the glorious climax of the altarpiece and arguably the single finest achievement of Northern Renaissance painting, if not the history of European painting.
After the lecture, I asked her about this oversight. Was it because she was running out of time? Or was she simply less interested in the more esoteric aspects of the altarpiece’s interior?
“I’m kinda less interested in it,” was her honest reply. Her response did not come as much of a surprise, nor did I find it particularly disappointing.
Art history is—or at least aspires to be—a sober, secular subject. As James Elkins explains in his essential text, On the Strange Place of Religion in Contemporary Art, this is because the category of “art,” as defined by museums, institutions and the existence of an “art world,” is a fundamentally modern construct. Participation in this construct assumes a certain intellectual impartiality, even transcendence of the limited structures of traditional belief systems.
Art historians don’t often expound on the “mystical” properties of mystical paintings for the same reasons that most people don’t tend to walk around in their day-to-day lives preaching wisdom gleaned from ecstatic, prophetic states. Either (1) they aren’t gleaning wisdom from ecstatic states (2) they are, but they don’t want to seem insane.
(Indeed, perhaps it is prudent to leave the cultivation of true insanity up to the artists!)
The slippery nature of transcendent experience—like the one encoded in the mysteries of the Mystic Lamb—is such that it is notoriously difficult to capture in language. Images often fare better, and so we are blessed as a species with a deep and wonderful lexicon of visual roadmaps of transcendence that rival the even the greatest esoteric texts in their cosmic profundity.
In his midcentury study Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, religious historian Mircea Eliade drew the distinction between the “cool,” outer, physical and exoteric components of ritual and the “hot,” inner, subjective component of the ritual as lived experience. While the former may be readily communicated, the latter must be directly experienced and felt.
Eliade’s distinction between the “cool” outer shell and the “hot” inner experience reminds me of a passage in Fulcanelli’s Le Mystère des Cathédrales, in which the reader’s attention is drawn to a bas-relief of the Virgin on the Grand Portico of Notre-Dame in Paris. In her right hand, she holds two books. One is openly displayed for all to read, while the other is sealed, its contents an impenetrable mystery to the uninitiated.
The Ghent Altarpiece is structured as a physical illustration of this very idea. For most of the year, except for special religious holidays, the altarpiece would have remained closed, its pseudo-architectural trompe l’œil niches barely hinting at the vivid, red-hot visual ecstasy contained within.
As an artist, I am particularly fascinated by the mysterious, generative relationship between ecstatic spiritual practice and the codification of visual forms such as the ones implied by the “hidden” geometric properties of The Adoration of the Mystic Lamb.
I am returning to this personal blog after a long hiatus in order to begin collecting thoughts for a series of public lectures that I will be giving next Spring at Seattle University’s Hedreen Gallery in conjunction with an exhibition, which will run from February 18 – April 4, 2015. The heart of this exhibition will be a radical, multimedia expansion of my lecture “How to Draw God from Direct Observation,” which was first performed in May 2014 at Portland, Oregon’s Xhurch as part of PSU’s Portland Center for Public Humanities “Visions” Series.
For the Hedreen exhibition, I will be converting the gallery into a Divine Observatory that will come to life in the context of a series of public lectures and events. This project in particular is something that has been slowly developing as an idea for many years and I’m very excited to see it come to fruition.
The details of this exhibition are still very much up in the air, however I am fairly certain that the mysteries of the Mystic Lamb will be invoked, for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear.
A few months ago, Sharon Arnold of LxWxH Gallery asked if David and I would consider contributing a piece to the June 2014 installment of the gallery’s Subscription Project, a curated box set of editioned art objects. Although this summer has been crazy busy for us (we’re currently in the studio putting the finishing touches on the new Midday Veil record!) we jumped at the opportunity to be included, especially since the box, titled Wave Length, also features artwork by Seattle multimedia artist and musician Garek J. Druss.
Since around 2010, David and I have been collaborating on multimedia installations and performances as Hair and Space Museum. We have performed a 12-hour improvisation to overnight audiences at Seattle University’s Hedreen Gallery, contributed a sound and video feedback installation to Bumbershoot 2012, and even performed at a book release party at Family Business Gallery in New York, but as of yet, we have been too busy with Midday Veil to give HSM a proper physical musical release. The LxWxH box set seemed like a great forum for creating a handmade, short run physical release that could also serve as an art object.
TEP ZEPI is an edition of ten lathe cut 7″ records featuring a 5-minute improvised composition on each side. Inspired by the Voyager 1 Golden Record, as well as a recent re-watch of the 1997 film adaptation of Carl Sagan’s Contact, we decided we wanted to make a special sculptural package for the record that contained instructions for the assembly of an object of unknown origin to accompany the musical experience.
To produce the object, I designed and executed my first ever bookbinding project: a 6-fold, fabric bound, hand silkscreened case for the record that transforms into a freestanding three-dimensional pyramid. The title TEP ZEPI, which translates as “First Time,” refers to an ancient Egyptian creation myth in which key aspects of civilization were handed to the Egyptians by visitors from space.
The Wave Length box set is currently available in an edition of 10 via LxWxH Gallery. A release party is scheduled for this evening, June 27, at Vermillion Gallery and Bar in Seattle from 6 to 9 pm.
Ambitious projects tend to make you thankful for the talents and generosity of your community, and I would like to extend our gratitude to Mike Dixon of LatheCuts.com who cut these gorgeous, amazing-sounding records for us; to Jonathan James Carr, who helped me cut out the boards for the covers; to Shaun Kardinal for giving me a refresher course in the Pen Tool while I was designing the covers; to the Vera Project’s silkscreen studio; and to Gala Bent for bookbinding and material advice.
Midday Veil has just released an epic, 12-minute video for “Great Cold of the Night,” a track from our upcoming album THE CURRENT, produced by Randall Dunn. Directed by visual artist Steven Miller, the video begins at a performance and culminates with human sacrifice, an alchemical transformation, and last but not least, a cake orgy.
Read an indepth interview about the video with director Steven Miller and myself from Redefine Magazine here.
THE CURRENT, featuring album art by Robert Beatty, will be released this spring on LP, CD and as a limited edition, tour-only cassette via Translinguistic Other. (Preorder here.) A string of US dates has been confirmed for March and April, including appearances at SXSW, 35 Denton in Denton, TX, and LA Psych Fest, and a European tour is currently being booked for Fall 2013 with Expo ’70.
Full tour dates below. See you soon!
Midday Veil Spring 2013 US Tour Dates
2/28 Chop Suey, Seattle, WA
3/09 35 Denton, Dan’s Silverleaf, Denton, TX
3/11 Invasion Festival, The Crown and Harp, Dallas, TX
3/13 Official SXSW Showcase, The Hideout, Austin, TX
3/14 Austin Psych Fest’s LEVITATION, Austin, TX
3/14 Holodeck Records Party, Austin, TX
3/15 Sahara Lounge, Austin, TX
3/16 Redefine Magazine’s FEEL YOU, House of Commons, Austin, TX
3/18 Guestroom Records, Oklahoma City, OK *
3/18 Stash, Norman, OK
3/19 FOKL Center, Kansas City, KS *
3/20 Situations, Chicago, IL
3/21 4329 Kirby Ave, Cincinnati, OH
3/22 Kung Fu Necktie, Philadelphia, PA #
3/23 PA’s Lounge, Cambridge, MA #
3/24 Silent Barn, Brooklyn, NY #
3/25 Cake Shop, New York, NY #
3/26 Ace of Cups, Columbus, OH
3/27 Radio Radio, Indianapolis, IN *
3/28 Eronel, Dubuque, IA *
3/29 Side Door Lounge, Omaha, NE *
3/30 Mouth House, Denver, CO *
4/05 Gem and Bolt, Oakland, CA †
4/06 Tin Can Ale House, San Diego, CA †
4/07 LA Psych Fest, Bootleg Theater, Los Angeles, CA †
4/08 The Knockout, San Francisco, CA †
4/09 The Works, Eureka, CA †
4/10 East End, Portland, OR †
* with Expo ’70
# with Ghost Box Orchestra
† with Brain Fruit
I’m exceedingly proud to announce that Translinguistic Other Records will be releasing Vastness and the Inverse, the new LP from Seattle dark noise/drone architects A STORY OF RATS this month.
A Story of Rats began as the the solo musical project of visual and sound artist Garek J. Druss, who also plays in Seattle-based duo Dull Knife and Portland-based TECUMSEH and Atriarch, as well as multimedia ensemble Saint Genet. Garek’s investigative work blurs the lines between sound and gesture, tangibility and time. The current lineup of ASOR also includes Andrew Crawshaw (Terminal Fuzz Terror, Broken Press) and D. Salo (Joy Wants Eternity, Saint Genet).
In 2011, our friends at Eiderdown Records released ASOR’s first LP, Thought Forms. Their second full-length, Vastness and the Inverse, will be entombed on 33RPM vinyl (limited to 300 copies) and offered up for consumption by Translinguistic Other with an official street date of March 4. Its haunting artwork was created by Druss and hand printed by Broken Press, and the record itself was recorded & mixed by Wolvserpent’s Blake Green in Seattle, WA, and mastered for vinyl by the inimitable James Plotkin. The LP comes with a download which features a bonus track, a reinterpretation of Side A’s side long dirge “Her Teeth are Nil,” remixed by Tristan Shone (Author & Punisher).
The record is available for presale now via TLO Records. An LP release show is scheduled for Thursday, February 28 at Chop Suey in Seattle with Midday Veil, Great Falls and Hekate.
A string of dates with Of The Wand and The Moon (Denmark) + King Dude have also been confirmed for late March/early April:
Tues 3/26 – Seattle, WA – The Comet
Wed 3/27 – Portland, OR – Mississippi Studios
Fri 3/29 – San Francisco, CA -The Chapel
Sat 3/30 – Santa Cruz, CA – Catalyst Atrium
Sun 3/31 – Los Angeles, CA – The Echo
Mon 4/1 – San Diego – The Casbah
Tues 4/2 – Sacramento, CA – TBA