Art, science, magic, religion, and philosophy were once a single quest to make sense. It was only with the advent of the modern age that this holistic mission became divided into distinct disciplines, each with its own ways of thinking and doing. In turn, each discipline begat its various specialisms and sub-specialties. And, while this narrowing and sharpening of focus allows for deeper penetration into the subsoil of all we do not know or cannot yet express, it also isolates each purview drawing horizons closer the deeper it drills down. Meanwhile, each scion inherits their practices and ways of thinking from what has gone before, refining and building on them a kind of cognitive performance; rituals of the mind that anchor them to what is understood amid the endless tracts of what is not.
For the Australian artist Joseph Häxan it is the allure of that vast unknown that beguiles his imagination. He draws not on any one branch of knowledge but on the primeval abyss of the occult. Taking his own body as a kind of sorcerer’s familiar, he undertakes rituals that combine mysticism and modern technology, embodying the personal and the cosmic, the esoteric and the erotic. It is a kind of performance approached at a tangent. Rather than conceiving an idea or character and expressing it physically, he uses his body to bring forth new ideas and feelings. Like ritual, it is a process that relies on pattern and repetition, but these patterns are not an encoding of what is known or believed but rather a mantra whispered into the darkness to discover what echo or response might come.
These unorthodox images arise at the intersection of ancient and modern, proficiency and uncertainty. A skilled compositor and fan of genre fiction, Joseph Häxan is a child of his generation, but his eyes peer back into the mists of time, his skin seeks the caress of the unknowable, his psyche opens to the darkness of the abyss. Just as psychologists describe that which is not like us as ‘the other’, so he seeks to enter that ‘other’ world which is no longer ours, his body bared at the behest of unfettered imagination. And just as the psychological phenomenon of ‘the other’ defines the self as real by being perceived as separate from it, so these other worlds become a black mirror in which the artist perceives an extended sense of his own reality.
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