Chaos magic

AA Bronson selects abstract ceremonial painter Elijah Burgher
Art | 12 October 2014
This article is part of Young Art Week – Defining a generation

Above: Elijah Burgher ‘6 Organs ritual’ 2013. Courtesy the artist

Welcome to HERO Young Art Week – our essential, multifaceted guide to the new wave of creatives working at the vanguard of contemporary art today. Across a dynamic week of digital content, we’re exploring what’s happening at the epicentre of this global community: from the ground up, the artists themselves and the key figures witnessing the evolution of the ideas, trends and movements defining this art generation.

Founding member of the legendary art collective General Idea and infamous for his early involvement in punk, AIDS activism and manifestations of ‘other’, AA Bronson is one of the most revered and radical artists living today. Bronson’s work in the art publishing field saw him found the Printed Matter NY and LA Art Book Fairs whilst director of Printed Matter between 2004 and 2010 playing an integral role in the rise of the print medium as an accessible and innovative communication channel for young artists today. AA Bronson currently lives and works in Berlin. 

While speaking to AA Bronson for our interview, we asked the prolific creative to select the artists he feels are making waves with their work in the world, and to ask them one question.

“My work as an artist is rather difficult to define,” reflects Bronson. “I love to collaborate with friends of various generations, and I love to include my friends in my ‘solo’ exhibitions. The artists listed below are all people that I included in my exhibition The Temptation of AA Bronson at Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam, and or AA Bronson’s HOUSE OF SHAME at the Gwangju Biennale in South Korea, up right now. Generally speaking, these projects combine sexuality, spirituality and community, both queer and not.”

AA Bronson selects Elijah Burgher

“Elijah Burgher is a painter who I have included in both The Temptation of AA Bronson and AA Bronson’s House of Shame at the Gwangju Biennale. His process comes out of European ceremonial magic, and in particular uses the sigil technique of Austin Osman Spare, now standard in Chaos Magic. Each painting involves a private ritual that results in the painting, usually  executed on a canvas drop cloth, on which Eilijah sits, naked, throughout the painting ritual. In my opinion Elijah is re-navigating abstract painting, bringing it onto contemporary shores. He was included in the most recent Whitney Biennial. He is also known for his drawings which document his queer ritual life. Elijah has collaborated with me in numerous performances.”

Elijah Burgher ‘BotD 47’ 2014. Courtesy the artist

“When you look into a mirror, what do you see?” – AA Bronson

Elijah Burgher: I am looking in the mirror in my studio. It measures about three feet, and is propped against the wall beside one of the tables I use for drawing. I can make out dust and traces of semen on its surface. I am wearing my studio clothes, a t-shirt on which I’ve painted symbols and a pair of dark grey sweatpants, no shoes or socks. I need a haircut and a shave. I’ve been remiss about both because I’m enjoying both the new crop of grey I’ve noticed at my temples and that my beard is less patchy–although I’m still far from able to grow an actual beard. People have related to me as a boy well into my adulthood, probably because of my height and features, so I relish any physical signs of manliness that appear with age. I am looking hard at my face in the mirror and notice that I furrow my brow and frown when I examine something with any seriousness or intensity, and wonder if my students think I am grumpy or mean. I must wear it often in class. Behind me are five shelves packed with the books I prefer to have around me while I work, the top shelf reserved for ones I am currently reading or planning on doing so soon. Two books on Forrest Bess, Mircea Eliade’s Shamanism, a couple of titles by Victor Turner, Semiotext(e)’s deluxe reprint of Schizo-Culture, Samuel Delaney’s latest novel, and a survey of tapestries currently occupy that space. I’d love to open any one of them right now but I want to finish a large painting and start an ink drawing this afternoon. For the latter, I plan on drawing groups of naked boys loitering in a forest of symbols, and channelling medieval tapestries and Martin of Holland. Another glance at the mirror, per AA’s question. I flex my bicep as a gesture of ironic vanity, want to muster a laugh. Instead, I wonder if my muscles have atrophied since taking a break from weightlifting due to problems with in my left rotator cuff. Wrong path, I’d prefer to daydream about those boys in the woods.

Check out Elijah Burgher’s Tumblr here and more of his work here

Stay tuned for more HERO Young Art Week content in the coming days and plug into our social media platforms for updates as they come.


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