Cut-Up & Collage in Magic
by Dave Lee
I've been making collages from newscuttings and magazine pictures for some years. What started out as an amusement I came to realise was a fascinating and powerful magical tool. The first collage I made was made for fun it was a kind of advert for Chaos Magic. It incorparated for reasons I don't remember or never made conscious a newsclipping of Jim and Tammy Bakker, the American evangelists, with the words 'pleased about buggings' around them. The week that I first photocopied the collage it was announced on the news that they had been caught up in some corruption scandal. This was my first hint that collage could be a magical method, even when not consciously applied for magical results.
After this, I began to experiment with deliberate collage magic. The next one I made was part of a magical working involving a number of other people, and we got a positive result. However, it could have been the other work that was done that connected with the result. I had a feeling that the collage in itself would have failed, for the following reason: it was too deliberate and serious, too heavy handed, compared with the lightness of touch of the earlier ones. So, I began to attempt to recapture that lightness. I found the use of advertising slogans helpful, and headlines from tabloid newspapers, because of their incredible superficiality.
An analogous technique is the use of scrapbooks. Many years ago, a magical acquaintance of mine was experimenting with the construction of scrapbooks of pictures which he wanted to be in. His scrapbooks were kept like photograph albums, like a record of a life he had already lived. He achieved a number of positive results with this simple method.
An extension of the collage technique is to use song lyrics as triggers for enchantments. A colleague of mine has developed this into a highly effective sorcery technique. It involves choosing a line from a pop song which represents her intent, then hiding the intention by typing out another line from the same song. This line is introduced into letters and collages which are sent to other people. If the recipient knows the song lyrics, the song will start playing in his head, including the key line. There are other levels of subtlety to this procedure which can be added according to the ingenuity of the operator.
Moving on to sound cut up, I shall let the master himself introduce the techniques. William S Burroughs has released an album called Breakthrough in Grey Room, which contains examples of numerous styles of audio cut up. Without the benefit on the page of playing these samples, I shall give a brief list:
1. The intercutting ('drop in technique') of two voices. In this instance, Burroughs and his lover Ian Sommerville make the tape together. This is an example of the kind of cut up that can be used to forge a bond between two people, such as a love spell (if you are unwise enough to perform such an inevitably disastrous operation!).
2. Present time exercise: Burroughs reads out a spontaneous description of what he is experiencing at that moment. This tape is then an island in time, which forms the basis for: a) time travel experiments, evoking precise nostalgias of time and place and b) 'dislocation in time' enchantments. In this technique, recordings are made of the target place, then further recordings are made at later dates. Intercutting the different recodings produces a sense of dislocation in time, which Burroughs claims to have used in various successful curses. An example of how such a tape might be used is given in Burroughs's novel Cities of the Red Night. Clem Snide the Private Asshole is investigating the disappearance of a boy. He goes to the boy's last apartment, and, whilst spinning the tape randomly back and forth, records ambient sounds doors shutting, taps, toilet flushing and so on. He thereby creates a sound picture of the boy's environment. He takes this home and uses it as a background to an act of sex magic aimed to find the boy.
3. Breaking words down into chaotic sound: the repeated use of cut up and overlay on a tape, or the use of a reel to reel machine to 'inch' the tape back and forth across the heads, can produce a complete destruction of the original words. The words are triturated out of existence. Sounds like animal voices, machine noises and so on can result. In my experience, high levels of distortion can produce a similar kind of alienness and destruction of subjectivity. Such tapes can be used for attaining bizarre gnoses for deep trance work.
A variant of these techniques is to employ a fast channel changer on a TV to produce a random picture for divination. I was staying with a friend who had a remote control that would cycle rapidly through the channels whilst the screen remained blank. I focussed on my question, then hit the 'stop' button. The resultant TV sequence proved to be a perfect answer to my question.
The power of cut ups and collages is a subtle, personal art that must be experienced to be appreciated. Try it!