8 January 2011

Some slightly incoherent thoughts on Witch House.

Notes on Witch House and a new cultural relativism.

Cosmotropia de Xam
After Hickery proclaimed the demise of postmodernism in 2007 a new relativism has taken centre stage in the West’s culture industries; its roots simultaneous stretching back through history and forward into technological possibility.  This new hauntalogical relativism; a less destructive and infinitely more exciting version of its predecessor; has utilised familiar notions of representation and reimagination to explore and develop conceptually worthy trans-disciplinary trends. Indeed cultural producers’ turn to trans-disciplinary enquiry and modes of production has in itself become both prevailing trend and defining character of this new philosophy.
Nothing better exemplifies this new paradigm than the geographical disparate musical genre that some are calling “Witch House” (also known as “Drag”, “Haunted House” and presumably a few more). This creature has spilled out of a more recent trend of Hypnagogic Pop, that is to say music that:
“[is] primarily a process, a set of tools for interrorgating memory and liberating desire, one that allowed the often hermetic world of underground music to enter into a fantasy dialogue with with consensual memory modes, exploring and often exaggerating the subconscious aspects of late 20th century cultural dreamtime.”
- D Keenan, “Wake Up Call”, pp 43, in The Wire, issue 323, January 2011
However what marks Witch House out from other members of the hypnagogic phenomenon is its more than just a sonic construction; just like punk in the early 1970s was. Witch House is a complete package of cultural production. Its sounds are echoed by its visuals which are echoed by its writings and use of symbols. 
Mater Suspiria Vision working with Cosmotropia de Xam’s video “Holy beast of Bethlehem” exhibits these trans-disciplinary traits perfectly. Notice the use of inverted triangles throughout the piece; a symbol that repeatedly appears throughout Witch House. 

What makes Witch House particularly interesting is that successful way in which it engages with issues and trends from outside of music. In art magazine the past six months has seen a rise in articles exploring the use of spirituality in art and the role of religiosity. The problem with these explorations is they on the whole failed to acknoledge the “play” with these issues in other mediums of cultural production. Witch House as a movement both visually and sonically engage with cultures religiosity and spirituality by both engaging with the ethereal as a visual metaphor for our interaction with our cultural past and through the use of corrupted Christian semiotics. When engaging with witch house material you are both conscious and unconsciously exploring a definition of culture and question your individual as well as society as a whole’s interaction with it.  
“...I don't know if it can be called a 'scene' in the traditional sense of the word, but it seems like there's definitely a growing group of people making aesthetically similar music that people they've never met are calling 'drag'.”
Christopher Dexter Greenspan, who records as oOoOO, speaking to Pitchfork
The interesting thing to note in Greenspan’s quote is his use of the word “aesthetics”, deliberately picked over the usual choice of music related terminology. What he insinuates quite plainly is that Drag artists (as he refers to it) acknowledge that what they do is more than make music; they engage with culture and particularly our memory of it, through multiple disciplines both simultaneously and separately.
Perhaps what we are engaging with is not another musical genre but something more, one of the first cultural genre; something truly hauntalogical; an example of how practitioners (for the term artist along with musician seems obsolete in a new world of trans-disciplinary thought) are beginning to work in new ways; a methodology liberated by technological advancement and free and limitless connectivity via the internet. Perhaps this really is the cusp of the new.  

1 comment:

  1. nice. I wouldn't give witch-house such a prolific statement within culture myself, but it certainly is the final rounding point of the 'youth against christ' movement and the much loved 'upside-down cross'. the mayans wrote in triangles.