A few years ago, a group of activists from the Anarchist anti-racist, anti-statist network No Border decided they wanted to close down the Rhein Mann region airport in Frankfurt, Germany. They did this by starting a social media rumour that thousands of activists were going to descend on the airport in protest at Lufthansa airlines using their planes to deport people deemed to be “illegal”. The power of the rumour alone was enough to get those in authority in a panic. They locked down the airport, defined by protestors as “the border within” and the activists achieved what they set out to do without actually doing anything. This was my first experience of the magickal use of information – the digital becoming real and affecting change; fiction becoming fact.
The activists then stepped out from behind the screen and set up a border camp; pitching tents to create a multi-layered protest space in order to make the invisible border of state control visible. Another example of the virtual becoming real, and a deliberate revelation of those hidden physical spaces and invisible power flows that define our lives: the officers and offices that make the decisions to remove people are in our streets, the internment camps are deliberately placed where few can see them – resistant, carnivalesque border camps make these highly visible, they cannot be ignored. Prior to this, activists had carried out a “virtual sit-in” denial of service attack at Lufthansa’s website and distributed printed material which mutated the corporate PR message to emphasise the horrific conditions that people were being subject to: grabbed in the middle of the night, bundled into police vans, tied into airline seats and vanished off to interzone. When the police intervened, the activists vanished from where they came from – the autonomous spaces of Germany and the rural networks of Central and Eastern Europe. Almost to a letter they followed William S. Burroughs famous dictum of 1. Disrupt 2. Attack 3. Disappear. They also used Burroughs riot feedback loops to get the results they wanted.
For me, there’s something about this form of politics – a cultural politics that intervenes in both the physical and virtual spheres – that is highly magickal. Think about it – we have the manipulation of symbols (sigilisation of corporate logos), ritualistic frameworks (often in the camps themselves people use drums, make-up, costume and voices to subvert the space) and strong intention underpinning this along with the raising of energy which is discharged into the heart of the machine.
Just as importantly, there’s an almost cybernetic flow between culture, civil society and the body. The body is putting itself in the way of the information flow along with other bodies. Something that Italian activists Tute Bianchi were writing about a decade ago and which manifested itself in the White Overalls Movement – individuals joined together and padded their bodies to create lines of offence (bodies without organs) that could break through police lines during demonstrations in Genoa. This relied heavily on journalists reporting events and acting as a vortex or gateway to the (indy)media landscape – a virtual/real feedback loop that kept many (but not all) protesters safe.
On 16-12-2009 I am outside the Bella Centre in Copenhagen at the Reclaim Power Demonstration. We are surrounded by tooled up riot police, standing inches away from us. It is silent apart from bursts of radio which send out crackles and sparks of language-virus. An Italian rasta-punk starts chanting “OM” and thirty of us join him. We turn the OM into a continual drone standing stock still, directly facing the police, looking into their eyes, only moving when we breathe in. The Insurgent Rebel Clown Army run up and down between us waving feather dusters and eating bananas – dancing on the boundary of freedom and force. There is no aggression or confrontation from us, but the OM is definitely a resistance. The police are visibly unsettled, they are unsure how to deal with this one, it’s not in the public order vocabulary. We carry on for about 30 minutes, harmonising and drifting, the situation de-escalates, they relax and begin to smile, they then back off. No-one is hurt. Today.
These political interventions arise from sorcerer-activists (those who improvise symbolic actions, create protective circles/rituals and immanent organisational networks but who also remain on the outside of mainstream discourse – shamanic shit-kickers if you will). Julian has already written about the temporary autonomous zone and “the changing concepts and use of space in modern magic” in the “Two Worlds and In-between” chapter of Magick Works. This chapter name-checks Hakim Bey, S.L. MacGregor Mathers, Li’l Al Crowley, Doreen Valiente, Pope Pete Carroll, Starhawk, Cabalistic sorcery, (z)-cluster and the Temple of Psychick Youth in an exploration of the boundaried limits of liminal space. However, in my magickal and political practice I am equally interested in Matt Lee‘s notion of the sorcerer-activist as a borderline or “continuously changing series of edges”. Here, communication is a form of contagion, infection or mutation of multiplicities – borderlines are “the constant critical areas of becoming” with the borderline edge serving as a reminder that there is another place that exists in memory: another world is possible.
Things have not always been this way, things will not always be this way. The autonomous zone/space then serves as one form of borderline – a critical becoming that enables a way of escaping bodily limitation through the desire (or intent) for a different world. It’s in this resistant desire that the playfulness, hope and humour of magickal-politics emerges. Shaun Frente discusses this in Generation Hex in the planning of a mass-party-as-spell which involved “parties within parties within the party…we leaked out rumors of a made-up drug that was floating around the party (actually dandelion root capsules)…when the police came to raid the affair (we knew they would), we passed out flyers informing the crowd that the cops were a simulation, but that any resistance might meet with a simulated arrest indistuinguishable from the real thing…” (p.175)
So, next time you cast a circle for ritual, remember that what’s also happening is an expression of psychic autonomy, something that Antonio Negri would call assigning and creating your own value and then defending those values from capitalism. The ritual space then is an “opportunity to withdraw from exchange value,” a brief experience of use value and an expression of mutual aid and “independent productive force”. Spaces free from hierarchy (if wanted), spaces that block capital, connect histories and enable organisation and spaces of hope, play and resistance.
Use your magick to bite back at everything that ires you. Use your magick to bring the world you’d like to see into being.
William S Burroughs – The Wild Boys
Matt Lee – Memories of a Sorcerer
Jason Louv (Ed) – Generation Hex
Antonio Negri- Books For Burning: Between Civil War and Democracy in 1970s Italy