Pictureplane's new album, Technomancer, is out today on Anticon, and it's no coincidence that the 11-track collection of vocal-driven dark wave and synthpop is dropping on Halloween weekend. The New York-based DJ and producer—who also designs a sick clothing line called Alien Body—harbors an interest in the occult that runs deep; "technomancer" is a sci-fi term for technology-related magical abilities, and Pictureplane, real name Travis Egedy, even helped coin the term "witch house" back in a 2012 interview with Pitchfork about Dark Rift, an album about the astrological significance of the year 2012.
So when Egedy told us recently that Technomancer was greatly influenced by the contemporary anarchist theorist and poet Hakim Bey—whose 1991 book, Temporary Autonomous Zones (T.A.Z.), has become a crucial manifesto everywhere from leftist intellectual circles to the Occupy Movement—we jumped on the chance to learn more. Here, Egedy explains how the T.A.Z. can help you release yourself from the mechanisms of control imposed by society, and shares a special Halloween spell for using black magic to hex evil corporations.
Hakim Bey's T.A.Z. has been extremely influential to my whole artistic identity and career. I first discovered the text when I was in art school, and it helped change the way I was viewing the world at the time. I've always considered that book to be this alchemical text that can brainwash you in a good way. It's like a de-conditioning agent to shed off the conditioning that society imposes on you your whole life. I'm talking about the rules of society that you don't question in your youth, conditioning that you don't even noticing. Something like the T.A.Z. cleanses you a little bit. The whole text is about freedom, really.
The Temporary Autonomous Zone is a place where there is no laws. It is total freedom for a finite amount of time. That idea has been really influential in how I live my life—I just want to create these autonomous zones wherever I go, whether it's at a Pictureplane show, or just my house. There are no rules for how to go about this, and at a show, ideally it should be completely spontaneous. If you're trying to set guidelines for a space where there aren't supposed to be any, it doesn't work. It should be a completely natural and organic process.
In fact, T.A.Z. is often cited in reference to rave culture, because a rave is an autonomous zone. The T.A.Z. was actually written in the mid-to late-80s, when rave culture was first starting, so it was very much of the time. It calls for a new revolution, and raving and ecstasy culture was the second revolution of the world after the 60s. It doesn't get as much credit in the mainstream, but I think rave culture totally was revolutionary. In England and all over Europe, there would be hundreds of thousands of people just dancing on pure ecstasy. It freaked out the authorities to see that: thousands of people gathering together with total liberation from social constraints. That's probably why authorities cracked down. That's scary to the status quo.
The "Special Halloween Communique: Black Magic as Revolutionary Action" passage of the T.A.Z. is a spell, a hex on corporations. It gives a little recipe: Dried scorpions, graveyard dirt… it's pretty brutal. I doubt many people have done this, you might even get arrested, but it's more of a symbolic text.
There's this idea of poetic terrorism—which is when you're sabotaging the true evil of the world, which are the corporate entities of pure capitalism that are destroying shit. Doing these acts of subversion against these corporations is like reclaiming terrorism—it's almost like positive terrorism. You're doing terroristic things, but helping people. I also call it shamanic violence—violence that is healing.
An esoterrorist is a poetic terrorist—someone who is doing crazy occult magic in a terroristic way. Hakim Bey is definitely an esoterrorist. He's maybe the ultimate esoterrorist—his knowledge of the occult and strange mysticism is very broad. He lived in India and the Middle East for a long time, studying sufism and smoking opium, and is really immersed in these mystical worlds.
At the same time, a spell that is black magic is violent and meant to inflict harm. It might not be physical violence, but you're manifesting pain on something or someone. Personally, I've never used black magic as a way to affect people for my own gain. If anything, my form of magic is a way of viewing the world or manipulating reality a little bit. I wouldn't say I'm a practicing magician, but art is magic. You're creating something that wasn't there before. You're changing physical reality.
My single "Riot Porn" is about watching people rioting and becoming aroused by it—supporting smashing windows, riots, and violent protest. It's so strange how taboo property damage is in our society—we're told that if you're angry and pissed off, you have to do it in a peaceful way. It's ironic when people say "dont do violence" when you're protesting extreme violence by the police and state. They severed Freddie Gray's spine—that's violence. And we're told that no violence is allowed in retaliation, or smashing a cop's window is a horrible offense. It's like somehow property is more valued than human lives. That's really offensive.
There's also another song on the album called "Death Condition" that we shot the music video for in Mexico. It was shot at this site called Plaza de las Tres Culturas—the exact site of the last battle where the Spanish defeated the Aztecs. There's a really old church and ruins of these massive pyramids there. And in 1968, there was a huge protest there of students who were protesting the Olympics, and over 300 students were gunned down by the police and Mexican military. It was super covered up, this massacre of kids. So it's a really heavy place, and extremely mysterious—they don't know who built it.
We did ketamine and I wore this weird mask and sunglasses, raving at the pyramids. My friend Eduardo shot the video. There's something special about ketamine, because of its positive effect. It opens you up. It's different from cocaine, which shuts you off. Even Hakim Bey was very Dionysian—he was about imbibing wine and hashish, letting loose, that kind of thing. We were walking around shooting this video, talking about Mexican history and the idea of Christian conquest being a terrible thing—how so much art and culture was destroyed to make way for this Christian time that we live in. "Death Condition" is an anti-capitalist song, it's about our sickness as a society, and the death trip that we're all on—consuming till infinity with no end in sight. It's the first video i've ever edited by myself, and it's in alliance with the Mexican people and indigenous people of Mexico.
Everything I do artistically has this underlying spirit of resistance and humanity overcoming the evolution of man and evolution of the self, giving power back to humanity. In the new album, the Technomancer is someone who is using technology for magical means—someone like a hacker, deconstructing the system from within. I didn't have a name for the album for a long time, and in the song, I just say "manipulate your machine, you're a technomancer." The message is: don't let your machines manipulate you; you should be in control of them.
T.A.Z. became a cult text because it's undeniable; when you read it as an artist or someone who is attracted to a different path, it's extremely inspiring and powerful. It hasn't lost any of its power since it was written in the 80s. It's like a call to arms against everything, basically— light it all on fire, burn it the fuck down. It's very angry and passionate, and I think that's why it's become such a classic. And corporations just seem to be getting even shittier and weirder, less and less freedom. The struggle to regain control is always relevant.
As told to Michelle Lhooq
Pictureplane's Technomancer is out now on Anticon. Get it here.
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