I am an unconscious artist, an automatic writer, and I completely idolize the Surrealists, Dadaists, and Situationists.
I let them all collectively dictate my creative force, my daily routine. That’s how my artistic life started, by me letting my life fall completely into the hands of the subconscious, into symbols and the Avant Garde.
I draw, I paint, I write, but I never do it purposefully; when I sketch I close my eyes, and I slowly eliminate each thought in my head to diminish my ego. Then, when I’m stripped of thought, I raise my hands and allow them to scribble however they see fit. The way I write is a little different though. I live in a decent sized town, and there are always people on the streets going somewhere—they’re my inspiration. I wander the town until someone catches my eye, sometimes it’s because of their clothing, sometimes it’s their hair, makeup, and sometimes it’s because I find attraction in them. Other times it’s because I find them ugly as sin. No matter what the reason is, when they catch my eye, I go into a trance and follow them. I stay behind and just watch them through their day to day until either they leave to a place I know I can’t enter or I just lose interest. Then I take out my journal embellish about what I have witnessed.
None of this is ever quite interesting, so I completely makeup backstories, encounters, motivations, until I get a little story going on. Once I saw a medium-build man in a beaten up military jacket with a short haircut and a leather book bag. I followed him for what must have been hours under the cloudy sky. We went through wet alleyways, dirty backstreets, sidewalks towered over by rundown empty houses. The only time he stopped was at a little green park in between a few rows of houses and a handful of stores. He sat on a dirty metal bench and pulled a book from his bag. I hadn’t realized how tired I was from all the walking until I stopped, standing above him breathing heavily my eyes locked onto the cover of his novel. Aleister Crowley’s Moonchild was written on the front with a black and white picture of a full moon between the author ‘s and novel’s title.
Not once during the entire walk had he turned around to face me, and now as I stood above him, he just sat there, as if I was completely nonexistent. I finally sat on the bench across from him and continued to stare for I don’t know how long until, like my mouth was possessed by another man, I asked what he was reading. He looked up from his book with a dullard look of confusion, as though he really didn’t realize I was there until I spoke.
He asked, “Are you a reader?”
“Sometimes, I like to write,” I responded.
His eyes brightened up and his entire demeanor changed, as he began spouting out “It’s called Moonchild, It’s by Crowley. He was a twentieth-century occultist who invented the idea of modern occult thought, and this story is about an occultist who tries to find the ‘scarlet woman,’ someone who will be impregnated with the moonchild after she goes through a spiritual journey into the black and white lodges, two alternate dimensions of good and evil spirits.”
He continued on and on with things that were borderline nonsensical to me, speaking how Crowley tried to turn the book into reality and how it involved L. Ron Hubbard, which led into another tangent about his hatred for Hubbard and Scientology. After an undeniably boring diatribe about all this he finally paused, and told me his name was “Fredrick,” and I exchanged my name back.
After having a conversation about my interests in art and his (it was a happy surprise to find out it was quite similar), I asked him where he got that book he gleefully guided me to a homey little used book store only a few blocks from the park. Upon entering, he explained how he works here because his uncle owns it. “We pretty much only have old ass books no one besides nerds and weirdos would wanna read.” This began a friendship where we’d meet again at that bookshop.
There we would meet up, sometimes get something to eat, drink, and talk about the authors and artists we loved. Sometimes at the park, other times in the book shop, out in a café, restaurant, etc. Eventually we started to share and collaborate on our art together, sketching, painting, and playing art games like Exquisite Cadaver together in the basement of the bookstore, which we transformed into a little studio and covered with our art and prints from our favorite artists on the walls. I remember how we picked out a print of André Masson’s Achéphale to be the centerpiece of the room, as it so clearly represented our budding artistic ideologies. We started to build up quite a portfolio of work, but never with a place to display it.
One day we were conversing over coffee in our studio when I noticed Fredrick was acting agitated.
“If you could make money off of what we’re doing would you?”
I sat there and contemplated exactly what he was expecting of me. “No, I’d never” I finally responded, “Neither would I—it’s against everything we’re dedicated to, but wouldn’t you want people to see what we’ve made?”
He fell silent for a minute, “If we could have our art be seen then we could help influence people into creating stuff we enjoy.”
“It doesn’t matter, it’s not like there’s anyone who would go out of their way to see our stuff in the first place”
As we continued to work, I noticed Fredrick retreating more and more from the kind of work we’d been making. He became much more interested in performance art as well as political protest. One day he brought a camera, lights, and a black sheet he hung in front of a wall, he took his shirt off and coated his face and chest in white oil paint, made a few faces and asked me to photograph him. It was never said what he was going to do with the photos, or any of our work for that matter, but the days following the shoot I saw them printed onto posters and hung-up all-over town, dark, black and white, high contrast pictures of Fredrick’s dull face pale as a corpse. I never brought this up to him, though.
“I want to know you’re completely dedicated to what we’re doing,” he said to me as I went down the creaky stairs into our dirty studio.
“What do you mean?”
“I want you to tattoo Achéphale on your chest with me—it’ll bring real physicality to all we’ve done and all our ideals.”
What else was there to do besides agree? I had no care for the appearance of my body, so I let him poorly stick and poke the big perverted Vitruvian Man across my body on the dirty basement floor, and when he was finished, I did the same to him, each in our own amateur style. Shirtless and tired, we stared at the marks we left upon each other’s bodies until he grabbed a tube of white oil paint, squeezed a glob out onto his head then coated his and my face in it. It felt like wearing a mask, as though we were the starkest, we’d ever been while still completely impervious to shame because of our hidden faces.
A few weeks passed after the tattooing without any word from Fredrick, until one day he called me to meet him at a supermarket by near his house. When I arrived, I saw a couple people gathered around a queer little setup in the parking lot. There were traffic cones painted white scattered randomly in between two little plywood rooms with a curtain draped over one side, Fredrick emerged from one of these little rooms and beckoned me toward him. Inside he instructed me to strip into nothing but a plain white pair of boxers he brought, which I did without second thought. He then grabbed a handful of plaster from a crude, unmarked white bucket and coated my entire face with it except my mouth, forcing me to breathe from my mouth.
He told me: “Wait here until you feel necessary to walk out, and then just walk about—don’t think about what you’re doing, just let your body guide you, and I’ll do the same.”
I humbly agreed as he left into the other room. By the time we both left the makeshift closets and began mindlessly groping our way through this dumb course he made there was a decent sized crowd had gathered around us. In the darkness of the plaster, I could hear booing and swears toward us, people saying how ‘gross’ it all was, but we kept going. Wandering, groping, crawling, our way around completely unmotivated by human will. We were at the mercy of the universe.
Zachary Martinez is a writer and student at Clovis Community College of Clovis, New Mexico.