One year ago on the eclipse I started to write my goals in a brand new orange journal. I wrote them over each other so I wouldn’t look back and obsess over what had come to fruition and what hadn’t. I had been thinking about William S. Burroughs and his struggle with the death of Joan and this quote:
I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would never have become a writer but for Joan’s death, and to a realization of the extent to which this event has motivated and formulated my writing. I live with the constant threat of possession, from Control. So the death of Joan brought me in contact with the invader, the Ugly Spirit, and manoeuvred me into a lifelong struggle, in which I have had no choice except to write my way out.
I have to remember where this second quote came from but believe it was from one of his lectures. someone asked what he would do if he was stuck on a desert island. He simply replied he’d write his way out. He’d write about his rescue and change the narrative. I believe that words have power. Incantation and song are magical acts within themselves. Books and characters can become Egregores the more they are read, passed around, talked about, and taken in. And there are plenty of people who say they got to where they are by writing their goals every day. In this act the goal sticks with you and imbeds itself into your subconscious influencing and directing your daily movements. I played around with a few versions of this and layered the writing over each other. And then one day during the next eclipse period I looked at the pages and felt they needed another layer. Brion Gysin had said that writing was 50 years behind painting. I thought about deconstructing the journal in a different way. Adding a layer and stripping away.
I began thinking about Rorschach and his ink blot tests. I have friends that are analysts with their offices decorated in them. I found them fascinating. There’s so much to be seen in an ink blot or image which reminded me of the way the television and film industry use camera and sound design to create images that aren’t there. In a Motherboard article a few years ago I discussed this with my friend Daniel Knauf creator of Carnivale.
He explained the best kind of terror is produced by tension, which can be created through a sustained static shot, holding longer than a shot normally holds, demanding the audience see something.
A classic example of this would be to look at the way Robert Wise executed it in The Haunting. He shows almost nothing in the movie; it's all tone.
"You see deeply carved wooden doors, and he's using sound design to convey something is there. The audience automatically assumes they are supposed to see something, so they start to see it," Knauf said. "We are pattern-recognizing creatures, so even though nothing is happening, you are going to make out faces through the shadow and light.”
"In Carnivàle, I did a similar effect. We had a paralyzed individual, Father Balthus, lying in bed," Knauf continued. "He's staring at a stain on the ceiling. Brother Justin is in the room above him, and he's having violent sex with a maid. The sounds become descriptive, growling and keening whines, babies crying and other disturbing sounds going on, which is a function of sound design. We did a slow push on the stain on the ceiling, allowing the audience to conjure their own images. Later, people online were saying there were demonic faces in there."
The same could be said of Rorschach and the ink blots. As pattern recognizing creatures we are bound to see something within the ink. Rorschach, a Swiss psychiatrist published his book Psychodiagnostik in 1921, in it contained 10 ink blots. His initial use for them was to diagnose schizophrenia but after his death, numerous grading systems emerged making it a widely used personality and psychological test. The ink blots were black, grey and some had bits of color. They could be held any way and interpreted in any way including just focusing on certain parts of the blot. The test was judged by the way the subject answered. If the subject gave common answers, how long they took, how in depth their answers were, originality, and any extra content. I found it fascinating. What if we added extra layers to our writing or art by adding these blots and allowing ourselves and others to analyze what they see. In an NPR article Damien Searls author of Inkblots says, "His dad was a drawing teacher and he was a very visual person."
Over the years the Rorschach test has been criticized especially during the 50s and 60s for no standardized procedures and scoring. In the 70s John Exner created a scoring system that is now used as the standard approach. These days the test is mainly used in psychotherapy but more as tool to obtain information on how a person thinks or processes information. While still used there is debate on the validity on the test, some referring to it as pseudoscience. Despite this there is the argument that it is useful in identifying thought disorders. In an article by National Geographic they stated Rorschach believed someone could be analyzed or diagnosed by how they processed visual information.
As a magical tool they can add another layer for interpretation or even divination through what can be seen within the image. I start with the writing and that creates a form of it’s own. It isn’t linear and can change throughout the process. Then I add the first layer of ink blots. I say they are Rorschachesque because they layers don’t always follow the ink blot method. Sometimes they take on another life.
Feel free to try your own techniques. I used Kuretake Gansai Tambi Watercolors, cheap white acrylic paint, and my journal. The dampness will seep into the pages so know that whatever you create may change form after a few different inkblots. If you want something more sustainable use watercolor paper.