The Poison Garden: A Sorcery Handbook

“The Poison Garden” is a collaborative arts project uniting the visual work of Brussels-based artist Sean Crossley and the writing of Melbourne-based philosopher Beau Deurwaarder. Over its two-year lifespan, the efforts from a series of international residencies, conference presentations, exhibitions, publications, and strange experiments will be compiled into a conceptual handbook of sorcerous instruction. Anchored by a methodology of research and practice, this collaboration will permit a conceptual reimagination of the figure of the sorcerer and sorcerous practice, without recourse to conventional occult motifs or naive appropriations of witchcraft, mysticism, or magic. For us, the practice of sorcery is the careful procedure of the manipulation of forces, the directing of an alliance between incompatible elements, bound by strict pragmatic techniques. The promise of sorcery is the abstract enforcement that assures at once integration and interference: the jeopardy of security, knowledge, and actions, in the name of an anonymous pasture in thought. In whatever form it takes, the sorcerous performance experiments with accursed economies of capacity and consequence, captured exclusively by the efficacy of its ceremony. The excessive and the untimely animate the conductivity of this procedure, conjuring associations with the impossible from within the very boundaries of the possible. Implausibly, the practice of sorcery shifts the coordinates of plausibility that bind the framework of measured, habitual membership, and ordain the sorcerer to the peripheries of thought, in order for the potency of their curse to cast purchase.

This pledge to the material site of the anomalous interrogates and infiltrates the collective parameters of our work. Our collaboration operates as a discreet demonstration of the imbalanced and combatant forces immanent to the production of its presentation. What we are pursuing within our joint practice is a procedure that licences unnatural participation to take place: a spell bound by philosophical and aesthetic experiments as both an execution and an exorcism of their incantation.

This venture was born from a theoretical fascination with the “Memories of a Sorcerer” passages in A Thousand Plateaus and a collaborative desire to experiment with the instruction these short passages summon. Following a collaborative publication and exhibition in Brussels last year, we have committed the next two years of work to inhabiting this conceptual terrain in order to consider how heterogeneous models can be affiliated in pursuit of unchartered domains of practice. 

At “The Dark Precursor,” we will co-present a scholarly paper detailing the experimental procedure we have devised for our theoretical incantation to take hold. To do so, we will evaluate Deleuze and Guattari’s sorcerous visions alongside those of Georges Bataille, Alain Badiou, and Isabelle Stengers, as well as against the material forces that operate within our own practice. Our presentation will showcase a constellation of new work that will at once embody and interrogate the accursed conditions under analysis, in a format designed to surrender its facility to the fidelity of sorcerous contamination.