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Hidden treasures discovered while digging through Frank Moore's huge archives.

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Month: February 2019

Review of Cherotic Magic by Barbara Smith

Cover of the original photocopied edition by LaBash

Cherotic Magic by Frank Moore
by Barbara Smith, 1991

Due to complex reasons of historical conditions and need, artists from the industrialized nations of the world more or less simultaneously (late 1950’s – early 1970’s) felt a depth of experience uncontainable in ordinary and available cultural forms.  They emerged with a language of remarkable similarity – clearly felt in retrospect to be shamanic and whose purposes extended far beyond the realm of the commercialized art market.  One of these performance artists is Frank Moore who has just published an introductory manual for prospective apprentices in shamanic/art practices.  The book is also a very helpful means of access to this particular realm of performance art for the historian and student.

Moore, paradoxically a severely disabled cerebral palsied human being, who cannot clearly utter a single word is simultaneously a clear and eloquent writer about a reality-shifting form of art he calls Cherotic Magic and a spectacularly courageous, ecstatic journeyer and practitioner of shamanic transformational art.

Reversing the ideas of normal causality, his book guides one towards powerful experiences of re-integration into a unified field of consciousness brought about by the apprenticeship.  The radical purposes of the book initiate a teacher/student relationship more appropriately similar to a guru situation than the normal art student context which we all know can be one which borders on charismatic adulation.  Rather, the relationship is intended to awaken and restructure the whole being with access to an interrelated “web of all possibilities,” a potentiated ground of existence, from which the student may return empowered with energy, vision and unflinching faith to change the so-called reality structure of this fragmented and specialized culture.  The process is a form of magic, which inspires a sense of body wholeness and aliveness where the personal power is to be found.   A manual of faith and a description of the nature of apprenticeship, the book is a clarification of the sort of contractual agreement one enters with a teacher, rarely stipulated but here clearly spelled out.  This agreement is one of mutual responsibility where the risk is clearly seen to be taken by both parties.

Having explored these realms a good deal myself both in terms of self-discovery and also with teachers, I find the book to be rigorously tough in its demands (on the potential student and quite naturally the teacher as well), and it also very clearly describes qualities required (such as trust) and the benefits to be gained in these explorations (such as love).

Moore has broken the apprenticeship into segments with re-entry periods back into ordinary life between the intervals in order to accommodate Western students’ difficulty in going through the lengthy course in a sustained fashion.  The fact  that the student must exhibit a deep and long-term calling, will or faith to repeatedly return to the teaching is Moore’s greatest risk, for spiritual apprenticeship is not a common practice in Western culture.  This is a little known fact that the apprenticeship entails risk in the making and/or breaking of the relationship not only in regard to the student but more so for the teacher.

Moore speaks of the a-logical interaction, as a journey along which student and teacher become soul mirrors.  Moore is not seeking a following, however.  He states to his credit, I believe, that such work is highly personal and requires one-to-one attention and becomes non-productive when he has many followers.

The radical nature of this esoteric apprenticeship practice includes the breaking of social mores and taboos in order to reach direct experience particularly in the realm of conventional sexuality.  Moore clearly states however that the touching and erotic playing involved (Eroplay) is not driven by the goal of sexual intercourse, but is the refreshing awakening of what he calls Cherotic energy which becomes a free fund of available and heightened “juice” for healing and creativity.  (These teachings parallel quite exactly the teachings I’ve experienced from my Native American shaman teacher and also Tantric practices.)

My first response to reading Cherotic Magic is one of resonance and appreciation, the feeling of knowing very deeply that of which he speaks as true and uncompromising.  He gives examples and authentication through powerfully written, illuminating stories about his own early life of terrible isolation and study; the breakthroughs which allowed him to finally believe in his own intelligence, joy and beauty and to receive the powerful inner flow of intrinsically experienced wisdom and knowledge of these liberating teachings.  These life passages correspond to such experiences of mystics everywhere.  I appreciate many things about this book, not the least of which are the words Moore has coined to name certain qualities and goals of his work (such as Eroplay and Chero).  One such word Erour, means vulnerable strength.  Its meaning corresponds exactly to my own early performance experience.  In the past, I put myself in very psychologically risky positions in performances and I was frequently criticized for doing so as if I were “hurting myself”.  My own experience was quite to the contrary, although I was in fact going to “the place of fear or pain or constraint” in myself with vulnerability and because I deliberately chose to do so, it was an act of strength and I returned with released energy and power.

If anything in his book is weak, it is this issue of authority and how to define the limits (and/or goals) of guru/student practice.  It is weak not because I think Frank is either weak or inauthentic … but because we live in a spiritually naïve culture.  Most people I imagine are cynics.  The book is not written for such people as there is no language that I know of to convince them a priori to any experience which in itself is convincing.  Further, the way one meets one’s teachers in life is often inherently mysterious and a unique process.  Perhaps the only ways a potential student can judge such persons and situations have first of all to do with one’s depth of calling and an experienced synchronicity.  Failing that, one needs to feel one may leave the teacher at any time despite the pressure to stay and one can also inquire of former students as to their experience.

For me, it would be advantageous if he could paint a picture of what completion might look like.  Is it simply staying the course (twelve years for a resident; seven on, five off approximately / seven days for the introductory course)?  The difficulty is that completion of such a practice might look very different in each of the “graduates” and only a sense of demonstrable knowing and changed behavior would be adequate.

The book is replete with black and white drawings by Michael LaBash. Depending on prior biases, they can appear to be psychedelically violent and visceral with a heavy emphasis on sex.  They are intricate intertwinings of interpenetrating fields which writhe over the entire drawing area with no central image.  Rather, naked figures whole or in parts of both sexes and composite hermaphrodites with breasts and cocks weave in an out of planes and orifices.  As I have said, Moore speaks in the text of making clear how Eroplay is not to be thought of as driving for sex or focused on it. Rather it comes from a presexual state of infancy, yet here the drawings are strongly sexual in my view and often horrific.  (No doubt, however, not meant so much to be sexual as frank (pun intended).

Moore’s writing about the ethics of commitment is a powerful critique of our shallow culture.  What he says rings true and created a sense of gratitude in me and inner resolution.  He speaks with great personal authority.

In the general dialog of art and culture this form of art appears to be the most difficult to speak about partly due to its radicality and partly because it re-integrates art into religion, magic, belief, and effect.  It means and makes change.  I, myself have twice come to a bifurcation point re: some need to synthesize art as I practice it somewhat within the cultural dialog and spaces of my profession as against a chosen spiritual path (Buddhism or Native American teachings).  I finally had to ask the question: which was my core path, art or the spiritual path?  And could the creative process itself be a path to spiritual awakening and inner knowledge?  Or was a core of spirit teachings the only way and the art must be derived from it.  Not the least of which is the question of feminism.  The female spiritual journey is for me a major issue within this questioning.

Moore himself raises the question  of Shamanism  /as art –  /as performance – /as therapy.  He cites performance as the bed of mystical initiation, rites of passage, mystical ceremonies where art/science, philosophy, and psychology and theology merge and become whole once again.  Here, we may experience these things as at once ancient and strange.  The breaking of restricting taboos and inner barriers moves towards a place not of isolated individualism, but one of connectedness both in the interior landscapes and with each other.

Art from Cherotic Magic by LaBash

More information about the book, Cherotic Magic Revised, is available here: http://www.eroplay.com/cheroticmagic/

Cherotic Magic Revised cover by LaBash

Frank’s archives arrive in Istanbul!

The box of Frank’s books, posters, scripts, etc. and hard drive of almost 1000 videos arrived at Performistanbul, in Turkey!

Here are co-director Azra Asmen and assistant director Derya Dinc opening the box holding the hard drive and a copy of our zine, The Cherotic (r)Evolutionary.

Here is a recent article about the space:
“Nonstop art once again at Performistanbul”

The Erotic Greeter

Frank Moore is
The Erotic Greeter

at the Pow!Pow!Pow! arts festival 2010
Viracocha, San Francisco, California
Saturday, October 16, 2010

Here is what Frank wrote about this performance:

Monday, October 18, 2010

We didn’t really know for sure if we were going to THE POW! POW! POW! until we got into the van to go to it! That was because of my trach and PEG tube. But performances need risk! It turned out I was up to it! But we had looked up the nearest hospital just in case!

The question of did I have a plant at the performance will never be answered. But if I had, here are my directions to her:

I’m performing Saturday [if my health allows] as THE EROTIC GREETER. I will be in the lobby with a sign EXPLORE THE EROTIC GREETER DEEPLY BY TOUCH. Would you be my erotic plant, going under my robes to rub me erotically magical arousing? This would be when the audience is coming into the theater. The rubbing is the magical focus of the piece… Small, intimate, explicit, practically unseen. In the seventies I had a big padded box into which before a performance i got into with someone to play nude with. The lid was closed before the audience came in. So they didn’t know what was happening in the box. But the erotic focused fun inside the box totally affected the performance outside of the box.

Well, there was erotic rubbing. But not the needed focused sustain turning on to generate a core mass. This can’t be done with people in a long term relationship like Linda and I because of the comfort factor [which we used in the jams]. But in this kind of performance what generates the erotic core mass that sucks everything deeper is erotic exploring breaking through risk into sustained focused arousal. That didn’t happen. The closest was Marz.

But other factors kicked in, making it a powerful demanding performance. Joyful intimacy tends to call attention to what is happening or not happening.

And my conversation with Guillermo Gomez Pena was the cherry on the top! Never know who you are influencing!


Here is the transcript of the conversation with Guillermo Gomez Pena:

Then Guillermo Gomez Pena and the black woman in black face came over. They kneeled in front of Frank and looked at him.

Frank said to Guillermo, “I like your “Defense of Performance Art”. I found it online.”

Guillermo said to Frank that if it wasn’t for you, I wouldn’t exist.

Then followed a deep and intense conversation that was very moving.

Frank asked “How so?”

Guillermo: You opened the door.

Frank: What door?

Guillermo: The door to freedom and the door to a different kind of beauty.

Frank: I am honored. I am recovering. (Linda explains that Frank was in the hospital over the summer, six weeks in intensive care.)

Guillermo: Thousands of people were beating with your heart.

Frank: I got emails while I was in the hospital that kicked my ass!

(Guillermo asks if he can kiss Frank. Frank says yes, and Guillermo sits next to him on a bench, and kisses him on the side of the head and cheek, very long and soft.)

Frank: We should get together to talk. We should do a performance together.

Guillermo: From the time I moved to L.A., I was a young, angry, immigrant rebel. I never missed one of your performances.

Frank: I am that old? (smiling big)

Guillermo: Well, I am only a couple months younger than you. But spiritually much younger.

More photos and write-ups about the performance here: http://eroplay.com/Cave/powpowpow2010/


“The Erotic Greeter”, Hopkins St., Berkeley
Part of Maggie Lawson’s “Small Pieces of your Truth”
Monday, April 04, 2011

Just got back from doing my part of Maggie Lawson’s performance, small pieces of your truth [see below for her directions].  I picked the option PUBLIC GIFT.  The free service of my part was being available to be touched and physically explored as THE EROTIC GREETER.  I had a sign to that effect as I sat outside the shops on Hopkins Street for about ninety minutes.  It was a great day to be sitting outside!  I don’t know if I used any skills from my Master degrees in psychology and in performance /video [I don’t believe I got any skills from those days].  I did similar performances long before grad school! 

Anyway, I sat in the shade and engaged with people as they passed by as Linda about ten yards away documented it with photos and video.  Most people just passed me, working hard on NOT looking at me.  Of course little kids looked and pointed.  Some people said “hi, Frank,” knowing me from my Berkeley community public access cable show.  And one of my favorite singers, Shelley Doty, with her son stopped to talk.  And a guy pulled up and got out of his car to talk.  He said a few weeks ago he was building a fence for a guy and the guy told him about me.  So he wanted to meet me.  So…! 

A fun day! 


Here are Maggie’s directions:

Congratulations! You’ve become part of the chosen few to play Small Pieces of Your Truth for its first time, in real time.

If you accept this challenge choose ONE of the activities below and do it BEFORE April 9.

On April 9 we’ll meet at Pueblo Nuevo Gallery from 2-4:30 pm (Pueblo Nuevo Gallery, 1828 San Pablo Ave, Suite 1, Berkeley, CA) and keep playing together. There’s no right or wrong way to play. Creatively interpret the instructions and on Saturday come and meet the rest of the group, a truly inspiring group of artists and creatives.

Choose one:

Public Gift  Set up a table in a public space and offer a service for free that uses some skill you specifically received through your formal education thus far.  If and when people stop, ask and record why each person stopped to use your service. N.B. Don’t worry if no one stops to use the service this is interesting information too.  Take photos of the table and/or people that stop to use the service with a caption under each person’s photo of why they stopped to use your service and/or a caption under the table photo of why or why not you were able to attract people to your table.

———-

Scrapbook Collect any materials in your life that either make reference to the highest level of formal education you have received or are things/work/references that are available to you because of your education level. Using the paper and supplies of your choice create 2-3 “scrapbook pages” of these materials (search scrapbook examples under Google images for inspiration or guidance).

————

Pilgrimage

Pligrimage 1. a journey, especially a long one, made to some sacred place as an act of religious devotion. 2. any long journey, especially one undertaken as a quest or for a votive purpose, as to pay homage.

Identify a time and place in your life when you had the most intense experience of learning.  Now, create a real or virtual way to return to the place where this occurred. For example, this might include finding the people you were with on the internet, going to a place that represents that place near your current residence, or if possible, returning to this place.  Leave something in the place you choose that pays homage to this moment. Answer this Question: How does your most intense experience of learning similar or different from your most important experience in the formal education system?  Record how you paid homage with a text or photo and write out the answer to the question.

I hope to play with you all on Saturday! Feel free to email or call me with questions.

In Appreciation,
Maggie

—–
Maggie Lawson
Artist
Arts and Community Education Director
Eye to Eye: art, travel, activism