SPRING 2012: V.08 N.01: CAA Conference Edition 2012

Lisa Paul Streitfeld
Independent curator, writer and artist.

We have no word for the dark feminine power in English.  Hindi has a few: Kali, Shakti, Kundalini.  We have no word for this energy in Western culture because it has been suppressed for so long.

Whatever is repressed is going to come up, somehow, some way, in a distorted form.  Thus, we have the masked magician, the monsters, the vampires, the freak show that our panelists have shaken free from the collective, turned around and examined, to give an academic sheen that Mina Cheon and I have strived for with “Magic and Media” shortly after meeting in the spring of 2010.

The ground was well tilled for this breakthrough. Cheon’s transformational performance of her revolutionary book Shamanism + Cyberspace took place at the HP Garcia Gallery in New York City, where I had curated a series of exhibitions and salons dedicated to bringing the Kundalini, and an underground movement based in shamanism, into a new dialectic of art.

The seed we planted then has born fruit. I want to personally thank all the members of this panel, the New Media Caucus and Media-N, as well as the audience and readers of this journal, for participating in the culmination of a 28-year journey to herald the birth of a new archetype. As Cheon stated in her introduction, my conclusion is also an opening to something entirely new: a 21st-century art theory.

I want to make transparent our strategy here in having this wide range of speakers: a luminary with cult following, seasoned scholar, rising art star and literary genius storming the barricades of the academy. The intention was completely magical, in using Aleister Crowley’s occult definition of the word, “creating change in accordance with will.”

Laurence A. Rickels, our honored key speaker, has done more than anyone in academia to illuminate the popular obsession with the creatures of the night.  His contribution today, created specifically for this panel, brings the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle into the realm of both occult magic and psychoanalytical theory.


Sue Taylor hilariously reveals the mechanisms by which occult magic has been subverted by pop culture entertainment. The well rehearsed tricks of then Masked Magician keeps magic in a “safe” place by way of an overt subverting of the female. In her role as “assistant,” fated to disappear and reappear at her master’s will, woman becomes complicit in maintaining the primordial feminine power of occult magic within the bounds of the patriarchal grid. In this manner, a controlled society can prevent the formation of a liberating archetype in the collective unconscious.

Rita Alves strips away the mask of Michael Jackson to reveal the ambitious strategy behind his ultimately fatal bid to merge Artist with global pop icon through transmutations of the physical body, reflected in a body of art. In light of Alves pioneering paper, we can now view Jackson’s evolving androgyny as an outer reflection of a collective struggle to arrive at a new icon, an integral archetype all artists at this crucial time are tasked with bringing into form.

Today, we are privileged to participate in the birth of a new literary form through our bracing interactive experience of Evan Malater’s boundary-smashing paper. Father, hello, the cross-genre literary text that informs “Trauma and the Internet Oracle” transforms an identity crisis into the newly emerging universal archetype of the hieros gamos through the marriage of the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

We do aim to create change through this panel’s willingness to explore a new perspective for what has been channeled into popular culture from the collective unconscious.  In my writings on revolutionary art forms of the 21st century, I reference Jean Gebser’s “ever-present origin” simultaneously connecting past, present and future. [1] Once again, we have no word for this icon in English; Wolfgang Pauli referred to it in the Latin, the anima mundi (world soul) or the Greek, hieros gamos (sacred marriage), the name of my art theory.

The two revolutionary books that form the foundation of this panel – Laurence A. Rickels’ The Vampire Lectures and Mina Cheon’s Shamanism + Cyberspace – dwell on the interlocking themes of mourning and technology. Rickels develops his vampire theory on an acute understanding of how “the occult makes its comeback by each time hitching its partings to yet another new techno-media invention.” [2] Cheon develops a theory of “media mourning” by examining Nam June Paik’s 1992 shamanism memorial ritual for Joseph Beuys, and their dual resurrection in the Korean female shaman Kim Kum Hwa’s 2007 memorial rite for Paik. Comparing Derrida’s “The Work of Mourning” to the mass Korean media mourning process of Paik, Cheon’s proclamation “media mourning undermine discourses of science that reject the spirit” [3] heals a dichotomy paralyzing the evolution of both science and art.

In pondering the intersection of this pair of overlapping theories with images of Whitney Houston’s televised funeral as background, it occurred to me that the newest form of media – the social network and Twitter along with the Internet itself – is delivering a necessary transparency along with a multi-layered integral consciousness.  Anything we put out over this new media form becomes a permanent relic in what metaphysicians term the Akashic Record.  Doesn’t this make it impossible to “take back” anything we circulate as a personal snapshot of our character? What choice do we have but to die from our lapses and resurrect again, like the vampire of lore?

Nothing that comes into consciousness does so without a struggle. This is the Prometheus myth reflecting the suffering artists on their journey of fusing light into the material of their art.

The ego fears the loss of control. The surrender required to make the leap into a new archetype of gender equality requires a profound state of mourning for the intoxicating seductive beauty of the vampire that makes surrender a forced submission rather than a conscious act.

Rickels makes two crucial points clear in his “vampire bible.” First and foremost, the vampire is “never a trespasser but always invited in.” [4] Second, confronting the monsters (the demons of the psyche) were, in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and vampire tales to follow, a necessary passage [5] to a state of equal partnership, the chief characteristic and benefit of this new icon.

Today, we have invited in these masked magicians, vampires and freaks to attend to their funeral in order to make a grand leap. Yes, the leap requires a collective act of mourning.  But unlike former acts of public celebrity mourning, this one will be illuminated by consciousness, a distinctively feminine consciousness, an authentic Kundalini awakening.

Malater’s journey required a submersion into the archetype of Chiron, the wounded healer, who took the place of Prometheus on the rock. The artist no longer has to suffer in the genius archetype but can be healed through pro-active use of new media. What makes this achievement so relevant to our panel is Malater’s penetration, in a public forum, through the seduction of the dark feminine power as a sacred act of conscious mourning.  In Rickels’ definition of magic, the author of a transcendent self-narrative becomes his own therapist, thereby creating self-contained text to “render one’s reference to outside reality a constitutive part of that reality.” [6] This too is the artist’s task, to overthrow the father, in the quest for a new orientation, a holism that self-contains Gebser’s 360 degree integral perspective.

My journey as a critic began with a review of Adam Ant, the English rock star whose personal sacrifice in taking on the archetype of vampire, complete with endless resurrection, landed him in a mental institution. I was writing a nightlife column for a Palm Springs newspaper when he suddenly appeared for a one-night performance. A powerful archetypal dream was a warning: if I didn’t work the demonic out of me, it would destroy me. Transmuting the raw material of Adam Ant’s vampire act into a penetrating analysis of the collective Shadow looming over the emergence of a new holistic archetype transformed me into a cultural critic probing into the 96 percent universe that is dark energy and dark matter combined.

The next major influence was my sister Susan Streitfeld’s film Female Perversions, based on Louise Kaplan’s book cataloguing female transgressions. I wrote a “first person” article in a weekly paper of our hometown, where I was living when the film was released. [7]

The stripping away of the professional in this personal essay launched me into a decade of avant-garde reviews, eventually establishing a new art theory arising out of a conscious application of the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle to interpret newly emerging 21st century art forms.

As a means of both reviving and archiving my tower of unpublished writing, I launched “The Alchemy of Love in Five Elements” in January 2007 at the Lab Gallery in midtown Manhattan.  Utilizing multimedia with sacred objects, I passed through the four elements of alchemy to arrive at the quintessential, the hieros gamos, or sacred marriage of opposites.

Rickels explains how vampire literature cast the tension between polarities as the hunter vs. the hunted, and subsequently Mina’s marriage of vampire and victim following the fatal bite:

“Isn’t it also the case that this media technological archive of the vampire hunters (and of their new order) represents a kind of double of vampirism, a kind of new and improved vampirism, and does not so much defeat vampirism as replace vampirism’s antiquated recycling system of death and the dead with the live transmission of gadget love, the one we have no trouble listening in on because we are living on in it?” [8]

How else but by acknowledging the inner duality of vampire and victim can we rescue ourselves from negating past, present and future by way of a complete immersion into “the new body, which comes complete with all the new media devices plugged right up into all orifices or outlets” and subsequently “more vampiric than even vampirism itself”? [9]

A spontaneous mourning of the mechanical typewriter within my technological experiment of writing a blogel, [10] via the marriage of word/text afforded by laptop computer and digital camera, facilitated the resurrection of my vampire-obsessed underground oeuvre. Thus, the self-contained loop of mourning and “gadget love” prompted an exhilarating leap into freedom:  I overcome latent fears of exposure – the psychosis of the father, and potentially my own – through public experiments in instantaneous self-publishing!

Rickels examines Mina, Dracula’s eventual bride, as a Kundalini awakened guide to the vampire hunters who nonetheless hold the tension of duality through sympathy for the Other who bit her. After my performance, I began to re-interpret criticism via the route of collaboration with harbingers of the 21st century achieving Gebser’s state of ever-present origin: containing the mourning of the past, yet bursting with an aliveness of the present, and reflecting the uncanny foresight of all great art – to perceive the future. [11]

This brings us back to the crucial role of celebrity. Lady Gaga, ambitious student of fame and celebrity, has taken on Adam Ant’s role, evolving a new generation’s consciousness of vampiric exchange with her “Little Monsters” term of endearment for her rabid fans.  After last year’s spectacular entrance to the Grammy Awards, in which she emerged from an egg, thereby completing Michael Jackson’s tragically aborted mythical role of hermaphrodite giving birth to the New, she was mysteriously absent from the 2012 stage.  Instead, there was a new female sensation receiving one award after another. Adele embodies, not only the voice, but the long repressed “authentic face of the feminine” in her refusal to adhere to societal dictates of “a pound of flesh” as vampiric exchange between celebrity and mass media exposure.

Where was Lady Gaga? She was in the audience dressed in black, her face hidden behind a veil.  Rickels can explain this behavior; with some help from my inner vampire entering his text to bring an uncannily prophetic quotation up to date with new media:

“So what emerges here is a whole sensuround built up not only around media technology, mourning, communications with the dead, but also (and more to the point) around the interruption and breakdown of mourning, the breakdown of communications, or telecommunications with the dead.  The telegraph/INTERNET guarantees the direct connection with the mourned dead, but at the same time an unmourned phantom controls and conceals each live transmission.” [12]

Was the Twitter Queen, who pioneered the marriage of social media with celebrity, mourning her own funeral? Or perhaps it was the superstar, once again, taking on the role of the collective in mourning the life/death cycle of celebrity seductions that leave us spellbound, helpless to do anything but surrender to their charismatic power, a devotion once reserved for the gods. Only time can reveal the new icon embodying the 4% reality that is tangible in the vast unknown creative space between magic and media, thereby bringing “the unmourned phantom” into the light of consciousness.


1. Jean Gebser, Noel Barstad, trans. The Ever-present Origin (Athens: Ohio University Press, 1985), 7.
2. Laurence A. Rickels, The Vampire Lectures (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999), xii.
3. Mina Cheon, Shamanism + Cyberspace (NY: Artropos Press, 2009), 291.
4. Rickels, “Lecture Three,” ibid., 27.
5. Rickels, “Lecture Two” makes this clear by examining the life of Bram Stoker, ibid., 118-130.
6. Rickels, quoted from his presentation.
7. Lisa Paul Streitfeld, “Ditch Superwoman for the Dark Sister,” Fairfield County Weekly, June 1997. Also in “Critical Trilogy,” (accessed March 13, 2012).
8. Rickels, “Lecture Five,” ibid., 51.
9. Rickels, “Lecture Three,” ibid., 38.
10. “Blogel”for blog novel was coined by critic Jeffery Wright during the performance.  Lisa Paul Streitfeld’s official blogel website, “The Alchemy of Love in Five Elements,” January 2007–January 2008, (accessed March 13, 2012).
11. For examples, see Lisa Paul Streitfeld’s blogs, “Critical Trilogy,” November 2009-January 2011,; “(R)evolution!,” January 2011-present, and (accessed March 13, 2012).
12. Rickels, “Lecture Five,” ibid., 54.


Lisa Paul Streitfeld is an independent curator, writer, artist, and member of the International Association of Art Critics. For over a decade, she has been a regular critic for newspapers in the New York metropolitan area with over 300 reviews and articles, and currently contributing to the Huffington Post. Her writing has appeared in several catalogs and anthologies. In 2006, she was a recipient of the UUWF Margaret Fuller Award to develop her theory of the hieros gamos into a four-volume book and a visual language through a trilogy of multimedia exhibitions (2006-2010) in New York City and Cambridge. “Overcoming the Heisenberg Principle: Art Theory Arising out of Wolfgang Pauli’s Collapsed Wave” was published by Common Ground as a follow up to “Applying the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle to 21st Century Art,” delivered to the 2009 AICA Congress in Dublin.