Music – Abstract Techno, Video, Performance

Critical Magic was and is developed as the collaboration HYENAZ with the performance artist Mad Kate

Critical Magic has its inception as an acoustic, site-specific performance-ritual called “Spectral Rite” commissioned by the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Seoul under the direction of the visual artist Sylbee Kim with Nico Pelzer. In this performance HYENAZ enacted a procession as celestial healers through the gallery environment, acknowledging a repressed memory: a fire which had left many workers dead and injured during the construction of the gallery. More broadly, HYENAZ used this ritual to challenge larger instrumental-rational frameworks that make it possible for workers to be treated as “bare-life” and not worthy of mourning.

To prepare, they based themselves in a farmhouse at Quecke, a feminist autonomous community outside of Berlin, working intentionally and ritualistically. They positioned an idiosyncratic spiritual form called “Chaos Magic” as central to our creative process and drew inspiration from artists like CA Conrad whose (soma)tic poetic exercises helped guide the development of the text.

The intention of the ritual was to make space for trans-thinking; to queer our space, both in the natural world as well as in the institutional one; to transgress binary structures; to subvert top-down approaches. In developing the ritual, they discovered that the farmhouse was riven by energy flows in the form of water and they followed this water to the creation of the movements, texts and sounds that encompass the project.

The soundtrack is based on an understanding of sound as an auditory shape-shifter—a malleable medium. This expansive understanding of the term sonic is analogous to the way HYENAZ understand their bod(ies); not as limited territories divided by a physical gulf between “mine” and “yours” but as interconnected, multiple and exchangeable. They transformed and dissimulated field recordings from the farmhouse environment into virtual instruments – samples of scavenged wood and metal resonating within abandoned buildings, the high hum of insect wings pitched down into sub frequencies felt deep within the abdomen, a broken bicycle wheel repurposed, as a drum loop, then as a melody, and again as a synth pad. On these sonic frames HYENAZ layered and manipulated bare a cappella vocals and pure sounds of percussive scrap metal, recalling acoustic folk traditions.

Critical Magic was mixed by HYENAZ and Bartłomiej Kuźniak. High definition mastering by Bartłomiej Kuźniak at studio333. The recordings were subsequently remixed by artists including Borusiade (Comeme) Autist and Akkamiau

The live performance of this musical work, the follow-on from Spectral Rite, is a 24 series of performances called “Probability Praxis”, each performance taking place across different cities and regions and corresponding to a moon phase. The ritual performed in Critical Magic work on the body as a site in which to resist authoritarian structures. It is a ritual based primarily in contact, in sound and in movement to break physical and mental isolation and to spark a discourse that is both critical and utopian. This moment of transformation is reflected in audiences as a bodily empowerment, a body in pleasure, a body in its connecting mode, the body as one with other bodies constituting yet another, vast meta-body – the corporeal form given to what is sometimes referred to as “collective agency”.