Brian Cotnoir is an alchemist, artist and award-winning filmmaker. Author of Practical Alchemy: Guide to the Great Work, The Emerald Tablet, a series of Alchemical ‘Zines, Alchemical Meditations, Alchemy: The Poetry of Matter and most recently On Alchemy: Essential Practices and Making Art as Alchemy. He has presented seminars and workshops around the world on various aspects of the alchemy.
Khepri Press was started in 2014 as a place to organize and distribute my work. It is a very small press dedicated to alchemical book arts. Some of this work is publishable and others may exist only in manuscript or object form – alchemical results or talismans.
I create in order to know, and to this end I attempt to engage all ways of knowing and seeing. My work is alchemical in that it comes from my research and actual practice of early alchemy.
Alchemy, whatever else we may think it is – gold-making, enlightenment, medicinal, self-actualization, etc. – is, at its very heart, the study and practice of creation. The Emerald Tablet, a foundational alchemical text, states that all creation, large or small, regardless of the medium or time, follows from the same principles and processes.
Creation – intent, a consideration, silence, a space, a body and then a rupture, a mark, a cut. For every act the work acts back.
Alchemy operates on several aspects of reality along with the observation that creation arises within the play of opposites. The alchemical understanding of being is that there are no hard boundaries; that it is more a spectrum of awareness from ignorance to wisdom. Alchemical practice actively engages both “outer” physical processes and “inner” practices such as meditation, visualization, and dream work. It is not a question of “either/or” but “both/and.” This unity is like the experience of seeing a stereographic photo: each image of the pair is a fair representation of the world. However, no explanation can convey the startling experience of 3D perception when the images are seen through a viewer. And with this union, we gain an insight more than either of the two photographs alone could provide. Working with both “inner” and “outer” engenders a process of discovery and invention that informs the work. And the resulting union of inner and outer is manifested in the end result, whatever form it may take, or how ephemeral it may be.
My starting point is the “question,” or “image,” which may be of any material, sound, idea, model, etc. Sometimes traditional symbols are the starting point, as well as “images” from dreams or initiatic flashes. All aspects of the “question” are taken and, as an action meditation, I work with material as a dialogue. Images that repeat and develop sometimes take on a life of their own, and that thread is followed.
The objects resulting from the work may have the appearance of art, they may even be made of the elements and materials of art, but the intent is to open the worlds, to dissolve and reconfigure, to explore the imagined boundaries, finding its fleeting locations. The result is a trace, fragments of a map, joining the inner and outer dimensions of the work. And finally, it is a composition that can act upon the world.
More concretely my work consists of image series in books, graphic poems, kine-poems, documentary film, pin-hole photography, and drawing. Often the compositions or results are mixed media and key phrases and images spread throughout the works in a rhizomatic fashion. In a very real sense it is one work flowing through various media.