Oliver Clixby is a 28-year-old multimedia artist, with a particular penchant for graphic and sonic art. As a practicing ‘hauntologist’ and revivalist of folk horror, Oliver themes much of his work around ‘the past’ and the culturally collective specters which haunt our present. He graduated from University of Westminster, with a BA(hons) in Contemporary Media Practice.
Originally intent on becoming a film director, he would instead broaden his mediums and utilise them symbiotically, in order to allow for creative independence and a resulting idiosyncratic style. Encompassing his love of sampling and collage, Oliver continues to develop music, under the alias “Pans Chasm,” as well as visual work that is fascinated with psychedelia, shamans/witch doctors, alchemy, British Victoriana, hauntology and seaside culture, amongst many other themes.
MOOF: Can you explain a bit more about what ‘sonic art’ is and how you came about it?
OC: In itself, ‘sonic’ art tends to be a genre that encompasses several broader formats and theoretical genres; though the term is largely assigned to experimental music, often accompanied by physical attributes, e.g. Céleste Boursier’s installtion – Mougenot (2010, Barbican Centre)
MOOF: Have you always wanted to be an artist?
OC: I certainly have always had a penchant for the creative arts; a trait many like-minded individuals learn of themselves fairly soon growing up. Of course, there’s so many variations in what the human mind best lends themselves to. Even now though, I believe the two key ones are: creatives and mechanics. A generalised as that is – with many a-crossover – the difference I feel boils down to those working off intuition and then those which are adept working with systems and produce greatness by planning. I am the former, undeniably.
When I went study CMP (Contemporary Media Practice) in London, my initial desire was to be a writer/director, though with knowing idiosyncrasies; having started the coarse with a huge love of obscure cinema. However, the nature of the course allowed me to branch out and utilise various formats which better suited the project, so I broadened the parameters greatly by the end of the first year.
MOOF: Where do you get your inspiration?
OC: For me, inspirations have felt like ladder rungs, though whilst each foothold being mildly different, their comparative aesthetics all led to the the same goal in the end. First though, the practice of graphic art and subsequent encouragement would undoubtedly by my brother, Matt Clixby, of Studio Deathray Graphics. Given that we share a near-identical canon of influences, is uncanny; ‘unheimlich’ being an apt term as we both grow up in Plymouth, Devon, and have absorbed many of its ‘hauntological’ milieu; the Brutalist architecture that replaced many of the bombed out buildings during W.W.2, as well as regular visits to Dartmoor National Park, which is awash with eerie folklore.
Aside from our geographical influencing, hauntology was widespread in our household through our shared love of television, film & music; it was seldom I met friends (at aged 9/10) who were as passionate about Aphex Twin (Richard D. James) and Squarepusher as I was, so my brother was my cultural muse. As shared activities go, it was he, along with my family, that would have many pleasant weekends visiting small towns for charity shop hunting and antique fairs; all for the picking of bric-a-brac before heading off for a hike around one of Dartmoor’s many tors. Whenever tripping across the U.K, the first port-of-call in any town is the charity shops, both for record digging (for sampling) and the obscure ephemera shops for old photographs; the types that have a haunting quality in their questioning of where the people in them are now!
MOOF: There’s a lot of tribal imagery in your art, as well as shamanism – what inspired you to explore that in your artwork?
OC: Shamanism covers the bases of several religions; yet it’s the infancy of these religions (before the written doctrines) that influence. Alchemy of early Europe was the pre-medicalised prescriber of quack-like healing. Whirling dervishes, voodoo practices and various African frenzies, worked up to appease the Gods had always fascinated; especially when considering the repetition of music for such transcendental states to be achieved.
Slightly unorthodox, it was my own chemical explorations that allowed for various passages of the mind to become unlocked; in meditative mindsets and free from the occasional mundanity of contemporary living; unshackled by our tailored representations to the world, the mind will unearth moments it’s lived through and stored for their importance.
Whilst not necessarily negative in context, any form of repressed or forgotten moments can bring tides of emotive power. I have a great fascination, for the Victorian gatherings of artists, poets and writers and their partaking of various illicit substances, and would then write of such experiences; all in collective search for enlightenment. These were exciting, bohemian practices of their time, however nowadays the door to these areas can be passed through far easier via Transcendental Meditation, of course I’m a firm practicer and advocate.
MOOF: What kick started your passion for hauntology?
OC: In the ‘genres’ (most artists have a grievance for being labeled as such), I started reading the word applied to musical acts which all shared a certain ‘something’; not in time structures or continually used instruments as such, but rather an aesthetic and cult-like understanding of what this haunting tone actually was. Simon Reynold’s (Wire) was the applicant of the term, used in relation to Derrida’s ‘Specters of Marx‘ essay. Acts such as Boards of Canada, the Ghost Box label, and Burial were experimentalists to a distinctive tone that was nostalgia, yet devoid of the saccharine sentimentality; a sound that’s a haunting to a period that was uncanny, and indeed, ‘not quite right’ – Leyland Kirby’s The Caretaker certainly transcended the moniker from pop or early synth electronica, to that of the 1930’s ballroom of The Shining.
Hauntology is most certainly not limited to the audio; it’s a feel that’s distinctive in aesthetical uncertainty. In terms of architecture, for example, its notable in buildings that, in their 60s/70s planning stage, local governments thought this was of futuristic design; yet consequently now, is a future promised that never delivered – the concrete monoliths decaying with comparatively haunting imagery of pre-1800 neighbouring them. Growing up in Plymouth, these semiotics were everywhere. Not viewed as functionality, yet rather of something in the past that went very wrong. So, that was a major influence on my style.
MOOF: What is it about folk-horror that appeals to you?
OC: The archaic legends that still get passed down, even in such a technologically dominated world. I’m a bit of a dreamer, so I like to imagine being part of certain epochs the horrors were created.
MOOF: What’s your favourite folk-horror film? Has it been an inspiration to any of your artwork?
OC: It’d be impossible to answer this without The Wicker Man being mentioned, however there’s an abundance of film and TV which haunts me equally as much: Ken Russell’s The Devils, Jonathan Miller’s BBC adaptation of Whistle, I’ll Come To You is simply sublime, especially with its primitive production values, it’s terrifying. I’ll say The Wicker Man, because not only does it epitomise folk’horror, but the soundtrack is one of best you’ll ever find within the same genre! That said, I give great kudos to Ben Wheatley’s film, A Field In England, which encompasses all things folk, psychedelia, English history – in its low-budget yet widely innovative narrative, I love it as it inspires me to finally direct, as was always my intention pre-uni.
MOOF:What creative patterns, routines or rituals do you have? What’s your creative process?
OC: I’m a lunar-lover, so I tend to prepare all the materials (scanned images, cutting samples, etc) during the day, then work through til the early hours’ dawn chorus. I’m at absolute peace whilst being aware by the isolation night brings; as though I’m a mad scientist, toiling while the many sleep. In order not to become too weighed down in one project,which can end up discouraging the flow, I might switch to another project for an hours break. That way, it feels like I’m taking little steps on each thing simultaneously, rather than hitting a creative block and starting at the ‘canvas’ for ages!
MOOF: What artwork of yours are you most proud of – why?
OC: It’d have to be basically anything I’m working on at the moment. There’s that thrill of uncertainty, whether it’ll pertain to its original vision, or decide to tangently scamper into artifacts, utterly unlike I imagined in its infancy. This is particularly true of music, when you have a dedicated library of samples; that’s essentially a play box of possibilities, In it’s completion, ‘Retroflex‘ is a project I’m incredibly proud of. There’s just too many reasons for it not be my creative and sentimental ‘baby’. Firstly, it was my first foray into doing anything musical. The marring of sound and image is my biggest love!
As a record collector, I was fairly obsessed with cult movie soundtracks (1940’s-1980’s) and ‘library music’; so I was keen create my own variation of this, simultaneously exploring the validity of personal or collective memories, or whether hindsight was indeed twenty-twenty. This was made far more possible by exploring nostalgia, that couldn’t get more personal’ in the form of family home videos. Secondly, a huge ode to my brother, who is my other reason for pride in ‘Retroflex’; as is evident, his dedication and hours spent editing the visuals was incredible. Whilst both respective artists, it was ‘Retroflex’ that proved – what we had suspected -, our influences were hugely similar in acculturation of childhood environments, however, as mentioned above, he was the one that introduced me early on to ‘IDM’ and electronica, to which I’ll forever be thankful.
Having both gained separate graded firsts for our respective courses, I am without doubt sure that ‘Retroflex’ was not only unique to our artistic relationship without the limits that were understandably mandatory for the project.
MOOF: Who are your favourite artists?
OC: This is nigh-on impossible to answer, given the definition of artist; paint, music, photo, director, etc. Not to mention the abundance of love in each of them, however if pushed I’d have to tentatively define them down to visual, then music & cinema; Visual: Nicola Samori, John Atkinson Grimshaw and Gregory Crewdson. Directors: David Lynch, Mike Leigh, Alejandro Jodorowsky. Music: Stars Of The Lid, Demdike Stare, Boards Of Canada, The Caretaker (Leyland Kirby), The Focus Group (anything on the Ghost Box record label) and Tim Hecker.
MOOF: If you could hang out with one person, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
OC: David Lynch has been my creative muse since aged 16; so I’d very much like to discuss decay and dream theory with him over a coffee & a doughnut.
Or either Sean Canty or Miles Whittaker of Demdike Stare, given I’m positive we’d have too much to chat about. There’s a plethora I could name, I’ll refrain from doing so but give special mention to the wonderful, late theorist (and outright gent), Mark Fisher. He sadly passed away this year, with it also losing an absolutely genuine, intelligent human being. It was his blog K-Punk that contributed many of the key theories and themes that it’s not known for; he’ll be sorely missed amongst those that knew him, however it would have been an absolute honour to have done so myself. R.I.P. Mark Fisher (1968-2017)
MOOF: What’s next for you? Do you have any projects in the works?
OC: There’s quite a lot in the pipeline at the moment; I tend to enjoy juggling projects simultaneously, for they do often end up working symbiotically. Sometimes in their majority, though most often just through little traits. ‘Retroflex v.2.0’ is my big key project, producing it all again with the new methods I’ve developed. As well as the experimentally droned version of it (Stretchroflex), which will fundamentally make it a classical, drone album in the likes of Godspeed! You Black Emperor or Stars of the Lid. Finding joy and happiness through every moment of doing it though; I used to really torture myself, however found the ‘doing’ to be the high itself. I paraphrase Lynch to anyone struggling: “If you don’t enjoy the doing. Don’t do it. You’ve not found your inner needs.”
Check out the music of Pans Chasm here:
All artwork featured by Ollie Clixby, with permission from the artist
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