As I pulled into the parking lot of what appeared to be an abandoned industrial complex, I wondered to myself if I had made a wrong turn somewhere. I got out of my vehicle and asked the parking attendant if this was where Nick Kushner’s art show was being held. He told me it was indeed, and to walk along the building until I see a man in black. I thanked him for his help and started walking.
After a few minutes I of walking I ran into the man he was speaking about. He pointed to an open corridor to my right and told me to continue walking until I reach an elevator. It was very dark but I arrived at the “elevator” shortly. This wasn’t simply an elevator, but a large industrial lift.
Stepping inside, the elevator operator greeted me. The doors shut from the top and bottom, slamming at the middle with a metallic crash. The operated flipped a lever and with a loud hum we began our assent. After the doors reopened I was looking at yet another dark corridor. This one, however, was lit with candles guiding me to the correct path. I arrived in front of a woman with an open book. She asked me for my name and the password. I gave them both to her. After checking her book, she opened the door and let me into the degenerate world of Nick Kushner.
I must say Mr. Kushner has a great flair for the theatrical, and it certainly did not stop there. Among the many celebrity guests (Tony Silva and Rudy Coby to name a few) was a complimentary wine and absinthe bar. DJ Twiggy Ramirez played a delightfully dark selection of music to compliment the evening. Later, Marilyn Manson himself arrived and his entire new album, Born Villain, was played (Which is quite excellent, by the way).
And I have not even gotten to the art yet! The walls are lined with Mr. Kushner’s beautiful works. Dissatisfied with mere paint, he has created many of his pieces in his own blood. In case anyone might be in doubt, at midnight Mr. Kushner took a razor blade, sliced his chest, and signed some of his artwork in blood. I had the pleasure of talking with Nick, and not only is he a superb artist, but he is an extremely nice guy. And lucky for us, he agreed to do an interview for this site.
How would you define the word “art”, and what does it mean to you?
“Art” is a word that gets tossed around a lot these days but if someone is putting their all into something which is genuinely creative it’s something admirable. My own theory and definition of art is approaching the pursuit as an alchemist would pursue his spiritual journey for his own soul’s advancement, done through the work which he devotes the entirety of his being to. As part of this transformation process, the greatest motivation behind virtually all works of art, music and literature which are considered to be sacred by society today (aside from love and greed) has been catharsis. That is, taking an experience which is tortuous and devastating but instead of allowing it to overcome you, the artist assimilates it and uses it to his advantage by expressing it within his art to subdue the affliction which threatens to destroy him.
Be it from destitution, isolation or emotional abuse and neglect from someone you’re in love with, that infliction will force a schism and ultimatum ; either let it destroy you or else (literally) create your own world using your art. Enduring this forces a change and growth by using the negative energy which has been thrust upon you. It’s a matter of the choice to live and fight which determines whether you allow it to overwhelm you or whether you direct it and use it as a force to create with.
One of my favorite pieces of yours is “der Antichrist” partly because of Nietzsche’s huge influence on my life. I am sure everything you create has tremendous meaning for you, but is there a certain work that has particularly affected you, or one you would care to elaborate on?
My grandfather was a German expatriate artist who was from a nearby region of Germany as Nietzsche. Aside from simply being an incendiary figure throughout history and living his life by his philosophy to stand alone as an individual, I was particularly inspired when I first read Thus Spake Zarathustra. What I saw in it, and later wrote a paper on, is that the parallel between Zarathustra’s journey closely mirroring the alchemical and Kabbalistic pursuit of experiencing the gnosis of the fallacies in the world we exist in and being pursuant on this path to reach higher levels of attainment, never satisfied or undeterred by the faceless apparitions that we live amongst who are fully ensconced in their own stagnation.
It’s this type of attitude that remains in common with all the writers, philosophers, artists and musicians that I admire. Two additional works published within the same time period which have always been incredibly inspiring to me, that have taken form in works of mine, are Les Chants de Maldoror by the Comte be Lautremount and Les Fleurs Du Mal by Charles Baudelaire.
What are your influences/inspirations?
My world comes alive through the art and lives of my heroes of those who I admire. The books which they write, the songs which they sing, the art they create. I call my works “Degenerate Art”, not as a satire, but rather as an homage to my heroes before me who have created works which were so extreme as to be persecuted and confiscated as they challenged the moral and psychological confinements of the societies which they lived in. Artists like Otto Dix, Hans Bellmer, George Grosz, Salvador Dali and even Hieronymus Bosch. Those who I admire are antiheroes and demagogues of the worlds and time periods which they lived. Like Aleister Crowley, Sid Vicious, and how Marilyn Manson is today.
Literature likewise plays an important aspect of my inspiration by the writings of those who persisted on despite bannings and imprisonment for the stroke of their pen. The written word is the compliment and inverse to visual art in that it ‘de-asbracts’ and defines what the subconscious creates visually. The same manner that a song acts as yet another dimension to compliment a visual work which is why most of those whom I admire the most are either writers or musicians ; it acts as the counterpart and soundtrack to the work which I’m inspired to create visually.
What is the significance of using blood in your pieces?
The motivation behind the use of blood in my art, which is all my own blood, from the beginning was the literal insertion of myself into my works. Where the line between the creator and creation is indivisibly blurred. I choose to approach my art, as well as my life, on the same level as alchemy where the path the magician undertakes is a transformative process. When one devoutly pursues that which is his true will, it’s the journey as opposed to the end result which is the rebirthing process that takes one where he needs to go and the use of my own blood as a medium, though has varied in complexity and volume significantly since I first applied it deliberately to paper when I was 15, was the most personal and symbolic method with which to portray this concept. Using blood, and the pain which is involved with its acquisition, acts as a cathartic process to unleash an inner transformation within oneself.
I am sure your art is controversial, have your friends and family supported you? Have you encountered any opposition from the public or other groups?
The most important thing someone creative can ever have is a small nucleus of people who you genuinely admire and are inspired by, and who likewise admire and support who you are and what you’re doing. Dada and surrealism, as well as any great band, were founded in this same manner. Having those people, family included, who believe in you is one of the most validating aspects of your work and yourself as person being recognized. And even if you don’t have this yet, because I didn’t always, as long as you persist on in what you’re trying to accomplish as an act of pure will you’ll inevitably attract those who you ultimately need in your life because something powerful you pursue has an inherent desire to fornicate and multiply.
For any one who does something meaningful it will be inevitable that opposition will be encountered – naysayers, those who may try to drag you down as part of their own personal agenda, and such. You can either be discouraged by this or take it as reverse inspiration that if you weren’t doing something that’s important no one would care even to bother fighting what you’re trying to accomplish.
There are many aspiring artists on this site. What advice would you give to them, especially those facing oppression for being ‘different’?
When speaking of his difficulties in getting his works published into the world, Aleister Crowley stated in his autobiography that, “no accomplishment [in the occult] is attained without overcoming insurmountable adversity.” Anywhere I’ve ever gotten has come from years and years of work when I thought that literally no more than a small handful of people gave a shit about anything I was doing, and likewise pursuing on in the face of those who actively discouraged me. Doing so if for no other reason that out of spite against the world that I would not be held back from manifesting myself and what I was put here to do. If you believe in what you’re doing and it’s done with whole and true intent it’s the most power act of magic that can be performed and this will be visible, even on a subconscious level, in whatever you create.
It’s also very important to find and then crystallize your own identity as well or else you will run the risk of always standing in someone’s shadows. If you want to be different you always have to actually ‘be different’. Stand alone. Even though there is so much stimulation and inspirational material that can be found on it, I think that with the internet and the inundation of information on it it can actually be difficult to hone one’s individuality while remaining fully immersed within the rest of the world. It’s important to disconnect from time to time and remember that all great creativity has come from individuals in a solitary pursuit of the “god within them” or however you’d like to look at it as.
Thank you very much for the interview Mister Kushner! Where can we find more information about you and your future work?
Thank you so much. To see more of my work or if interested in prints / posters / postcards, readers can visit my site, http://www.nickkushner.com/
I also run http://www.nachtkabarett.com which is my writing on the occult as a dissection into the art & symbolism of my greatest hero Marilyn Manson. The Nachtkabarett is additionally the home of the Official Marilyn Manson messageboard.
There you have it my friends, excellent and poetic advice from a truly great artist.
Let me know what you think in the comments below. Want to be a featured artist? Drop me an email at Morgueofficial@gmail.com
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