Ragnarok Supply (2009)

Marshall Astor - Ragnarok Supply - Swords - Exhibition Image

Ragnarok Supply is an installation that I constructed for the exhibition Melting Point at El Camino College Gallery in the fall of 2009. The year before, Susanna Meiers, who is the director and curator of the gallery, asked me if I wanted to participate in an “ice-themed” exhibition. I was immediately stimulated, inspired, fixated. The words “Ragnarok” and “Black Metal” and “Battle at the End of Time” and “Heat Death of the Universe” all rang in my skull. I immediately knew what I wanted to do. Ice swords. A year later, I had completed what I think might be the purest boiling down of my philosophy to date.

Ragnarok Supply consists of a long room, about 10′x22′, painted black, with two 9’6″ rotocast, polyester resin swords hanging at one end and a “swords and snowflake/arrows of chaos” mandala at the other. The snowflake has eight-fold, radial symmetry. The swords are backlit and are polished to a matte finish so they look like ice. The general idea is a shrine for the yet to die/luxury showroom for frost giants and other end times battlers, hence the title.

Marshall Astor - Ragnarok Supply - Chaos Snowflake Mandala - Exhibition Image

Background/History/Process

Although there isn’t a straight line of inspiration on this project, as I feel it really came from my unconscious self, my truest self, there is an ur-image that resonates in my mind, a heavy metal memory from a childhood spend in the wood paneled rooms of equally creepy pre-teen boys.  It’s a poster-sized version of a polar bear riding Valkyrie with an eyepatch that was used to advertise Rumple Minze back in the day.  I’m not sure if it was the ad in “polar bear ascending” or “polar bear descending” mode, but it was one of these.  Or maybe both.  I’m inclined to say descending.  This is one of those distinctions that’s probably only ever going to be relevant to my own personal tarot.

I had initially envisioned the swords being made out of actual ice, cast and then displayed in commercial freezer units. I discovered rapidly that there were numerous technical problems, with the need to install a direct 220 hookup to the freezers being the biggest one, as it would have probably required major electrical work to be done in the gallery. I found this quite frustrating until I stepped back and realized that I had, as usual overcomplicated things, and was lucky that in this case, I was able to see the simple and perfect solution, that Eric Johnson, who is a sensei of polyester resin could help me make the swords out of resin.  I managed to convince him to help me make the mold and cast the swords at his shop, which a serious trial by fire.  It was a crash program that could not fail, the hardest and best work I have ever done, and probably the happiest two months of my life.  Nothing mattered but making a mold so large that the swords had to be turned by hand, as no machine in the shop was big enough to rotate the molds.  Literally, nothing else mattered.

The mandala was easier, by far, although I must have designed it 60 times before I settled on the final design.  My use of the eight pointed/compass rose/arrows of chaos design in my work is inspired and homage to my major influences: the outsider culture of industrial, heavy metal and noise music, the suburban escapism of role playing games and fantasy literature and my love for the symbol’s artificial occultism, as it has its origins in Michael Moorcock’s Elric of Melniboné books.  I love arbitrary, malleable symbols.  I love that in a post-post-modern world, we can invest meaning in things without any history, or that we can imagine the whole weight of history into them.

There are several posts on my site about the labors involved in making the swords and getting the installation made in time for the show.

Images

A pile of construction images and exhibition images are here on Flickr.  As the piece was constructed in particularly tight space, there are no images of the installation as a whole.  Feel free to curate the work into your next museum show if you’d like to see it whole! Here are some highlights.

Marshall Astor - Ragnarok Supply - Sword Tip and Shadows - Exhibition ImageMarshall Astor - Ragnarok Supply - Sword Detail 1 - Exhibition ImageMarshall Astor - Ragnarok Supply - Swords - Exhibition ImageMarshall Astor - Ragnarok Supply - Chaos Snowflake Mandala - Exhibition Image

Marshall Astor - Ragnarok Supply - Sword Pour 1 - Eddie Muela, Edith Abeyta, Nicholas Klemek, Marshall Turning - Process DocumentationMarshall Astor - Ragnarok Supply - Rough Shaping Done 2 - Process DocumentationMarshall Astor - Ragnarok Supply - Sword Master Clamp City - Process DocumentationMarshall Astor - Ragnarok Supply - Sword with Resin and Fiberglass for Mold Side A - Process Documentation

Artist Talk

Susanna asked me to participate in an artist talk with Tom McMillin, George Geyer and Michael Davis. I got to go last. In the video below, you can hear me at what’s probably “medium rant”. Not quite going full tilt here, but a lot of my thinking is on display.  I’m available for cult meetings, bar mitzvahs, mass suicides, political rallies, etc…

Thank You

Ragnarok Supply only came about due to the assistance of many dedicated supporters. Firstly, Susanna Meiers, invited me to be in the show and who was far, far to faithful in my ability to get the work to the gallery on time. Also firstly, Eric Johnson, who is my mentor, friend and who made this project physically possible. Special thanks goes to Michele Hubacek, who deals with my daily crises and whom did incredibly tight work getting that mandala up on the wall while I was literally scrambling to polish and transport the works to the gallery. Michael Lewis Miller did lighting magic that I wouldn’t have thought of and made the installation pop. I learned everything I know about lighting from Michael back in the 90′s and he’s still teaching me new things today. Thank you to Chris Williamson, who was a big hand at tricky moments in the studio. Big thanks also to my crew of sword rotators, who hand rotated the swords in two back breaking eight hour shifts – Edith Abeyta, Eddie Muela, Michele Hubacek, Nicholas Klemek, Ulysses Arreola, Jason Plapp, Heather Anacker and Geoffrey Udo.