A giclée of My Only Child (Part One), a collage by artist Florian-Ayala Fauna, has hung over my writing desk for almost a year now. Every day, I look at the large, black field mice and lupine hindquarters bookending an image straight out of a Stanley B. Burns book of medical horrors: the wasted body of a nearly naked man with the head of a wolf propped up by a metal/wood contraption designed to serve as a kind of wheeled crutch. Part ancient daguerreotype, part Joel-Peter Witkin, part PETA, the assemblage works on a variety of levels: Catching the eye, its mix of strength and vulnerability lingers in the mind and feels like an assault while humanizing the suffering of animals without being mawkish.
A bit of a loner and mystic, Fauna works successfully in several diverse disciplines—painting, poetry, photography, collage, music and film—bringing a deeply personal, esoteric vision to them all. "I have a rather holistic view when it comes to mysticism and spirituality, and the same applies to art," the artist says. "They're all different paths to the same kingdom."
Fauna has worked with controversial novelist Dennis Cooper and collaborated on music with Stephen Thrower (Coil, Cyclobe) and Charlie Martineau (Esperik Glare), among others, counting among friends the late Peter Christopherson of Throbbing Gristle. All pretty impressive outsider connections for a person at the beginning of a career, who, at the tender age of 21, has already exhibited in the U.K. and at the illustrious Centre Pompidou in Paris.
OC Weekly: Do you consider your sensibility Gothic?
Florian-Ayala Fauna: I try to avoid assigning labels to myself. It takes a great length of time to know oneself, and even then, we are constantly evolving. I embrace a certain Gothic sensibility, not so much in the contemporary subculture sense, but in the Romantic tradition. I don't see myself dwelling on the darker aspects of reality. Darkness within discipline doesn't make you malign; it makes one appreciate the light.
You describe yourself as an androgyne. Can you talk a little about that?
Despite being born male, I have never identified with such a gender as far back as I can remember. Later, I started to embrace people's confusion over my gender and appearance, even when I had a more masculine appearance. I see androgyny and being transgendered as being able to go beyond dichotomies and dualities.
I'm fascinated by the consistent use of strong, durable animal imagery in your work—foxes, birds, wolves, deer. What's behind that?
I am most interested in animal-like fear, pain and suffering. It's in their blood and instincts to act on pure will alone, so there is a certain fragility, especially in the meek. I'm very influenced by the gnostics, who believed that a malign creator-god is responsible for the mask that is the material world—a false layer to the soul and the eons of the greater deity. The fragility of animals is a symptom of the malign creation, a sacrifice of the soul. The strength and durability you see in my work is that of the everlasting soul seeking unification with the true god.
You've released several digital albums and EPs of experimental music, with yourself as the sole visionary behind it. Your latest digital album, dancing with the blind (lost children), has one of the most evocative titles for an album I've ever heard, with the music on it atmospheric and haunting. You describe it as "ritual musick for communication with the ghosts of foxes."
The idea of producing a series of melancholic tape-loop recordings and [the idea of] ghost foxes came to me one night as some sort of divine spark. The ritual musick part came about later, as I started to study mysticism and magick, because there's a [correlation] between the repetitive nature of tape loops and ancient consciousness-altering practices. I'm currently working on a cycle of releases for a double album titled the fox's funeral: hymns for fallen forests. It's a narrative piece telling the story of the death of a family of fox-human mystics.
You reside in the exurb community of Indio. I took a look at the city's website, and the arts scene seems to consist of Johnny Cash tributes, chalk art, camel and ostrich races, and Neil Simon revivals. Doesn't seem like there's much room for the kind of work you're doing.
There isn't much in the way of an approachable fine-arts or experimental-music scene—and I highly doubt anything in the way of esotericism, so I have remained a diligent worker on my own craft for many years, working alone. The isolation is unbearable at times, but ultimately, I am better for it.
Dave Barton has written for the OC Weekly for over twenty years, the last eight as their lead art critic. He has interviewed artists from punk rock photographer Edward Colver to monologist Mike Daisey, playwright Joe Penhall to culture jammer Ron English.