CVLT Nation interviews Florian Ayala Fauna
Hello, thank you for doing this interview, as a first question, who is Florian-Ayala Fauna?
Well, I’m not usually one to speak of myself in the third-person, but I’m a visual artist, musician, androgyne, and occultist whose work all overlaps together. I’m one for the belief that art is life, and life is art. As such, it’s all part of the strange occult world that is my life. And my life has been stranger than fiction, at least to some. Chronic illness has been involved in my life in particular since age 21 (now 25 yet looking like a teenager still, haha). I am often bed-ridden these days from a condition known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which is self-explanatory, and makes it such that I can’t work at my desk for more than 4 hours at times. There are also elements of chronic pain, and on top of this the temporal lobe epilepsy makes things more difficult, yet influences my art a great deal being that it gives me religious visions often resembling that of John’s Revelation and other cryptic, esoteric texts. A lot of these illnesses and perhaps even the visions come from being intersex, XXY in genetic make-up, causing a combination of a male and female body naturally. Though I’m transgender, I suppose “trans-feminine”, it didn’t take that much to pass, haha.
What can you tell me about the industrial band Uncertain? What is the drive behind it?
It was started in 2007 after feeling like my work as a musician was such that I could make a name for my project that would be of a more established nature for my life, as things before that were rather crude and weak in my opinion. It started with some cut-up pieces meant to reference EVP sound and ghostly phenomenon, meant to be very much interested in haunting sounds. From there, I started releasing numerous releases each year online, all of a minimal drone or ambient nature, a focus on sound and samples (which I still do today). After a while, there came to be a stronger emphasis on music composition and traditional instrument sounds, as I had started learning more on theory. Eventually specific occult references came into the picture, after a so-called “self-initiation” around the time of my epilepsy starting to develop.
A lot of my work is drawn from the sound of projects such as Coil, Current 93, Throbbing Gristle, and others of that esoteric underground. Coil in particular, were the main reason I started producing music, and I’m honored to have befriended many of the members, including the late Peter Christopherson. My occult sensibilities play a major role, which is certainly obvious given the imagery and lyrical content, as magick and mysticism are crucial to my life, and allowed myself to see what was never seen yet I knew, a place unknown in reason, yet full of wonder and wisdom in awe and terror. Emotional transparency figure in a major way as well, being someone who has dealt with severe psychological troubles for years, including depression and alienation since childhood. My anxiety was such at times that it would give way to complex-partial seizures creating states of neurological terror for at least eight hours, having to go the ER every time. The music and art that comes from all of this is what is a mirror yet a window into all that I experience, and including hopefully the experiences which are beyond normal words.
What can we expect in an Uncertain show? I’ve listened to some live sets and they seem to be powerful, yet harsh and cold.
Well, I’ve always wanted each performance to be a full experience in some sense, incorporating visuals a great deal one way or another. We have always involved masks or makeup in some way, particularly animal masks due to my own experiences and interests with the human-animal hybrid in mysticism, mythos, and visionary art from countless eras. Some sort of costume has been involved, as it is a means of preparing for a ritual, which I feel what this is in some sense. To add to this, video projections I create are at times used, as well as other ritual tools such as candles and incense. We enjoy using regular stage theatrics such as lights and fog if available, but that doesn’t happen often due to the spaces we play at.
With the music itself, I spend a great amount of time preparing for exclusive backing material for the show, and often for that show only. Almost every show ever has involved a completely different set of music pieces and is often more composition oriented than improvised noise. However, live performance and chance improvisation with vocals, effects, noise, and ritual instruments are a major factor as well, being that I feel the live raw energy of catharsis is a must with shows. My fiance, Felix Keigh, does more traditional vocals live, he often sings in a melodic sense even in stark contrast to the music, and other times do jarring harsh screams in the style of power electronics in our more noise-oriented sets. My own involvement in our shows often involve laptop running Ableton Live as a means of controlling prepared material, effects on different inputs, and as a sort of sampler to trigger sounds I collect. I run Felix’s vocals through a Korg Kaoss Pad KP3, which we have technical difficulties at times unfortunately. I myself use a microphone going through a Digitech TimeBend delay, for vocals and ritual instruments. Ever since I gave up on singing, my vocals have been more of a left-field approach, involving the most horrid screaming I can do, wailing and howling, xenoglossia chants, and other such things like that. We have live guest members, though that can be difficult to arrange for at times.
My intent for our live shows is to create a ritualistic space of many sensory layers, hopefully something overwhelming and jarring one way or another.
One of the things I really like about you as an artist is your Void art, what are your inspirations?
Early into my life, I was exposed to the stranger parts of the world as I grew up in Bombay Beach, California. It is a decaying, rather post-apocalyptic looking town of less than three-hundred residents, abandoned small houses, and the Salton Sea, a highly polluted lake with it’s shores covered in dead fish and animal bones. Along with that from the start, I watched quite a bit of medical shows and documentaries on unusual and taboo subjects as a young child. Being in poverty was something I was well aware of, something contributing to my strong depression and anxiety coming up early for me. Growing up with Christianity, I focused more from the beginning on things such as passages on visions, Revelations, the crucifixion, and martyrs in general. I’ve mentioned childhood here before, but it’s worth noting with my art as well. Especially so.
Surrealism, industrial music culture, medical imagery, and esoterica became heavily involved throughout my work in adolescence, and obviously still to this day. It managed to seamlessly flow together without much thought, something of a current of a natural sort. It’s fair to say anything of the stranger sort, anything that is in someway different from the norm is how my art and music is the way it is, and simply part of my life in some sense. After the interest in occultism started to grow more, my own epileptic visions started happening, and I feel it is no coincidence they are very similar. I guess it was meant to be.
The general nature of suffering and all of its forms is a major part of my work, it always has been, whether I mean to or not. People have told me on how they see my work as some of the most terrifying they’ve experienced, and I take that as quite a compliment, not in some sort juvenile sense, but being able to communicate those very things I wish to convey, and even may help people feel validated. Being queer and transgender has figured into this quite a bit over time, it’s quite painful to say the least. There’s the matter of being betrayed by your body, your own name, your own previous existence, and how condemned it is from the start from society and people you thought you could trust. You will be violated one way or another, somehow and at any time, several times usually. With this in mind, I hope to convey this animal-like fear, this alien existence, and the pain is real and that it may in some way help process the emotions and experiences LGBTQ* people have dealt with.
I also noticed that you use different media, what are your prefered mediums to show your art?
I would say collage, painting, and music would be it. Collage is something that doesn’t require a great amount of financial investments, mostly a printer and books to use. I found it to be a very expressive medium that is often very much overlooked and stifled of its full potential. Usually, people just throw together a bunch of shit from magazines without much real thought, whereas I prefer to use the medium in a more illustrative sense. I often find my collages to end up looking like Svankmajer films actually, years and years before I became familiar with his work.
Painting is something that is very emotional to do, even if it’s on a very small scale. I haven’t had the finances to pursue it for years, but I have found myself returning to watercolor, as it is a lot cheaper than other variations. The physical aspect to it makes for it to be something of an alchemical act, translating the raw emotions into the paint, almost in a literal sense. I miss it dearly, I feel like I could be doing some of my best work now if I was able to have the money, time and space. I hope that it will happen soon, it’s a beautiful form of art.
With the music I do, a strong emotive approach to it is important to say the least. I often think to myself that a lot of music is meaningless, even that which I enjoy quite a bit, due to the lack of significant, strong emotions. That’s a rather pretentious thing to stand by, but it feels that way to me a lot. Whether it be something akin to a soft lullaby, or a rapid sonic assault, the music I do needs to have an impact. People much older than us to be the most impressed, perhaps familiar with the wide range of influences, as well as the lived experience or turmoil and a hard life. My partners and I have had a life wrought with terror at times, often due to being transgender and queer or of psychological issues at some point. Being an “old soul” is a comment we’ve received at times, but whatever the case is, we would know that “the price of existence is eternal warfare”.
You are attracted to the occult, that’s a nice thing to know, I myself have a huge fascination by it, what are your influences in that area?
Well, it mostly stems from a Christian upbringing that was fortunately not traumatic like a lot of people with conservative parents go through. My parents affiliate with Republicans, but I wouldn’t call them conservative in the social sense at all. My father understands the esoteric ideas of the androgyne, which is an unexpected surprise. To continue, it introduced a lot of subjects and imagery that continue to influence my work to this day. Blood shed and suffering through my Catholic mother was introduced every Sunday of depictions of the grotesque deaths of Saints, Christ on the cross and all that entails, and my own interest in the visions, prophets, and the book of Revelations. I still have Christian beliefs, in the Gnostic sense, which would probably surprise the fuck out of people, but the occult demands the study of all Abrahamic religion.
Obviously with my interest in the dark, AND the light in the matter of transcendentalism, Hermeticism and Aleister Crowley would figure in a great deal in my life, and my art in every way. I wouldn’t consider myself to be a full on Thelemite, but he serves as a very important teacher that actually recommends that with the craft, “Do What Thou Wilt”. The dark imagery gives way to beauty when one fully understands it, and see the enlightenment that in experienced after great suffering.
Speaking of magic(k), are you a practitioner?
Well, simply put – yes. I feel as though it would be fraudulent to not be with all of my work alluding to it, haha. One way or another, it had appealed to me greatly growing up, and it was subtly there the whole time. Everything about me, in some form, would ultimately lead up to such a path, I feel. I became very much involved in early 2013, studying Aleister Crowley’s Thoth Tarot. From there, I slowly started exploring things such as past-life regression and astral projection. It was greatly intense, but familiar. That’s still the case today. Early into things, I studied Goetic rituals, which is very, very cliche but served as a good starting point for me. A great amount of strange events, terrifying encounters, and almost scary times of synchronicity occurred.
The main serving point into initiation was the oncoming of my epilepsy. It involved a hideous form of ego-death through means of a nervous breakdown lasting several years. As I’ve mentioned, having terrifying long-form seizures sending me to the ER happened for around three years at least. I still get scares unfortunately. I can’t help but bring that up here, it really is a major thing in my life, for better or worse. It eventually became thus that I started seeing Gnostic visions during certain forms of seizure. Much of it corresponds to what is involved in my art – people with the heads of animals, apocalyptic imagery, extreme example of sublime imagery. I’ve seen countless things throughout the years, all of it lining up with texts I didn’t even know about at times. There are places with golden gardens, creatures with countless veins growing out of them, scenes of Hell comprised of extreme body horror, etc. It’s all very intense and insane to rationalize, but it’s just what my life has become, there’s really not much to say of it at times.
I try my best to use the occult to help myself and others, and as a means of transcendentalism, but there are some things you can’t change, and for me, the visions are one of them.
It came as quite a big shock when Donald Trump won, what are your thoughts about that? Did it affect your art?
It’s a disturbing matter we have to face. I suppose my so-called, “apocalyptic visions” really did mean something in the end. Every single day, I get hit with despair and anger, working away at me everyday. But we can’t give up. Resist or die at this point. As someone who is transgender, queer, and disabled- I have a LOT to lose, and same with my loved ones. I’ve been doing everything I can in my community, in real life and online. I’m committed to being an anti-fascist, even willing to black bloc. Any means necessary.
My art has involved a greater darkness and despair, even more vicious this time. But it also has moments of gentle melancholy. They go hand in hand. I’ve done a number of collages that have been most cathartic, poems of sorrow coupled with various images including autopsy photos and pictures I took at a farm. There’s a lot to process, a lot to be afraid of, and a lot of feelings to let out.
One of the only reassuring things I have with me are some of the visions I’ve had, as stupid as that sounds. I’ve had a number of them involving the Egyptian vulture diety Ma’at, who serves as judgement supposedly. She spoke of “damah”, locusts, and even revolution. I looked up what “damah” meant, and it is a Hebrew word meaning, “to cut off, sever, destroy, weed out”. With this, are images of strange animals and creatures slowly assembling to eat large towers and “destroyer engines” which look like a bizarre, nightmarish mix of bones, flesh, machines, organic forms, and mountains in the form of a crowned animal. There are a ton of other things in these visions I see that I can go on about, but I sincerely hope there’s something to it. I really hope so.