‘Everything comes from the One and returns to the One, by the One, for the One.’ (Klossowski de Rola, 1973, p. 14)
Alchemy is commonly known as a form chemistry of the Middle Ages that was mainly concerned with transmutation of matter, such as base metals into gold (Oxford Living Dictionaries, 2018). However, researchers such as Stanislas Klossowski de Rola have for decades argued that this is a much too simplistic view of the subject, stating that alchemy is a much more complex system which is understood only through careful examination. The secret science of alchemy conceals ‘the means of penetrating the very secrets of Nature, Life and Death’ (Klossowski de Rola, 1973). In other words alchemy was/is concerned with philosophical ideas and questions and is strongly linked to ritual and magical thinking. The Oxford Dictionary (2018) also defines alchemy as a ‘seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.’
Earlier during my research process I briefly touched on the topic of alchemy because of its close relationship with ritual, magic, and transformation. I also used alchemical illustrations as inspiration to define and structure the main subject areas and core of my research.
I have now returned to alchemy as a means to illustrate the deconstructive workshop process. Because the workshop method is somewhat complex and I am in the process of defining the mechanics of it, I decided to clarify the structure through illustration. Drawing inspiration from alchemy I created the following illustration, which shows the different stages and elements of the process. This also prompted me to read more in depth about the secret life of alchemy and I ended up finding several ideas and concepts that reflect the core ideas of the workshop method.
In the words of Stanislas Klossowski de Rola (1973) true alchemy, ‘fashions a most precious thing’ out of ‘a small quantity of vile matter’ (p. 13). Similarly, the deconstructive workshop method has the potential to take, not necessarily always or only vile, but raw and complex emotions and through a creative process turn them into something ‘precious’ for the participant.
The quote at the beginning refers to a loop of creation or symbol of eternity and is what the snake or dragon Ouroboros represents while biting its own tail (Klossowski de Rola, 1973). This quote places itself perfectly within the workshop process as the journey is about the individual; everything, the raw material, comes from the participant and returns to the participant in an altered form through a creative process. Furthermore, the process is done by the participant for the participant.
In alchemy, the practitioner has to overcome the obstacles and difficulties of an intricate process that culminates in the production of the Philosopher’s Stone (Klossowski de Rola, 1973). This is the so-called stone that has the property of transmuting basic matter into something precious. During the deconstructive workshop the idea is for the participant to go through a complex process of investigating feelings and identifying and editing different elements before arriving at a poetic outcome.