Torture By Roses is a project combining the talents of musician Abby Helasdottir and performance artist The Magdalene. Although the themes of the project range across Gnosticism and Western Magickal tradition, the focus is on the sexual, and particularly queer, undercurrents that are to be found in Christian mythology and iconography. Within what is often thought to be a prudish and intransigent religion, is a wealth of heretical ideas relating to homosexuality, transgressive sexuality, and the fluidity of gender and gender roles.
Torture By Roses was originally conceived in 1999 to create a one-off tape work, exploring Salome and St. Sebastian, two figures from Christian tradition whose core stories have been adopted and elaborated upon by unorthodox artists for centuries. The work relied heavily on manipulated recordings of the opera Salome by Richard Strauss, and Claude Debussy's Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian. These little-heard tape experiments were reprised in 2000 and 2001, where they were transferred to digital format and through computer processing, taken beyond their humble beginnings. These new versions contained traces of the classical compositions of Strauss and Debussy, combined with dark ambient soundscapes, deconstructed washes of ambience, and rising industrial walls of sound. Sebastian~Salome was released on CD by Mediatrix in September 2001. A complete performance based on the Sebastian and Salome cycle was created by Abby Helasdottir and The Magdalene, but for a number of reasons, including threats of police action from the Christian Heritage Party, the performance of the piece was cancelled.
The most recent work from Torture By Roses is called Ignis Spiritus: Liber Magdalena, and considers the role of Mary Magdalene as both a priestess, the beloved disciple, and as an embodiment of Sophia. Much of the form of the piece is derived from Gnostic texts such as the Gospel of Mary and the Pistis Sophia, in which Mary Magdalene is presented in the privileged position of one who knows the journey of the soul through the aeons and the archons. This work was premiered at the Darkness Gathering festival, October 26, 2002.
Sebastian~Salome (Mediatrix, 2001)
Works (Performed and unperformed):
Ignis Spiritus: Liber Magdalena