VFD's Phoebe Patey-Ferguson talks to Madeline Botet de Lacaze of Astrology for Artists about queer astrology, the power of the planets and unlocking the creative potential of the universe....
PPF: Hi Madeleine, could you tell us about Astrology for Artists? What inspired this practice and how long have you been doing it?
MBL: I created Astrology for Artists in 2014 when I got a grant from The Live Art Development Agency as part of their DIY artist development scheme. The scheme is aimed at the eclectic needs of artists whose practices are grounded in challenging and unconventional approaches. I ran my first workshop at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park and since then Astrology for Artists began growing slowly but steadily.
I was born in Argentina where going to therapy and seeing an astrologer once a year is a common thing - culturally we love talking about our feelings, sharing our struggles and delving into the meaning of life. When I had my first astrological reading I really felt the power of a language that speaks to the soul from the nature of the self.
From that moment astrology became my refuge; I understood that I didn’t have a problem and wasn’t crazy but simply had a complex chart (as we all do in some way or another). It was a matter of learning how to work, choose and build my identity from a place of freedom rather than a conditioned background. It liberated me from many ideas and preconceptions I had of myself or that were expected of me - things I thought didn’t have a solution for and was destined to live with. It gave me strength, belief and a strong will to discover myself, but most importantly it makes me learn to love myself, to value the diversity within me and trust my creativity.
My life before moving to the UK was focussed on my art practice - I studied acting for seven years in Buenos Aires and New York, then Cinematography, and when I realised that I wanted to develop my own art practice I began assisting artists, and experimenting with video and photography as a way to express the stories and pain that lay within our bodies. My main focus during my twenties was to work as hard as possible to find the best way in which I could express myself creatively. Astrology was my guide, a tool that allowed me to trust my choices and not give up despite struggles. I studied with different astrologers and began the career in Argentina until I moved to the UK to do a MA in Performance. This was exactly at the start of my Saturn return: I moved country, discovered performance art - a practice that made me feel so alive as I had never felt before - and as a consequence I began calling myself an artist, whispering it at the beginning and saying it out loud now!
I also studied at the Faculty of Astrological Studies in London and it was then when I began thinking of integrating art and astrology. I felt very strongly how both disciplines transform the self by encouraging the removal of what is separating. Any art practice wants to blur the boundaries between the object and the subject, or the performer and the spectator - when we experience art and it touches our being, we are transformed, we change, we experience and understand things differently and this shows the power that art has to transform and heal. Astrology does the same thing but within the self, it challenges our ego which clearly is an edition of the self, it pushes the boundaries and it liberates by unifying. It allows us to arrive at our identity. I truly believe everyone is an artist and our life is our most important act. As human artists we need to learn our tool, which is our soul, body, mind and spirit. The more we know ourselves and our energies, the more freedom we have to choose how we want to live and who we want to be.
You have used the phrase ‘our souls have no gender’ for your classes at VFD, which connects to the burgeoning queer astrology movement. How can astrology be empowering for those who are part of queer and feminist communities?
Yes, I used ‘our souls have no gender’ because I believe in an astrology that cultivates resilience and fluidity, an astrology that liberates and expands life experience. The sky doesn’t discriminate or assume or judge our gender. We are born with a specific chart but what that chart symbolises is alive, vibrating and showing us infinite possible identities - as Chani Nicholas says "there are as many manifestations of gender as there are people on the planet, and there are stars in the sky". To be queer is to arrive at our identity and our decisions about what we want in life. Astrological culture and practice are indeed being renovated with a queer and feminist theory as we can’t negate that there is a lot of cultural bias in how astrology has been written, passed on throughout history and understood until now (so be careful with what you read!) - particularly when it comes to relationship structures, gender and power. Looking at astrology from a queer lens allow us to to go beyond preconceptions and be more inclusive. I aim to create a safe space where we can learn from each other, connect with our voice, honour our feelings, embrace our bodies and be kind to ourselves. Soul growth and inner spiritual development is for me a political act, a way to fight the fragile and unpredictable times we are living in by connecting with our authenticity. Astrologer Christopher Renstrom said “Wherever there’s a revolution or change or when institutions fail, there’s astrology”. And here we are!
The images I’m posting for this interview are from my latest performance NATURE, which is a work that subverts the idea that there is one way to be, and that that one way is essential to being, of course inspired by a queer and embodied astrology.
We often know our birth sign, but how does learning about our astrological chart as a whole help guide us as individuals?
Learning and understanding your astrological chart is a life journey experience; one where - from my perspective - there is no way back ;-) The complexity and beauty of our charts goes beyond our star sign and can be incredibly revealing and profoundly healing. When I see someone's chart it’s like looking at the potential of who that person can become - a map, a guide, a seed that is up to that person to grow and water through the seasons, protect and nurture to allow authentic expression. Astrology shows us the energies that are available to us and the more we look inside and discover these energies the more freedom we have to choose who we want to be. We need to have the will to make the work though, change comes from within. Also our creativity is vital in the process of combining our energies to fully express ourselves. Self love, self acceptance, the importance of our voices and what we want to communicate, who we want to be with, what’s our purpose and growing into the person you are by living at your greatest potential is what astrology can give you access to.
The most recent classes at VFD have been on the planets Pluto and Uranus, why is it important to understand their position in our chart? What powers do these planets hold?
VFD is a radical, queer, feminist, underground, political, freedom loving space that aims for expansion, art and dreams to happen. Inevitably when planning my classes there I thought of the power of the outer and transpersonal planets Uranus, Neptune & Pluto as a way of bringing these themes to the surface and looking at where in our charts we are radical and rebellious (Uranus), we want to transform, transcend and regenerate ourselves (Pluto) and our need to go beyond our conscious control (Neptune). As the outer planets reflect profound levels of experience, their presence in the chart has become identified with processes that are both potent and also potentially life-changing. Remote and magnificent - the invisible presence of the outer planets conjures up a deep sense of the endless mystery of our skies. Please join me this Tuesday the 24th to the class: URANUS The Great Awakener at VFD!
What do you hope people are able to take away from your classes?
I hope people get inspired by knowing more about themselves and their creative energies, about others and how we can embrace the difference, plus engage with the world and its current fragile situation from a different perspective. There is nothing more powerful and healing than tapping into our souls - the deepest source of life in human kind. I’m someone who likes to live life intensely and with freedom. I’m constantly searching and trying to understand my identity and it’s complexities. I‘m in a constant search for healing and I want to bring this to every group I facilitate. Safety and inclusion is vital for me as well as diversity and openness.