State of the Framework 2021: On Catharsis
Updated: Apr 24
Hi all, welcome back to the second installment in a series of blog posts detailing the refresh and future of Rochester Grimoire. The first one gives an overview here.
I wanted to cover the Chaos or Winter books next, but as has been the theme for the past 6 years, life has to come first. One of the most crucial lessons I took away from writing Dark Web Voices was this: [emotional health] has to come before [artistic/existential essence], which has to come before [pride/ego.] I'm going through a particularly hard time this week and so I'm opting to choose alignment with emotional health.
Chaos and Winter were so much of my pride and identity, sitting in the back of my head for years. For a long time, I believed these projects were my existential purpose. Like I absolutely had to finish them at any cost, before my eventual death. Thankfully I found a way to break out of those boxes and carry my life forward.
The only RG series which ever showed years-long momentum was the one not wrapped up in adolescent grandiosity and gigantic conceptual stories: Eclectic Effect. This series acted as a continuous sort of diary, "A miscellaneous series of poetry, fiction, and inspired non-fiction; a variety of inspirations tied to [Rochester Grimoire's] roots." I would add to it whenever I felt it was necessary to process something I'd experienced: whether it was of the Light, inspiring, and positive; of the Darkness, grim, existential; or somewhere inbetween.
The Eclectic Effect
Throughout 2015 and 2016 I wrote about ~70 grimoire cards through the lens of 'the eclectic effect.' "Deriving ideas, style, or taste from a broad and diverse range of sources," the eclectic effect, in my mind, was the sort of emotional smack in the face various aspects of life give us. When we listen to our favorite musical artists, we feel inspired. When we see and experience new geographical locations, we feel inspired. When we go through heartbreak and witness the pain our world has to offer, we feel inspired.
Thus, every piece within Eclectic Effect was written in reaction to something really fucking cool; or beautiful; or painful. The moments and concepts expressed in this series were monumental to my coming-of-age, a time inextricably laden with a kind of naïvety to the mundane nature of adulthood, driven by a lust for life—even the painful aspects.
A few favorites of mine. Clockwise from top-left: Amanda at Sandbar Park; Collin at the Bug Jar; Olya at Lake Ontario; Corina among the birds; myself on #thatrocbridge by Matt S; and Sarah at Letchworth State Park.
EE cards became a means of simply processing my world. When I'd feel overwhelmed with something positive or negative, I'd take the time to put it into art—and come out on the other side with a clearer head and a sort of moment-trophy, a scrapbook of the most poignant memories of my youth. In effect, I'm sure the memorialization of these snapshots has made them that much more memorable.
But at a certain point, I grew rapidly away from the naïvety of Rochester Grimoire's early childhood. My writing improved; my feet broadened; I'd learned a lot about effective worldbuilding, human relationships, and the act of paying homage. Simply put, I became more mature. Less risky, less cringey, more aware, more conscientious. It's like that Breakfast Club line, "When you grow up, your heart dies." I don't think life is that serious, but the quote holds some truth. Adulthood has shaped me to be more careful of my impact on the world, sometimes to the detriment of frequently expressed authenticity. Production of EE cards sharply fell following 2016.
When considering the future of RG I've been thinking it's important to own the past but give it a place to sleep, and otherwise keep pushing forward. You'll notice there are separate dropdowns on rochestergrimoire.com's menu for current series—those which I want the Reader to find first, my best works—as well as legacy series—those which created a foundation for the project but otherwise feel quite far away from who I've become.
A Cathartic Codex
These thoughts have led me to a decision: Eclectic Effect is forking off into a newly-named series, Cathartic Codex, here in 2021. This means that EE cards no. 69 and earlier will stay in that series, while EE cards including and later than no. 70 exist in the CC series. Many of these (70–91) are a retroactive decision after careful assessment of the general point in time I feel my writing evolved, and EE cards became more mature.
Now, is this a slippery slope? Will I similarly distance myself from CC five years from now because I feel I've changed too much? Great question; I don't think so. My adult identity has felt largely stable these past couple years, and though I'm always open to learning, growing, and changing, I don't see myself looking back again and feeling like, "Man, it's time to distance myself from that work." Even if I grow to disagree with works I've recently made, I'll still feel proud of them because they were probably decently written, and they encapsulated a poignant time in my life.
If it's any litmus test, I'm still immensely proud of the commitment and effort I put into Dark Web Voices two years ago, especially referencing its theme that I'd grow away from it, and continue shaping my identity. There are also a couple CC cards which definitely make me cringe, in a sense—but I'm still so proud of them for the vulnerability they offered, or the commitment to being a public mess, or the effort they took to create.
CC cards are generally grittier and use graphics in some way. Rightmost is myself struggling with infatuation; and Lea replicating Taylor Swift's 'Red' album cover.
Let's define the new series. Catharsis is defined as the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions. Next, a codex is defined as an ancient manuscript text in book form; as "a quire of manuscript pages held together by stitching: the earliest form of book, replacing the scrolls and wax tablets of earlier times."
Conceptually, this "cathartic codex" is a stitched-together, continuously growing series of cathartic expressions; a grimoire written with intent to purge the body and mind of moments, memories, and traumas especially negative. 'Catharsis' can be synonymous with 'purifying'; at the same time, I think the dirt and grime going into these pages have immense value. That's not to say there won't be opportunities for Light.
As has been RG philosophy, art is born in the mind to die in the mind, by being born into the world. After these pieces leave me, they are yours. CC isn't all that different from EE—but it deserved a new coat of philosophical paint. My partner at the time also pointed out the cheeky yet effective double entendre, "cathartic Kodaks." It's great!
I have a number of CC cards to release soon. Some were written in the past, others more recently for the sake of processing things which deserved to have been a long time ago.
Closing and Thanks
I want to thank anyone reading for following along with my growth over the years, and continuing to show interest when I bring up this project in conversation. I also want to individually credit and thank those who've contributed something to Eclectic Effect and Cathartic Codex in varying degrees of inspiration or investment. I have added these lists to their respective series' pages.
To the best of my memory, Eclectic Effect credits and thanks by investment, then alphabetical order:
Meredith Kinsman, B. Fiona Henry, Collin Zweigle, Breyanna Weimer, Corina Jaffarian, Lea Mousso, Sarah Harris, Chuck Ferera II, Adity G., Alyssa M., Amanda S., Andrew S., Bastille, Connor B., Danielle F., Deanna M., Emily K., Haley B., Jeff W., Josh S., Kali A., Kayla M., Loudjina D., Mary V., Matt S., Mike R., Noreen N., Noah H., Olivia P., Olya M., OVERWERK, Rebecca C., Sam C., Sapphire C., Shawn T., Steven P., B.M., C.M., E.J., H.S., J.B., K.H., K.O.
Current Cathartic Codex credits and thanks by alphabetical order:
A.F., Anna H., Britta Moberg, C.B., C.M., D.R., E.J., G.D., Jessica L., Jolene S., Julia P., K.O., K.P., Kait O., Lea M., Lea Y., Lisa M., OVERWERK, R.C., S.D.
There's much more to cover as I shift gears and refresh RG to fit my current life circumstances—traveling the country, exploring new locales and cultures, and eventually moving to a new region for a fresh start. I'm excited for the coming opportunity, the imminent waves of experience I'll be glad to document and share into art.
Thanks for reading,
Derek J. DiRisio