Today we’d like to introduce you to The Ungoogleable Michaelangelo.
Michaelangelo, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Even my earliest memories, growing up in The Netherlands, lean towards the surreal, the sublime, and the absurd, and contain the psycho-magical seeds of my current-day creative aspirations and explorations.
One of the first memories I can recall is a dream in which I was being chased by a monster—a big old “Sully”-looking beast—across varying terrains, through woodlands and mountains, across the planes, hopping trains, until he finally had me cornered in a dead-end alley. Cowering in a corner and seeing no way out—his gargantuan shadow enveloping me as he slowly approached—my little dream-self quickly came up with the naïvely good-hearted solution to extend my hand towards the menacing figure in a gesture of alliance.
“Friends?” I proposed.
Another memory took place in waking life but has all the characteristics of a dream. Before falling asleep at night, my four or five-year-old self, lying in bed, was regularly visited and tormented by ghoulish specters that looked like wolves and bats, with gnarly, razor-sharp fangs. Their forms gathered from whatever light stirred through the darkness, and they’d come streaking at me like phantasmagoric comets, passing through me on impact, sending shivers through my body.
I told my mom about it, and after a while she came up with a rather ingenious solution, based on something she’d gleaned from a children’s book. She suggested that I draw my tormentors. And so, like a little ghostbuster, I caught them in the rays of my imagination and crudely rendered their basic likeness onto paper, where their trapped, 2D resemblance gazed out at me, fangs bared, but unable to harm or scare me.
We tied the drawings to balloons to release them so they would drift far, far away from me. The balloons, however, didn’t have any helium in them, so when we released them at a nearby park—instead of flying off like graceful doves—they dropped to the ground—like a dead dove—and were then occasionally dragged along the gravel by a gust of wind. It was pretty anticlimactic, but then we saw a couple of teenagers on bicycles approaching in the distance. My mom and I quickly ducked away behind a wall or a bush and kept voyeuristic vigil as the girls chanced upon my inflated fears, and began to inspect them.
“Now they’ll get them,” my mother spoke these witchy words as she smiled down at me, and though the dubious morality of it was not entirely lost on me, I felt relieved by the prospect of sleeping in a wolfless, batless room from then on. Later that evening, however, some friends of my teenage sister knocked on our door. Like vampire slayers carrying the severed heads of their conquest, the girls carried balloons with drawing attached to them.
“Look what we brought for your little brother,” they said, cheerfully.
I bring up these anecdotes because they convey an attitude about embracing the unknown. Understanding that I could not escape or expel my fears of the unknown or the depths of myself, I have made a career of exploring and allying with them, spelunking in the cocooning caves of the self. The latter anecdote emphasizes my path of art as a means to usher imaginary realms into consensual reality, forming a bridge between worlds. I’ve always been drawn towards the unknown and the unspeakable, using my creativity as a means to conquer and conjure these dimensions into sight, sound, story, and presence.
A sense of humor has proved to be a most valuable asset in the effort to make light of the dark.
Two and a half years ago I moved to LA, like so many, to pursue an acting career. I came here almost like an act of aversion therapy. I lived in San Francisco for the decade leading up to my move, and half of that time I resided in an old convent-turned-arts-collective alongside a revolving cast of 23 other creatives. I had a socially supported persona and a network in which I was generally well known for my art, music, wit, wisdom, and whimsy.
I was pretty comfortable in that sense. LA terrified me. I never much liked it when I’d visited in the past. So I thought, “let’s move there!” It seemed like a good place to confront and ally my fears—to get to know myself better in ways that made me uncomfortable.
I grew up in The Netherlands, in the 1980s, in front of the TV’s informative glow, like a psychoactive plant grown under artificial light, so it’s no wonder I have an expressive and hyper-active psyche. English is not my first language, but because most of the programming was imported from English-speaking countries and subtitled I learned to speak English almost fluently by the time I turned six, and without an accent–or rather, in any accent of my choosing, thanks to my talent for mimicry. I had learned Dutch by interacting with my biological surroundings—family, school, friends—but English was fueled by fiction. English was like a spirit language for me, evolving alongside my biological self. My “English self” thought up elaborate stories and characters that eventually wanted to find a way into the world.
I knew early on that I wanted to “strike through the screen” to enter into that “spirit world,” walk among the celebrity “gods,” and broadcast my own stories to the world. Now I should note that even though I spoke English pretty well for a little Dutch boy, I couldn’t tell the difference between “robots in THE SKIES” or “robots in DISGUISE” when I sang the theme song from Transformers. It’s funny, because “Transformers” feels like the theme of my life, considering how my creative journey has been a metamorphosis through varying mediums, all of which configure together into a sort of Optimus Prime at the conclusion.
As a psychonautic storyteller, I find myself chasing a fleeting dream, something elusive and evasive that nonetheless pervades throughout our lives. Something that, if you manage to grasp it, transforms—and if you manage to hold on long enough, you are transformed by it. My hobbies as a kid seamlessly transformed from one into another like a switch achieved through a cunning sleight-of-hand trick.
First I was obsessed with studying animals through documentaries, books, and observing them in the wild. Then I became obsessed with drawing animals and writing about them, assimilating my learnings. I also wrote little stories, usually in English. After that I became enthralled with photography—picture me spying on distant wildlife with a huge telephoto lens while on safari in South Africa. Later you could find me infiltrating Amsterdam’s theater cafes—eleven-year-old paparazzi on the hunt for celebrities, whom I’d harass endearingly for autographs, taking their portraits, collected like trophy-heads.
By this time, my interest in nature had given way to a fascination with culture, and my focus had landed on wanting to be a filmmaker. My sights were set on writing, directing, and acting. I had also somehow concluded that in order to realize this dream I would have to move to the US, specifically to New York or Los Angeles, and with that carrot-on-a-string dangling before me, I set my journey in motion.
My oldest sister encouraged my aspirations when she gifted me one of Syd Field’s screenwriting books when I was fifteen, and I spent the following year diligently crafting my first full-length screenplay. In High School, I made short films with a friend who was an even more ambitiously aspiring filmmaker (he went on to release his seventh feature film last year!), and after I graduated from High School, I leaped across the ocean and moved to the US to continue along what seemed like a pre-paved path.
My father had remarried and moved to Miami a year earlier, so that gave me a good starting point on the American leg of my journey. Although I disliked South-Florida, the isolation was good for writing. It was lonely until I met some friendly thespians, who invited me to smoke marijuana with them after learning I was from Amsterdam. While they subjected themselves passively to video games and comedy central, my turned-on mind rediscovered pencil and paper and my long-forgotten passion for drawing and painting. I drew surreal portraits of my new friends surrounded by the intuited contents of their minds.
This creative connection was what REALLY got me high, and pursuing surReality—turning the world inside out—was pretty much all I wanted to do. I discovered meditation and entheogens around this time as well, which felt like uncovering an arcane and archaic mystery of the mind that begged to be investigated and explored. In combination with my art and my writing, these tools seemed to have a capacity for mind-expansion and inner-space exploration that far exceeded anything an academic pursuit could have promised me. So I decided to fully pursue my artistry and see where it would lead me.
My attitude was that of a cartographer: so long as I map my journey, I’ll never get lost. Life became stranger than any of the films I’d ever dreamt of making. On a whim, I traded my cinematic aspirations for an alchemical aspiration, delving deeper into my self, my dreams, and my mind through art.
This resulted in a decade-and-a-half-long entheogenic detour of self-exploration and skill cultivation that veered from my prescribed future before it eventually—inevitably—cycled back around (not unlike the sketchy fears tied to balloons that found their way home). On this unpredictable road, my art has been my navigational compass, my way of seeing in the dark and making up my mind. It is my way of connecting with a higher part of myself. It has been my teacher and my tether, my seeing-eye dog, my visionary blind man’s cane.
During these years I made hundreds of drawings and paintings along the way that express & chronicle deep internal journeys and esoteric ideas. Music had always been a passion of mine as well, and even though I don’t play any conventional instruments, I figured out that I could compose music by singing and beatboxing and vocalizing riffs. I eventually (co-)founded and fronted an 8-piece astral orchestral psychedelic rock band and (slightly smaller) bardic-tribal symphony, and moved into the performative realms of musical storytelling and tongue-twisted lyricism. I put out two mythopoetic, story-driven records with these ensembles.
At one point in time, I even facilitated a dream embodiment workshop. The “Dream Theatre” was an immersive theatrical experience without an audience, scripted by transmissions from the subconscious. What this entails is that a small group of participants would share dreams they’d had, and then I would curate the parts of the dream with who and whatever we had around to reenact it, set to a live-improvised musical soundtrack that helped lubricate our lucidity. It was often quite magical, especially when you’d hear people talk about the dreams they’d been a part of as if it were their own! This took place in the chapel at the heart of the aforementioned convent-turned-arts-
But no matter how prolific I was in my creation, at some point it felt like all my projects were hitting a wall, reaching only as far as I could throw them, and beyond that wall, the old aspiration was starting to call out again. I wanted to act, and make films. I remembered why I had come to the US in the first place, took stock of the skills I had honed along the way, and concluded that film offers a means to mend the trinity of image, sound, and word into a unifying presence. It felt like the stage was set for taking the next step. LA seemed like it had more potential for forward-moving momentum in this regard.
The “industry” part of it all felt (and still feels) a bit intimidating to the integrity of my artistry, but I also sense that there’s a new wave of interesting content that’s slowly seeping into (and transforming) the mainstream, mainly through streaming media. So it feels like the perfect time for a weirdo like myself to enter the scene. The detour makes sense in hindsight, and it feels like it was absolutely necessary for me to go through this informal education (what I call “cosmic collage” or “universal university”) before venturing into “the belly of the beast.
Through my experiences, I have come to understand the shamanistic roots of “entertainment” and its transformative merits. In childhood, my dream may have been driven by an empty, vainglorious hunger for fame, but now I feel a deepened intention that moves in the direction of “cinema as ceremony.”
In one of my favorite films, The Holy Mountain, a group of seekers set out to reach the summit of enlightenment, but many of them give up, settling down at the mountain’s base, relishing in a carnival of earthly delights and the instant gratification of their base desires. Paralyzed by fear, or cushioned by comfort, they decide to give up the fight. This is what SF began to feel like in a sense, and, incredibly, the summit of MY holy mountain had been a mere six-hour drive away all this time! I wanted to know what was on the other side of my fears, to gather the courage to extend my hand to it, in a gesture of friendship.
To ritualistically prepare for the transition from SF to LA, I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign that allowed me to record one final record—calling upon favors from some of SF’s most talented musicians—and raised funds for a set of music videos that would mark my transition from musical storytelling to filmmaking.
Shortly after moving here, I pulled together a team, and we created a video for “Petrified,” a track off that final record titled Void Denizen’s “Séance Fiction.” It was shot, for the most part, in the desert, and in a sense it stages the “striking through the screen” that I described earlier in this story, reconciling the youthful desire to make my way to “the other side” with my later ambitions to make it to “the other side” of the material world into a more mythic, psychic realm. “Welcome to the desert of the surreal.”
And so now I’m out here in LA, two years and change, chiseling away to realize an old dream—now colored by the experiences I’ve had along the way. I’m working on writings, going to auditions, managed to make a few short films, and am currently on the lookout for a gallery in which to exhibit a solo show that consists of a new, largely unseen body of visual art. Any leads are most welcome!
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I don’t think there are ANY smooth roads in Los Angeles—they’re all punctuated by potholes, haha. No, it’s certainly been a humbling voyage, deconstructing my socially supported ego and starting from scratch—a nobody in a sea of aspiring somebodies. It’s been very humbling.
When I first started “fishing” for auditions, I felt like I was living in toggle-town rather than tinsel-town. “Look, Universe, when I asked for screen time, I didn’t mean I wanted to stare a screen all day, submitting myself to silly commercials!” Especially in the beginning, it felt like I was living inside the realization of all the reasons I had put off this pursuit for so long.
At times I’ve felt helpless, powerless. But I’ve learned to take the pressure off the things I cannot control, and try to focus on what I can control, the things that give me energy and inspiration. Things never go quite as expected—if we’ve even inspected our expectations, to begin with–and it takes time to navigate the system. It’s like a game that keeps changing the rules without ever fully explaining them.
One of the biggest challenges in filmmaking, besides time, is money. Budgetary limitations often marginalize the limitlessness of my ideas and visions. This is where ingenuity and creativity can really come in handy. Then, even if the creative vision gets off the ground, the struggle lies in the marketing and promotion side of things.
The blessing and curse of this DIY era we find ourselves in.
This whole idea of self-definition can feel very limiting as well. As an actor, “branding” is an important aspect of the job, but I pride myself in my range and ability to shapeshift. This is difficult to categorize or depict in a single headshot. Acting reels are preferred in this regard. Luckily I have managed to piece together a few decent ones.
The road less traveled is by definition a challenging obstacle course. But it also provides those with the will and determination to stick to it with a skill-set and malleability of mind that makes one adept at adaptation. Evolution’s tendency is towards improv and improvement, so the best attitude to take is to not just say “yes” to what life deals you, but “yes, and—,” to turn obstacles into oracles, and “turn mistakes into birds” as Bob Ross used to propose.
For example, when, two years in a row, murals that I had spent months laboring away on were painted over, I developed what was initially devastating into a positive picture that encouraged me to embrace a more impermanent medium. So for the next four years I hardly painted, devoting myself instead to musical storytelling, placing myself at the vulnerable forefront of a new medium and grew into myself in new ways. Flexibility is key.
It’s a cliché, but its true: it’s all about how you treat the process, rather than obsessing over the perfect outcome. Besides, struggle builds character, which is perfect for a character actor. 😉
We’d love to hear more about what you do.
I am a storyteller and a multi-media artist, known for my wild imagination, my poetic perceptions and playful way with words—all signified by a dreamlike logic and surreal sense of humor.
As an actor, it is my range of voices, accents, and characters that sets me apart.
I love to share stories and strive to instill a sense of wonder and possibility. We forget all too easily that we’re living inside a mystery, and I like to remind us of this—to embrace the weird and the inexplicable, and see what happens to our language when we try to express what is unspeakable.
What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
My proudest moments are celebrated in solitude when inspiration takes hold and epiphanies take place–e.g., when a painting has miraculously appeared on the canvas, or a story has somehow told itself through me and made it onto my computer screen — the little triumphs, when time is lost, and I am found.
- Website: www.voidandimagination.com
- Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/stainspotting
- Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/voidandimagination
- Twitter: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtPMq8Tf07acUr1xoISs_xA
- Other: http://snailconvention.tumblr.com