This ritual was the culmination of week working with Andrea Pagnes from Vest & Page. The rites of passage is an elective immediately following the bodies in dissent module, also facilitated by Andrea with Verena from Vest & Page. I think it’s important as when I look back upon this elective I find it hard to separate from the work set out in the bodies in dissent module. I feel that this is because I have felt a great change within myself after working on these modules and a change in my understanding of performance art. In this blog I will note some of the changes I have felt. I will also discuss how the learning about ritual and rites of passage helped to create this change within myself. I believe this to be a fundamental element of a rite of passage: for the body to pass through an experience and be blessed with the gift of change.
to experience a difference,
to be scared,
to be sacred,
to feel a difference
I feel different now.
I performed my own specifically tailored ritual to find my queer vulnerability. For context it’s important to understand that I tested positive for Covid-19 which mean I was isolated to my room while the rest of my peers were experimenting with rituals in a studio. This provided me with a specific location for the ritual. And really where is more perfect for a queer boy to explore his vulnerability than his own bedroom.
Light a candle
The ritual should be performed in a room with large windows (preferably when it is raining)
Step back and take off the clothes
(socks, Jumper, belt, shirt, trousers, underwear, glasses)
Laying the clothes upon the ground and walking on them,
reach the candle and blow it out.
Play the song ‘Alejandro’ by Lady Gaga
Place the speaker as centrally as possible
(trying to forget where you are, letting the body move until it sweats)
Dance over the clothes laid down
Dance to the windows, to the floor
Dance for yourself
Dance with your limbs flailing wildly around
Dance with as much enthusiasm and gusto one can conjure
When the track finishes return to the place of the camera/candle location. Say the words:
“I know that we are young
And I know that you may love me
But I just can't be with you like this anymore…
Mark a tally upon the left foot with a biro pen.
Repeat this 10 times.
Kneel in front of the water and wash the face.
(The water should be rain water, and filled with the ash of cigarettes smoked with a lover from the night before)
Once cleansed, don the mirrored glasses.
Walk slowly towards the candle.
Take off the mirrored glasses and let it reflect the screen.
Re-don the clothes from the floor.
(Glasses, underwear, trousers, shirt, belt, jumper, socks)
Re-postilion the candle.
Re-light the candle.
Position the mirror to reflect the candle.
Re-move the mirror.
Blow out the candle.
the quality or state of being exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally.
When questioning concepts of exposing, it felt important to be naked; for my skin to be exposed to the air. The large windows in my room are frames exposing light and exposing me to the public outside should they wish to look in. It gave me a thrill to think of the hyper-masculine workforce on the construction site below my window, peeping in to see my flailing limbs, my contorting naked flesh moving so freely. So queerly.
When I was back in the studio with Andrea and my peers, we conducted several long-form improvisations wearing blindfolds or cloths. These exercises gave me a different perspective on vulnerability. We were in a dark space, a black box space (the antithesis to my bright room, flooded with natural light) and we couldn’t see each other. We were exposed and yet the trust in the room amongst the group was palpable. We were exposed because we lost control from our most dependant, dominant sense.
We were exposed because we couldn’t see harm coming.
But instead of harm, I found something wholly unexpected; serenity and peace. By exposing ourselves, even just a little, I was able to let my body move freely, often solely and serenely. For me, as a person obsessed by aesthetic, it was freeing to create without thinking about sight, without thinking what would this look like?
The clown is the first transgressor
The parts read unknown
The hope is beacon
The future is queer
I felt I needed to dance to Lady Gaga. I felt the need to dance to really, really let myself go, let my whole body go, to take off my clothes in order to find a freedom within myself. 1 month later Lady Gaga announced that she will tour to Arnhem, not Amsterdam or Rotterdam but Arnhem. She must of heard me calling.
Whilst I was dancing as part of the ritual in my room, the weather outside was very usual for the Netherlands; grey and miserable. Throughout the ritual, I felt very connected to the weather outside. At one pint around repetition 6 of the music, it started to rain really hard. A full downpour. It was AMAZING. I felt like I had somehow summoned this weather. I felt I had a power on the outside world. I felt the power of the outside world had on me. It was the perfect weather for this moment in time. The rainwater started to build up on a trough on the tiny balcony outside my room. This trough was filled with the butts of cigarettes I smoked the night before. The remnants of my intoxicated breath. I smoked these cigarettes with a lover unaware they would from part of the ritual the next day. I felt our breaths were now connected to the water the cigarettes were submerged in. The breath, the ash, the pleasure of nicotine,. The weather had given me a gift and I had to bathe my face within it. I dunked my head in the trough like I was baptising myself. but instead of the holy pure water, this was the opposite, rancid, ash filled remains of hedonism, this is what I want my queerness to symbolise. Rain on me.
I had contracted Covid-19 and although I had no symptoms I was isolated to my room. This had an impact on my thinking around rituals, particularly around human interaction. Alone and lonely, I was missing the workshops and lectures but mostly I was missing what was happening outside of them – the social drinking, the relaxing, these are the conversations that matter to me, these are the moments when I find joy. When I find queer Joy. However, this isolation gave more poignancy to the ritual; I was alone, exposed and vulnerable – finding my queerness alone.
My friend Danielle was also isolating from Covid-19 and we synced our rituals so that when Danielle lit I candle I would blow it out. We were also being projected to the rest of the group who were also practising their own rituals. There is something comforting to know that my loneliness was part of the group in some way. Apart we were together. These group of peers have taught me so much about myself, it would be amiss of me not to mention and thank them within my blog.
I am reminded by the ephemerality of a ritual, they happen at specific times at specific places; my room now has a different connection to me now it was used as the site of this ritual. It happened at the time of a rainstorm, when covid-19 was rife. There is a realty I must now face after completing the ritual. We are privileged to be able to practice making performance, it is a privilege to make art, it is a privilege to be able to express my queerness, my questioning, my self.
We did an exercise with Andrea were we laid on our backs for 20 minutes, then thrust our hips up and down for 20 minutes in time to the sound of drums. I could not quite get the timing right unless I was going a double speed. It felt electric. After 10 minutes or so of thrusting, I started to have visions:
There was a huge volcano,
An eruption, hot lava flowing everywhere.
A helicopter flew over the volcano.
The helicopter was carrying everything I have ever owned in a big net underneath it.
Not just objects but people, everyone I had ever loved, every room that I has lived in.
As the helicopter reached the mouth of the volcano, it released everything dear to me
I saw everything disappear into the volcano
I felt nothing but elation, calmness and joy
The volcano slowly morphed into the head of a human
A genderless queer human with hair growing like roots from the tip, the mouth of the volcano
Something erotic was taking place and when a climax was reached
The volcano figure erupted, returning once more to the stone of a volcano.
The measure of ritual for me has to do with change. Through this electives on rituals and the Bodies in Dissent Module, I feel I have truly changed. I told Fenia whilst having a tutorial that when I leave this master’s degree, my name will be the only thing that remains unchanged. My body moves in a different way and for that alone, I am beyond grateful to have the privilege to learn in this programme with these people at this point in time.