immersive environment (collaboration with Raghunath Khe)
Red Gate Gallery, Vancouver, Canada
The evening began with an 18 minute live-streamed healing ritual, an energy exchange where men from the public, on bended knee, offered their respects towards the women present, for the psychological suffering all women have endured while living under an institutionally misogynistic society.
Following the ritual, the guests were led in procession through the front gallery to the large hall–an industrial looking room that had been transformed with projections of dystopian imagery and technological detritus. On one end of the room sat a rusting bathtub filled with black mud, and a large structure made out of metal poles stood in another corner, where performance artist Marie Eve moved to the sounds of the electronic music, which included several Vedic chants.
The crowd transitioned from the solemnity of the ritual into the air of the after party, as other guests began to arrive. As people arrived and surveyed the room, performance artists within the crowd began whispering cyberfeminist and techno shamanic philsophies into the ears of the unsuspecting guests, such as “If the human body is a microcosm of the living earth, then the cyborg body that exists within all of us is the microcosm of the technosphere that has been super-imposed over the biosphere”.
At midnight, the electronic music came to a halt as Natalia Wilhelm (Quean of the Green) took center stage in a white dress, singing wordlessly in a high pitched, almost choral, fashion. Guests looked on confused, when abruptly her melody transformed into a grotesque sounding, throaty rasp, a series of uncomfortable noises, punctuated by the loud sound of a shamanic drum which had begun to play. She began to proclaim in time to the drum, her voice still rasping, “I…am not…a goddess….”, and tumbled into the bathtub of black mud, screeching, writhing, and then, proclaiming her defiance to the institution of contrived femininity, crawled covered in mud, onto the floor, contorting wildly.
After her performance piece, headlining DJ Aerion took the lead of the now-full dance floor.
At one AM, Lindsay Starbird presented a performance art piece featuring a combination of spoken word and movement: crouched down in what appeared to be a straightjacket, she slowly stood up through a recitation of her social commentary on the expectations and harmful projections imposed on contemporary women. By the final line of the piece, she was fully standing, and removed her straight jacket in a flourish–the jacket transformed into wings as she stood with them, outstretched, in a gesture of resistance.
The concept of a dystopia for this multi-genre cyberfeminist project was initially inspired by a philosophical teaching existing within the ancient Vedic school of thought, stating that a society where women feel markedly unsafe is one that is on the verge of collapse. The philosophy was poignantly in line with the Happening that I had been working on developing, focussed on the potential for collective cultural healing from the scars of the institutionalized degradation and objectification of women. The Happening taking the form of a ritual, existed as a nod to the archetype of the witch—a long running symbol of female oppression via the witch-hunts littered across our Colonial history. The decision of following the Happening with a DJ-led dance floor, was structured to facilitate a sense of alleviation from the burden presented during the ritual, through the channelling of a sort of dance rite evocative of our myriad tribal lineages, which existed as ancient cultural precursors to the modern day rave—where we have instinctually mirrored the ceremonious elements of dance rites before us (specifically, through the utilization of beat repetition to facilitate trance states and connection with the divine, as well as the expressions of physical power inherent in dance as a medium.) This modern interpretation, sound tracked with heavy drum beats and machinated noises, reflected a technospheric rendition of this ancient rite, serving as a triumphant enactment of a “dance on the grave of the patriarchy.” The space’s transformation into an immersive, dystopian installation, existed as a tongue-in-cheek, visual articulation for the symbolic death of this hegemony.
– Jonathan Kew, “Dystopia Dreaming Apocalypse? Now Please!” (Discorder Magazine, January 2016)
- Daniel Jones, “Exploring the Ritual of Cyberfeminism” (UnReaL Mag, November 2015)
*gender neutral beings took sides based on various factors and some oscillated between the two gestures evenly. All mentions of words ‘men’ or ‘women’ are representative of trans + cis men and women.
Photography by Rodolphe Parfait