Communion II, 2016
performance, 3 hours
Ritual (Eng., noun)
a sequence of activities involving gestures, words, and objects, performed in a sequestered space designed to influence forces on behalf of the actors' goals and interests.
There is liminality in both religious ritual and performance art, and a connection between the roles of shaman and artist in transformative experience. Performance revels in contradictions and ambiguity, so that audiences may glean their own interpretations and potentials for transformation. Whereas rituals tend to be precise, their outcomes can be just as enigmatic.
The performance stretches across three hours, broken into three twenty-minute segments that total nine ritualistic acts: Making, Repenting, Cleansing. The three mounds of sugar, salt, and flour reference the biblical symbolism of kindness, friendship, and truth respectively. There are twenty different instructions for the audience; each one is repeated three times.
The ambiguous instructions requested from the audience implicate participants in the sustainment of community rituals, and instruct them to both enact and imagine new possibilities for spiritual agency. Those performed by the artist demystify the Eucharist wafer, believed to transubstantiate into the body of Jesus Christ; reference religious supplications and spiritual posturings toward repentance and enlightenment across Eastern and Western practices; and finally subsume the female body beneath the material and ritualistic culture that represses it – anointing (oil), defiling (wine), and purifying (water). The fluids and the residual flour conjoin the female body with the miraculous and sensuous act of Communion, as well as its domination and repression within the Catholic Church.
The emphasis on the number “3” in the choreography and the installation itself insists upon a Christian recognition of the trinity. However, the artist pays homage to systems such as Numerology and Astrology that were, like philosophy, suppressed when the structure of the Church was determined at the Nicene Council in the fourth century. Various approaches to Numerology and Astrology predated Christianity by centuries, but were admonished because they contradicted the sovereignty of God in the determination of human fate. Even today, they are widely viewed as illegitimate systems compared to the accepted practices of patriarchal religions.
This work uses the Catholic sacrament of Eucharist itself as a metaphor for the centrality of patriarchal systems in the enforcement of practices and beliefs we do not question and thereby religions have, for centuries, superseded and instilled our most ingrained attitudes about women’s agency for their own bodies.
As an extension of Communion, this live performance took place five months later at the Bennett Park Art Atrium in Arlington, VA.
abbreviated documentation of a 3-hour performance