Stefanie Elrick to perform at ‘Making The Strange Familiar’ by Instigate Arts to launch the Wonder Women Festival 2017 on March 2nd at Manchester Art Gallery

Instigate Arts

16996709_1648001978836770_427943735_nMaking The Strange Familiar, curated by Instigate Arts as part of the Wonder Women festival launch at Manchester Art Gallery on Thursday 2nd March will see Stefanie Elrick bring her unique and dramatic performance art to the Thursday audience.

Stefanie Elrick is an artist, dancer and word weaver from Manchester, UK. She has toured the world producing psychedelic stage shows for the likes of Hawkwind, The Levellers and Peaches Christ and performed endurance-testing pieces such as ‘Written in Skin’ and ‘KAIROS’ (www.writteninskin.com & www.kairosophy.com). Her practice is immersed in magic, ritual and embodiment. She writes fantasy horror and has lectured on performance art and feminism in Universities across the UK.

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Launching the 2017 festival, Instigate Arts takes over Manchester Art Gallery for a special one-night-only event called Making The Strange Familiar inspired by the exhibition Strange and Familiar, a portrait of modern Britain as seen through the…

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Wonder Women Festival – Manchester

From the 2nd – 12th of March Manchester’s many theatres, galleries and clubs will be flooded with artists, activists and creators celebrating just what it means to be a woman. Documentary films about Rebel Dykes, all female techno nights and a huge range of performance and art are on the bill. Could you love Manchester any more?!

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This bold inspiring festival (which sounds to me like a direct challenge to own your own wondrousness) is a creative countdown to the 100yr anniversary of women winning the partial  vote in 1918. Manchester has always been full of forward-thinking fire-crackers, none so much as Emily Pankhurst who was of course, born and bred on the mean streets of Mosside.

The festival poses the question, just how far have we actually come in the past 100yrs and it’s an honour to be invited by Instigate Arts to explore the theme not once but twice throughout the festival.

At the festival’s free launch night ‘Making The Strange Familiar with Instigate Arts’ on Thurs 2nd March I will perform The Art of Reflection at Manchester Art Gallery, a piece first created for the Trans-State conference last year. I describe this piece as a dance-based mirror ritual exploring identity and it’s construction and have integrated a lot of my own magical practices into it. I’m also in the middle of writing my next short story, which is about a woman consumed by a hungry mirror, so there’s certainly a theme bubbling away in my work!

I believe the body is the most powerful tool of expression, for a woman to be dancing freely (outside the confines of some shady establishment) would have alone been dangerous in centuries past! The body also provides a perfect canvas for people’s expectations, which I personally delight in subverting. The Art of Reflection plays with ideas of self-invention and transformation and has a soundtrack that slaloms through the Sex Pistols, to Garbage to Bjork (allowing me to shake out all my crazy energy and channel it healthily!) This piece’s pretty risky climax can’t be practiced or rehearsed, so how it ends is just as much of a surprise to me as my audience. Come and see! The event is open to the public and begins at 5:30pm.

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IMAGE BY LAURA WILLIAMS

Then on the 3rd March at the Royal Exchange I will perform a pure movement piece called ’21st Century Witchcraft’ in the Dolly Mixtures showcase at The Royal Exchange theatre. This cabaret style event is a brilliant place to revive a performance I first created for A Queer Review in collaboration with the wonderful Greg Thorpe. The piece responds to a 7min monologue from Anohni (of Anthony and the Johnsons) in which transgressive bodies, witch craft and the feminisation of religious icons are discussed.

Last time I performed this piece I was told by my partner that I looked like a “sexy mental patient” – probably one of the most honest and accurate critiques I’ve ever been given. Other beautiful weirdos like Rosie Garland, Jane Bradey and Trish Dee are also on the bill that night, so there’s certainly no shortage of wild inspiring women! Tickets available here.

 

The Wonder Women festival has been made possible by the People’s History Museum and Creative Tourist. Read the full festival line-up here.

Performing ‘reinState’ – A Mirror Ritual at Trans-States

A week ago I performed at the Trans-States conference, an interdisciplinary event examining ‘The Art of Crossing Over’. Despite it being the conference’s first year it attracted a huge number of internationally based scholars, artists and magical practitioners eager to communicate and cross-pollinate.

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Image by Marco Visconti

Highlights for me included Patricia McCormack’s keynote talk discussing ‘mucosal beginnings’  and monstrous desire in Lovecraft and popular culture and Alan Moore’s call to go forth and infuse magic back into our cultural imagination through art.

I discussed’Written in Skin : Flesh as A Language Frontier,’ framing mine and Loren’s performance project against Helen Cixous’s essay ‘The Laugh of the Medusa’ and was scheduled to perform ‘reinState’ with Laura McGee. After finding out last minute that Laura couldn’t make it, with only a couple of weeks to reformulate something dealing with trans-states, identity and ‘crossing over’, I had to work fast to conceptualise something new.

The original reinState performance, still to be performed on the 8th Oct at HOME Mcr, hinged on the idea of two people meeting, fusing and then ‘reinstating’ themselves through dance. Performing this alone would have been impossible and so I conceived a way of doubling myself, still keeping the ‘restoration of an identity’ idea key.

On holiday in magical Wales I had an image of myself surrounded by a circle of mirrors, with a large full length in the centre. The mirrors were clearly markers of the four directions and the mirror in the centre represented myself. I kept coming back to the world ‘reinState’, defined as restoring something to it’s former power, and it became clear that before something could be reinstated it first needs to be changed or broken down in some way. The verb itself indicates a shift of power, something that has been removed or disrupted, being given back.

I started to play with the idea of a person who has never seen their reflection in a mirror before, like a child or an animal or someone stepping back into consciousness after a long period of mental disorientation. I liked the idea of enacting the mirror stage, treating your reflection as something alien and then explored what it would be like to fall in love with this reflection and even to be rejected by it.

I put together a playlist of music that would be the guiding force to this mirror ritual and threw in all kinds of tracks from Public Image Ltd’s ‘Death Disco’ and ‘Fodderstompf’ to Tom Waits ‘Hell Broke Luce’. Through this musical collage a story started to emerge; of awakening, of ‘coming back into’ my body, dancing, encountering the other, trying to befriend it, falling in love, becoming more and more frustrated as it remained cold and aloof and eventually destroying it.

The answer then became clear. I could reinstate my identity by reshaping the broken fragments in anyway I liked. I rebuilt a third entity, unlike myself or my reflection, a third person, an abstract deity and a consciousness beyond myself.

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‘compenSate – The Politics of Competition’ Performance art by Stefanie Elrick & Laura McGee

A video has emerged of my durational dance piece ‘compenSate – The Politics of Competition’ commissioned by Instigate Arts and performed at HOME Mcr in July with Laura McGee. I must say, in my decade of performance, I don’t think we have ever looked more lithe or graceful in a more subtle piece of art…

Stef Elrick & Laura McGee ‘The Politics Of Competition/Compensate’ – Ambition from Instigate Arts on Vimeo.

We were asked to respond to the theme of “ambition” and decided to explore the way people try to gain social advantages or just attention through their looks. I think a healthy dose of ambition is often a good thing, it makes you get things done – it makes you start businesses, write books or create new pieces of art – but when it becomes a dominant unchecked force in your personality it can make people blinkered and distorted, a weird and often dangerous combination. 

The beauty industry and fashion world is rife with blind ambition, alongside a lot of genuine ingenuity and creativity granted, but it’s definitely the dark side. Nicolas Winding Refn represents this beautifully in his controversial film Neon Demon which I absolutely loved (first film in a while with a final scene that left me speechless!) It’s a strange and alien world to me and so naturally, I’m fascinated.

I’m curious as to why men and women modify their bodies unnecessarily with face lifts, fake tan, injections in their saggy bits, skin bleaching, shaving off their own eyebrows and tattooing them on and countless other things I’ve probably never heard of to make bigger and better caricatures of their original selves.

compenSate sees two normal, healthy dancers competing for the attention of their audience. They begin plain and able bodied and through the course of their ridiculous and cumbersome alterations can no normal perform their choreography and become parodies of themselves.

The piece is hilarious and Laura and I had so much fun doing it. Thank you so much to Kevin and Anne for seeding the idea and giving us space to create. It even has a guest appearance by our very good friend Bren O’Callaghan.

So what do you think, is blind ambition a good thing?

Peaky Blinders meets a Village Fete – An Alternative Wedding of 3-Parts!

July – Sept is PEAK wedding season – so if you’re curious as to what I’ve been doing read more!

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July to August has been craaazy busy for Alternative Weddings Manchester and we faced our biggest challenge yet on Fri 5th August – a wedding of three parts!

To understand this very special day first you need a bit of background info on the happy couple. John and Sophie are the masterminds behind Manchester’s coolest underground art event – Art Battle Manchester, bringing ‘Art for the People, by the People’.  John and Sophie are all about creativity and expression and their lives are full of colourful characters, artists, good eggs and good vibes. This eclectic festival atmosphere was exactly what they wanted to share with their friends and family.

They had it all, literally, squeezing in a Humanist ceremony at Hallé St Peters in the afternoon, a thoroughly rustic feast at Hope Mill Theatre (provided by The Northern Pie Company and Taste the Love) and a Village fête / mini-festival in the evening with games, live art and…

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Clare and Gavin Worrall’s Socialist Shebang

When nearly every wedding shot looks like it could be an album cover, you know you’re doing a good job of creating Alternative Weddings.

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We all know the best things in life are worth waiting for – good food, fine wine, the loves of our lives and of course wedding pictures!

Huge thank you to Embee Photography who documented Clare and Gavin Worrall’s wedding and got some really brilliant snaps of the Bride and Groom strutting their stuff around Ancoats. We love it when wedding pictures look more like album covers and luckily our city is full of cool urban spots to make that happen!

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Clare and Gavin’s wedding was planned by Alternative Weddings Manchester and held in July 2016 across two locations. They chose to hold their civil ceremony at the People’s History Museum and their meal and reception at Hope Mill Theatre in Ancoats, with catering by Samuel Tompkins and homemade gingerbread rum favors made by the Bride and Groom themselves.

Clare and Gavin were the loveliest couple who above all, wanted to have a laugh during their big day…

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Stef Elrick – ‘Ambition’ – Artist Q&A

Instigate Arts

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On Saturday 9th July 2016, 6-9pm, Instigate Arts takes over the main gallery space at HOME in Manchester to host our ‘Ambition’ pop-up exhibition. In this series of Q&A’s we get a little more insight into what makes some some of the participating artists tick. Here we speak with artist, dancer and writer Stef Elrick:

Can you tell us about your practice?
I’m a dancer and performance artist who also dabbles in theatre and fiction writing. I love all forms of expression (although I’m terrible at fine art!!) I love embodying concepts in my work, creating visercal experiences that aim to push myself, and my audience, into new patterns of thinking. If I’m learning something new about myself I’m almost certain the audience will be learning something too.

How does your work relate to the themes of Ambition?
compenSATE looks at the way we consciously and subconsciously compete with each through the…

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“Put on your red shoes and dance the blues”

I’m not going to lie, it’s been a surreal week here in the (arguably) united UK. The atmosphere is unstable and navigating through the media shit-storm proceeding the EU referendum – and it’s very real cultural aftermath – has felt like wading through treacle. You can feel the tremors everywhere, internally and externally and the worrying thing is that I’m not even sure if the real earthquake has hit.

I may be wrong, I’d really like to be.

On the positive side I’m very lucky to be surrounded by gifted and pro-active people, Manchester is a magnet for human diamonds. Kevin Burke and Anne-Louise Kershaw from Instigate Arts are two such hardworking gems and have commissioned a dance piece from Laura and I called compenSATE, which we’ll be performing at HOMEMcr in the galleries on the 9th July alongside Kevin Burke, Bartosz BedaMichelle Hannah, Richard Hughes, Sara Minelli & Hyunjoo Kim,Emily Mulenga, Greg Thorpe, Angela Readman, Louise Woodcock.

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compenSATE responds to the theme of ‘Ambition’ and is a 2hr dance piece that examines the way we compete. For 2hrs Laura and I will explore beautification rituals, suggesting that these look-enhancing treatments are really homogenising the mainstream. The exhibition is free and open between 6pm – 9pm.

We’ve also been rehearsing for Christopher Bowles’s new play AUTOPSY, a dark and ambitious piece of theatre exploring our relationships with our bodies. Laura again is on-board and we’re been choreographing surreal mirrored sequences for a number of the scenes.

Christoper Bowles of Magpie Man Theatre is such a talented writer and director and since he ‘came out’ on the literary circuit last year he’s been taking it by storm. It’s a pleasure to work with him, even if he did script that I get dribbled on by one of my ‘clients.’ In the original version I got my feet cut off too, so I supposed things could be worse. He’s also turned all the cast into corpses for the show promo posters. I think I make quite a charming cadaver!

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Yesterday I worked again with Kevin Burke on one of his personal projects -‘The Measure of Hope’ – which will also be screened as part of the Instigate exhibition at HOMEMcr. Like the best of all things the timing of this collaboration was impeccable.

After a weekend of restless fidgety energy, feeling frustrated and unsure but trying to stay positive, I had so much conflicting stuff waiting to be released. Of all the dance pieces I’ve choreographed this was the most unexpectedly intense. I had a few rough ideas of movement I’d like to integrate, and we’d discussed the theme of the piece (the evolution of civilisation and ambiguity of ‘progress’) beforehand, but we basically just booked a space and launched straight in. No fuss, no frills, just the body responding to sound.

The track  itself changes a lot in seven minutes and there’s a really chaotic section in the middle followed by a beautifully gentle piano ending. As we repeated the track and I free-flowed in response, I found myself releasing more and more of the pent up frustration and anger that I had ignored all wkend, until the dance became more like a protest or an exorcism. I literally pulled and slapped and stomped and cried the anger out of my system, before reining it back in delicately and regaining control of my body.

Kevin is a great director encouraging me to perform the piece repeatedly until all my energy was spent and I couldn’t physically do anymore. I went home afterwards and collapsed into bed for 4hrs. Today my body feels battered and bruised but I know I’ve regained some sense of the balance I lost last week.

 

It reminded me that dance is such a powerful tool, especially when you do it for yourself, when it isn’t a performance for someone else’s pleasure. For too many years dance became very much like work for me and I forgot why I started in the first place. I danced as a teenager to switch my brain off, I danced myself into oblivion because I could lose control then regain myself in an energetic reset. I danced to reconnect and ground myself and I danced to find an expression for all those wordless things that rocketed round my body, manifesting as panic, simply needing to be released. It’s not a solution to every problem but it’s an amazing coping mechanism, such a simple technique that I think we take for granted and we will very much need in the years to come.

 

 

 

 

‘If it calls you, you should come’ – The Art of Crossing Over

Back in February 2014, at the ‘Visions of Enchantment: Occultism, Spirituality & Visual Culture’ conference in Cambridge, I first met Cavan McLaughlin. Despite the fact that we’d been sat through two days of talks exploring esoteric traditions in art and literature our conversational starter was our shared love of tattoos (it’s always the way!). Cavan spotted my Dark Crystal ‘Great Conjunction’ back piece and ended up showing Loren and I his ink, a meditating man sat amidst a psychedelic serpentine landscape. From that moment on we knew he was our kind of guy!

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Two years down the line and not only has Cavan’s younger brother Michéal come to Loren for a DNA Tree of Life tattoo but I’ll also be speaking at a conference Cavan has put together in Sept – ‘Trans-States – The Art of Crossing Over‘. I love how the Fates conspire to weave their sticky webs around us.

I’ve got a lot of respect for Cavan, he’s an artist, social activist and academic all rolled into one and has assembled an International Team of Esoteric Bad-Asses in one place (no mean feat!). He is also a visual artist and makes music videos for metal bands like this one for Denigrata.

Trans-States is all about transformation, trans-humanism, trans-mutation, body modification, altered states and the blurring of boundaries. I’ll be presenting ‘Written in Skin – Flesh As A Language Frontier’ for the third time but for the first in front of a magickally minded audience. As the conference is taking place in Northampton, even the elusive Alan Moore is jumping on board (he’s one of the keynote speakers!!) and meeting him is one of my lifetime ambitions. Needless to say I’m treating the whole shebang as a highly synchronous (and nerve-rackingly terrifying) event. I’ve got symbols from Mr Moore’s Promethea comic tattooed on both my thighs for God’s Sake! Fingers crossed I can form an orderly sentence when the time comes….

Marco Pasi, a brilliant scholar who we met at the ESSWE magic conference in Latvia (yes, these are our holidays – FULL ON geeks…) is another keynote speaker and Patricia MacCormack, whom I’ve never read or met but specialises in “posthuman theory, teratology, animal rights, European horror films, chaos magick, Lovecraft” – SWUUUURWOOOOON, will also be stirring the cauldron. With so many practitioners, scholars, artists and performers in one great melting pot of energy I’m too excited to get it in my system!

If it calls you, you should come.  You can register here.

‘Trans-States – The Art of Crossing Over’

9th – 10th Sept – 2016 – Northampton University.

 

Lovecraftian Romances and Black Gnosis

Last Sunday night I had a chat with the very talented Scott R Jones, founder of Martian Migraine Press, editor of the upcoming Cthulhusttva : Tales of the Black Gnosis anthology, which will include a short story written by yours truly, titled Mother’s Nature. Scott is also the author of When the Stars Are Right: Towards an Authentic R’Lyehian Spirituality, a collection of essays and meditations on the concept of cosmic horror as a spritual path. It was whilst reading  When the Stars Are Right on holiday in Marrakech last November that the threads of Mother’s Nature came together. Scott’s work is exceptional and massively inspiring.

At the heart of When the Stars are Right is a dark spirituality that seeks out revelatory madness and commands an embrace of our shadow side, a philosophical perspective which nourished many of the ideas I’d been gestating for a while. If you’re a lover of cosmic horror, weird fiction and Lovecraftian deities in general or just enjoy a good intellectual unraveling from time to time, I highly recommend the read. Mother’s Nature responds to all these themes whilst adding a few flavours of its own.

I’m not going to lie, MN is not a tale for the faint of heart. It mixes horror, sexuality, sacrifice and enlightenment, revolving around a young girl who escapes one nightmarish existence only to step into an entirely new one. After living her life practically feral, then surviving the massacre of her family, my central character is rescued by a mysterious stranger, who tames and then trains her to be his apprentice in a fashion boutique with a well-kept secret. Under his instruction the girl becomes an artist, then a woman, then something else altogether. Transcendence and transformation are the strongest themes of the work and I had so much fun weaving them together.

Whilst giving the interview I remembered the impulse I had when writing Mother’s Nature to make it a Lovecraftian romance, however paradoxical that may sound. The more I read the story the happier I am that I’ve achieved that and I couldn’t agree with Scott’s comment more when he says the story ‘has legs.’ It definitely does, hundreds!

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You can buy  Cthulhusttva : Tales of the Black Gnosis Here and When the Stars Are Right: Towards an Authentic R’Lyehian Spirituality Here.