ReInState : A Mirror Ritual

I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to get decent footage of live performances and not ended up with a single usable second. So many one-off pieces have been lost in the sands of time and to say it’s been frustrating is an understatement.

Luckily, that wasn’t the case with ReInState : A Mirror Ritual, conceptualised for Trans-States: The Art of Crossing Over. Cavan McLaughlin, the conference’s organiser, had a brilliant team of student videographers all over the event and the quality of their footage was faultless. Another stroke of luck on my part was that Cavan, a gifted video editor with tastes similar to my own, agreed to edit the footage into this little visual taster, making this our debut collaboration and hopefully the first of many.

For any of you who’ve read my short story Prism – it won’t be difficult to see the themes I was working with personally and magically at the time, the excerpt at the beginning of the film is taken directly from Prism. This performance and the short story were developed in tandem as two complimentary, but fractured, parts of a riddle I was trying to solve.

It begins with the birth / resurrection of a cocooned, almost mummified figure, laid at the base of the mirror inside a magic circle. The ‘new born’ awakes, faceless, androgynous and unsteady on its feet and slowly learns to crawl, stand, walk and then dance, feeling its way into its body through instinct, memory and rhythm.

 

Photo Credit :: Marco Visconti

As the being develops it becomes aware of its own reflection in an inversion of Lacan’s Mirror Stage in the psychological development of children. The being never identifies with the Other and begins to crave its attention and love, becoming increasingly frustrated when it finds no human warmth. Soon, the dancer seeks to seduce the Other, beautifying and ‘humanising’ itself and gender to win the reflection’s affection.

It draws on exaggerated facial features, cuts off the gauze fabric that has been a veil between it and manifest reality, and eventually reveals a human face underneath. When the being realises it will never receive the love it craves it becomes frenzied, desperate and manic, and destroys the object of it’s attention by smashing the mirror with a hammer.

The threshold is obliterated.

From the carnage of the broken shards, with a new calmness and sense of self-control, the being creates a third face; a divine visitor or angelic messenger, then steps out of the magic circle and moves into the world. The whole piece lasted just over an hr and had a killer soundtrack featuring bands and musicians that have formed the soundtrack to my life for many years (see below).

I was also invited to perform this again at Instigate Art’s evening of live performance art at Manchester Art Gallery in March the following year, in front of William Etty’s imposing and recently restored masterpiece The Sirens and Ulysses.

Etty, William, The Sirens and Ulysses 1837

I hope you enjoy the video.

Camera: Ceri Greenwell
Postproduction: Cavan McLaughlin
Additional sound design by Thom Powell
Music: Victim To The Charms Of Radio by Pentaphobe

 

 

SOUNDTRACK::

As the Sea Melts the Sun – Tribes of Medusa

Victim to the Charms of Radio – Pentaphobe

Feral Love – Chelsea Wolfe

Death Disco (Remastered) – PiL

Beauty Beats – Beats Antique

Crush No.1 – Garbage

Fodderstompf – PiL

Hell Broke Loose – Tom Waits

Are the Songs My Disease? – Queen Adreena

Counting Bodies Like Sheep – A Perfect Circle

Yesterday’s Hymn – Queen Adreena

Ancestors, The Ancients – Chelsea Wolfe

For Everything a Reason – Carina Round

Book of Angels – Jim White

 

 

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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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‘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!

the-hanged-man-thoth-tarot stefanie elrick

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.