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.
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
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