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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‘Onwards’ Poem from Hawkwind’s Warriors of the Edge of Time Tour

Many moons ago, I toured with the legendary space-rock band Hawkwind, it was the best (and weirdest) of times. For just under a decade Laura McGee and I partnered up to create stage shows that brought their gigs to life and gave an extra visual dimension to the music. We worked alongside the lovely John Moules who designed the mind-blogging projections and light show and, of course, a group of visionary musicians who’d been honing their craft for over forty years. We met many amazing people and made lifelong friends across the world, die-hard fans who showed up enthusiastically (and relentlessly) to any and everything Hawk related.

 

In 2009 we toured the ‘Warriors on the Edge of Time’ show and this was the tour we were most proud of. As always, Laura created a set of incredible costumes, masks and headpieces, and we berthed nine new characters who appeared at various points throughout set-list, telling a story loosely based on Michael Moorcock’s Elric sagas (with of course our own little twist.)

The fact that my surname is Elrick, certainly added some momentum to the mystic.

 

In this incarnation The Eternal Champion was, of course, a woman and you can imagine how much fun it was being her wielding the black sword on stages across the world. We played the Enchanter, the Universal Child, the Eternal Champion, the Dark Mother, a Fire Elemental, an evil Wizard, two dancing stars and two tribal space-punks and least of all forgetting, The Golden Void itself. Every performance Laura and I switched characters and the drama evolved, so that we both had equal chances to play the protagonists and the villains and tweaked the story every night we went on. Laura and I had the time of our lives and the love we got back from the Hawkfans was truly mind-blowing.

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So here’s poem I wrote, almost a decade ago, that preceded the stage show and was inspired by mine and McGee’s first conceptual brainstorm. I thought it would be nice to match the words to the final images and celebrate the epic fantasy world we got to live each night onstage.

Special thanks go to Brian Tawn (the Keeper of All Things) and long time Hawkwind chronicler for digging out an old copy of Hawkzine and allowing me to revive this poem.

 

Onwards

 

 

It all started in the Dawning, just a yawning crack of light;

A loosening of the gossamer weaved in fabrics of the night.

A moment hung in timelessness, a child berthed to the void,

Awoken to the Universe by a passing asteroid.

 

Reborn amidst a tethered realm in an act of Cosmic Will,

She tried with all her might to fly, but threads, they held her still.

Until, a weary wanderer (who’d traversed all stars and planes),

Took pity on this speak of might and released her from her chains.

 

The Enchanter saw within this child a spark of something pure;

A flicker of an infinite love he’d cherished once before.

Bewitched and rapt by such a sight, he devised to spy on further,

And watched her dance whilst cloaked in shadow, curious to what she’d discover.

 

Unbeknownst, she spun in space, a whorl of careless energy,

And the laws of attraction soon enticed a second elemental frenzy.

All aflame a creature came and blazed around the girl,

Revealing scenes of scorching scenes and heat engulfing worlds.

 

Now versed in tongue of glowing fire she began to radiate,

She learnt the ways of heat and lust and what could senses sate.

The Enchanter watched in rapt delight and felt her essence quicken,

He vowed to make her a precious prize before her skin could thicken.

 

But such a feat could not be reached without the proper force,

A balance of opposites was surely required for his hunt to stay on course.

So summoning his antithesis, he called a being of equal strength and power,

To assist in a plan that would draw her in, he invoked the ancient Dark Mother.

 

As old twin flames, this woman came, now twisted, harsh and bitter,

Although it split her heart in two she’d do what the Enchanter bid her.

They conjured up a potent spell that could bind the wildest heart,

Yet Dark Mother cursed the carefree child that cracked the past apart.

 

Beyond all choice and need and drive, the stars watched ever on;

Celestial lights in eternal lights they viewed, judged not – just shone.

Infinity was ever theirs to expand and illuminate,

For their cold to our conceptions of want, to our fear, our greed, our hate.

 

 

And now, inside the Mother’s heart, had grown a gaping hole,

Bereft of love this demon stood, not feeling sane or whole.

The Enchanter had drained every waning wisp of hope she still had left,

She cursed his name and vowed to steal some warmth back for herself.

 

With fading strength, Dark Mother shifted, shucking off the skin she’d worn,

And soon appeared rejuvenated, her body and face transformed.

But try as she might she could not distract the Enchanter from his task:

No eyes for her, not fooled by disguise, he was untouched by her transient mask.

 

Absorbed in tomes that twisted minds and immersed in spells of power,

He only dreamed of the One he’d released and desire flared-up every hour.

Now taken all he needed from her, to Dark Mother, he would not gaze,

With this rebuff, she knew the folly of her love, and scattered back into space.

 

The Universal Child had grown strong and wild, a woman herself now no less;

Not to be captured, confined or contained with a freedom most truly blessed.

And the more that the Enchanter watched, the more he couldn’t justify her possession.

For none should be bent by another’s hand or be swallowed inside their obsession.

 

He swelled with pride as he watched her glide through vistas gleaming and shimmering,

For a captured bird is no real prize and there is no losing or winning.

So he let her free to feel and to be, to tend that pure light he’d first seen,

Because selfish love can’t rise above, it is just an illusionary dream.

 

Now with truth exposed, the Enchanter choose to loosen the grip of his charm,

And without that fetter she soared even better, now expanded and fully disarmed.

Ascending much faster beyond heavenly matter the Deities of Destiny smiled,

Pleased with the speed of this creature of their seed: the evolution of the Universal Child.

 

The Enchanter returned to his listless roam, relinquishing all control,

No more attempts to avert his fate, he resigned to align with the whole.

At one with the rhythms that bind all forms, he found a humble and unified perspective.

A change took place, he slackened his pace, and upon Nature’s complexity reflected.

 

With steps now slowed, new wisdom bestowed, he passed through the chamber of fire,

Shedding all skin and planted within him, a new kind of dream to aspire.

Each now in all and every in one, comes a contented disbanding of will:

This story is ancient and always beginning, a tale drifting Onwards still….

 

 

Words by Stefanie Elrick  // Costumes by Laura McGee // Stage Show by Laura McGee & Stefanie Elrick**

 

**There is no official footage of the tour unfortunately but literally hundreds of fan videos on youtube. Dive in!

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.

stefanie-elrick-trans-states-reinstate-mirror-ritual

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?