Photo by Francesca Carol Rolla, 2019.
a [queer] [future] ritual
First published in 2019 in hereafter, a book of essays by artists considering the question of the future. hereafter was an independent artist publication, edited by Charlie Ashwell and Es Morgan. It is available through Unbound.
Pointing the future into existence
From my shoulder, a fleshy arm, or skeletal wing, or sculptural limb. I see lines, stained and etched, extending, straight and direct, along this shaking land. Leaving the confines of skin and tissue, they pass through nails, through history, through action, towards the wall.
We are in Folkestone, November 2018, doing a future ritual.
My mouth is so heavy with the past, that sometimes it is is difficult to speak of what may come. I don’t know how to trace the contours of our future with my tongue, for memory has made its home deep inside this muscle.
While you ask me to speak of the future, the weight of this question keeps me awake at night. Sharp spiny questions, anxiety issues, and deferred, feared desires slip through my porous skull, becoming lodged deep in my cerebral cortex.
What can I say of the future, but that it is a car crash waiting at the close of days?
In 2017, in collaboration with the artist Thomas Yeomans, I began a project called F U T U R E R I T U A L. The idea was to stake a claim to ritual as a series of forms with complex relationships to histories of queerness and performance, to reclaim them from the alt-right internet trolls, to present them live and in the flesh and to insist on [queer] ritual as a strategy for navigating the future. We asked: what is a future ritual? Who might it be for? What might it look like and what might it do?
a queer [future] ritual might be a ritual where rites and traditions are queered, or re-discovered, or enacted by queers for queers. it is likely engaged in the conscious rejection of heterosexual societal norms. they likely resist and critique the politics of assimilation and celebrate, instead, subversion, indecency, aberrance, and difference.
We don’t lay claim to any particular expertise, to be authorities on these practices, or to prescribe what form a future ritual might take, and it’s been important to be open to the unexpected, the tangential and the adjacent.
a queer [future] ritual might be a strategy for survival, for effecting social and political change, for taking on the world and for making it through the damn day.
I speak of a F U T U R E R I T U A L, not futurerituals, because I want to acknowledge the ways that a number of practices, brought into proximity, in the presence of a crowd, might become constituent parts of a greater whole - that each element might have its own particular affect, rhythm and density, and that together they might speak with nuance and complexity to desires, needs, fears and dreams.
a queer [future] ritual might involve dancing, sigil crafting, dragging up, singing, bleeding, mourning, celebrating, loving, shouting, or something else entirely.
All this to say that I know that when a group of people gather around a performance, the performance can become a conduit, a prism. Herenow feeling can be encountered and held, individually and collectively. This experience of feeling, on a collective and individual level, might be a new language.
Like any language, there is potential for miscommunication, for misunderstanding. It’s possible that others won’t use it or know it the same way you do. I try to hear those concerns whilst insisting on the accessibility of this form, body before body.
By virtue of our co-presence, we are already in relation to each other. Between us is space; between the atoms that make up our limbs, and hairs and organs is space; let us trace the contours of our relationship into this space.
I think often of Guillermo Gómez-Peña on the “job” of performance:
Once the performance is over and people walk away, my hope is that a process of reflection gets triggered in their perplexed psyches. If the performance is effective (I didn’t say good, but effective) this process can last for several weeks, even months. The questions and dilemmas embodied in the images and rituals I present can continue to haunt the spectator’s dreams, memories and conversations.
I’d add that I hope our rituals trigger reflection (or even perplexion) in my own psyche.
At its most effective, the language of performance implies the possibility of our wildest imaginings, imaginings that may seem naive or irrational or unattainable when spoken.
selina bonelli washes their hair with milk that has been sat in their fridge for three years. I expected a stench but from across the room, it doesn’t smell like anything at all. The air is thick with the sound of selina’s will. It roars from the slightest act. I’ve watched selina many times, and I am always thrilled by their mythic quality, by their constraint, their material constants, by the way that their significance burns through their obscurity. This is a language beyond language.
Lise Boucon assembles a landscape of cracked porcelain. I worry she will be lonely at times, but she reminds me that she shares the space with more than one hundred snails. Some hours in, it’s just me and Lise and she works towards the edge of the china terrain, acknowledging me with an extended arm, an inviting hand, a raised finger. We meet and one of her small collaborators travels from her digit to mine. I think about the particles of skin being carried by this creature, and left on mine. I think about what it would be to extend citizenship to molluscs. I think about what it is to be lonely, and where we might find kinship beyond the boundaries of the known.
Laura Burns is holding a stone, and inviting you to hold them with her. I imagine how it would feel to support this spirit, think of the passage of distance, experience elapsing. I wish I’d held a stone. She speaks of a land from which the centre has been ripped, of histories and psychic bonds. We close our eyes and Laura guides us in returning the hag to her mountain. Home, it seems, can be something we do with other people, in other places.
Shared actions across borders.
Shared actions against genders.
Doing small things well.
Taking care of myself.