The Body Performing Rituals
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The body is a fundamental yet controversial and contradictory concept in the Catholic faith. Throughout the history of the Church, it has been considered as the lower part of creation... the prison of divine soul, a corruptible flesh, the seat of wrongful desires and the seed of all evils. Yet the same structure of the Church puts a certain emphasis on the physical manifestation of faith through rituals, festivities and ceremonials in which the body plays a central part. Here it becomes the material producing religion, mouldable clay shaped to perform ad nauseam particular rituals and chants. Why? And what does this reflect?
The robust physicality of ritual worship, the focus of obsessive repetition, and the hypnotic regurgitation of words and prayers reveal, I believe, an internal difficulty or struggle to deal with the impulses of the body and to conform these needs to church regulations. The religious performance thus becomes an escape valve, a moment of relief from the tension of restraint, a healing process to the tormenting feeling of guilt, the expression of liberation from self-denial and repression, and a chance to explore subversion through the expression of corporality. Thus it is the visualization of a temporal, metaphorical escape from the restrictive structure of imposed, artificial behaviours. At the same instance, it becomes clearly evident that the religious performance, as spontaneous and improvised as it can be, is still controlled and sealed by an authoritarian regime that regulates behaviours. Thus it is no more than a controlled release of repressed tension to ensure control and correct behaviour, a slight taste of subversion to satisfy desires and calmimpulses, a mechanism to essentially carve Christians apart from bodily needs and worldly sexuality through the temporal liberation of their animalistic instincts in dancing, singing, clapping and more.
My current practice is an exploration of this contradiction and cohabitation of opposites in religious performances from the point of view of the religious participant or performer, trying to capture a physical manifestation of a mental state caught between an urge for temptation and a destructive feeling of guilt, the instinct for sexual liberation and the imposition of self-repression, the willingness for subversion and the fear of repercussions and reprisals. My intention is to extract gestures, movements, sounds, chants etc. related to religious ceremonies and use these elements as means to explore states of mind. The work also tries to comment on the element of obsessive repetition in religious performance and how this could be the reflection of an internal disorder or difficulty in dealing with a battle between instincts and morals, passion and belief, body and soul.
The practical approach is multidisciplinary and incorporates Video Art, performance art, collage, pastiche and installations. Appropriation and post-production are the main artistic methods utilized in adopting pre-existing, culturally informed elements, from printed material to disseminated video clips, singing and raw gestures utilized in religious performances. Elements are manipulated and juxtaposed, thus re-coding meanings and re-contextualizing elements so as to reflect my current line of thought and research.