Fall is turning to winter, though the colourful decay of leaves are still the city’s connective tissue. Some trees stand barren and stoic, others shape-shifting.
This is a time when the city changes its pace, where duration is marked in these brief encounters with the natural.
You can’t ignore the movements that invade the urban landscape (some refuse to, though, don’t they), the rain, the wind, the floating leaves; or the bodies that gather around these, in poetic repetitions.
At this time, a festival becomes a different kind of intervention, embodied and aesthetic; thresholds open up, we tiptoe around presence and disappearance, and encounter the physical, spiritual, secular and contemporary.
I think of Spill as an essay that constantly writes itself. I think of Adorno’s meditation of the essay as a ‘speculative investigation of specific, culturally predetermined objects’. Luck and play are essential aspects of the essay (are they not of any art?), he tells us, that ‘mirrors what is loved and hated’.
The essay (the festival?) presents but also holds in suspense. The festival is a temperature check, the essay is diagnostic.
As we near All Hallows Eve, as those spaces between begin to open, we begin with ritual, with constructing a contemporary folklore, with dismissing art histories for understanding its presence and shape now.
What is ritual, in our secular age?
Well let’s begin with a folk glossary, what is ritual for you?
[I think, will we speak of representation, catharsis, intimacy, being in between, reclaiming, delineating, I think, what traces are we leaving now, I think, how easy it is for ritual to be taken away, I think, ritual as a space of demarcation.]
And we say:
The ritual as ceremony
As transcendence (some disagree)
As ‘the moment when words stop’.
[I think, are we creating a contemporary mythology, I think, what gets recognised as ritual and by who, I think, are we the poets of now and is ritual our language, I think, can ritual resist spectacle, I think, is ritual a process, an event, a regime, I think, all in good time.]
And we say:
Some of us have problems with ritual as transcendence
Others think catharsis is significant
Some of us tie this to our own Christian upbringing
Some of us think, ritual is devoid of religion but not of spirituality
Others think ritual seems to be a paradigm of live art
Others think, so many values tied to this form of delineation.
Some of think, ritual is mundane, everyday
Others think, no, it’s marked, it’s sacrificial
Some speak of the figure of the scapegoat
Whilst others ponder in silence.
And we ask:
What do we have to fight to claim ritual
What is the journey of identity in ritual
What is ritual in relation to narrative
What is ritual in relation to repetition
What is ritual as a journey of resistance
What is ritual as something that does not end
And we end with thinking about spaces that are open, that linger there.
[I think, stone tape theory, the impulses inscribed into spaces, the narratives that accumulate, and how we can learn to listen.]