Installation view of Maarit Suomi-Väänänen's In a Misty Musty Thicket (2012).
SABBAT : 00
Conspired by: Adwait Singh
With: Anni Puolakka, Louise Waite, Maarit Suomi-Väänänen, Matt Shilcock, Nestori Syrjälä, Petri Saarikko & Sasha Huber
'Blitzibition' date: 29 June 2018
Venue: HIAP Gallery Augusta, Helsinki.
In her book Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation, Silvia Federici views the transition to capitalism as an apocalyptic counterrevolution that “required the transformation of the body into a work-machine, and the subjugation of women to the reproduction of the work-force. Most of all, it required the destruction of the power of women which, in Europe as in America, was achieved through the extermination of the ‘witches.’ Similarly, works such as Arthur Evans’ Witchcraft and Gay Counterculture examine the ongoing ‘ecocides’ in the light of their precedents in institutionalized trials and witch hunts regimenting the ban on queer sensualities and alternate medical practices. Evans’ book presents a remarkable classed narrative of the systematic culling of paganism and its associative traits — ritual transvestism, open expression of sexuality, fertility rites etc., — with the organisational changes in society that became increasingly patriarchal and militaristic calling for progressively ascetic and repressive faiths. In the same breath it also recounts the survival of residual traces of these cultures and festivities underground well into the present times in the form of celebrations such as the Midsummer, the Night of All Souls (Halloween), and All Fools’ Day (April Fool’s Day). But perhaps most significantly, Evans highlights the thickening synonymity between religious heresy and sexual dissidence indicating that most witches that were persecuted during the Middle Ages were in fact queer men and women exhibiting signs of the old religion and ancient healing practices. Whilst these scholarships and ecofeminism at large have acquired their own critique primarily touching upon the problematic appropriation of ecological discourses by gynocratic paradigms, nevertheless, a parallel can be drawn between the systematic destruction of the power of women and queers through their construction as ‘witches’ that could be subsequently hunted and subjugated, and the gradual disenchantment and de-mystification of the landscape. Peter Gray of Scarlet Imprint summarizes this slow domestication neatly in his essay ‘Rewilding Witchcraft’:
Marching in lock-step with what used to be called mainstream, but is now mono- culture, we have disenchanted ourselves, handed over our teeth and claws and bristling luxuriant furs.
Identifying witchcraft as a ‘quintessentially wild, ambivalent, ambiguous, queer’ force, often localised at the liminal zones such as ‘the hedge, the crossroads’, Gray champions it as a primordial force, historically allied to alterity, and one that can therefore act as a counterforce to neo-liberal schema. Subsequently, this 'blitzibition' explores the notion of the witch as a guardian summoned by the land; positioning them at the forefront of the war for the Great Mother, Gaiä. Conceived as a midsummer gathering of allies and conspirators ‘Sabbat: 00’ will mime the ancient song passed down to us along witchy lines of inheritance in a quest for forgotten wisdoms, remedies and manna with which to re-enchant ourselves, arm our politics, decolonize our praxis, sacralise the land, and reactivate the bond with the lost mother.
Remedies Mildura’ (2015), a collaborative project by Sasha Huber and Petri Saarikko extends their long-time artistic research that has seen them on a mission to compile old remedies and forgotten cures, both documented and orally transferred, to the city of Mildura in North-West Victoria (Australia). For this iteration of the project, the artists invited the natives of the town to share Eucalyptus-related remedies and facts ranging from its significance in denoting the boundaries within indigenous societies to the magical ability of its oil in unblocking sinuses and treating headaches. Against a changed bodily reality constructed by prevailing medico-legal and nutritional discourses as well as modern imaging technologies that have rendered visible the interiority of the body in a way heretofore unparalleled, ‘Remedies Midura’ begs our attention towards an alternative perspective informed by a combination of magical thinking, para-healing practices, psychological medicine, and tried and tested formulas passed down from generation to generation.
Staged as a conversation with a chatbot, Puolakka’s Timanttimaha (Diamond Belly) (2018) is an ode to mosquitoes, the terrible phenomenon which in combination with the ‘nightless-night’ best sums-up the Finnish midsummer according to the artist. Timanttimaha explores the possibility of a radical hospitality where the artist attempts to situate the terms for a meaningful relationship with the non-human other (largely deemed a pest in human terms) by offering her body as a nourishing ‘baguette’ to the diamond-bellied mosquitoes that keep her company on lonely nights when her partner is too repulsed by her menstrual flows, reaching out to them affectively and envisioning their bio-chemistry in perfect complementarity with her own haematic cycle. Finally, when it’s all over and her body is parched and wrinkled she hopes to undertake a new journey as a crone re-empowered, travelling the world with her mosquito companion.
Maarit Suomi-Väänänen's In a Musty, Misty Thicket (2012) is a subtle critique of gynocritic paradigms wherein having established an all-women’s society two person large and straight out of a Sally Miller Gearhart novel, the two female protagonists try to pass their days on a deserted island. However, not all is peaceful and one senses a strange psycho-sexual dynamic troubling the water shared by the two. While the exact nature of relationship between the two and how they came to be this way is anybody’s guess yet it is possible to pick out some narcissistic and sado-masochistic strains such that the all-consuming personality of the magnificently torpid Pik Mama has a parasitic relationship with the submissive Missy whose sole enterprise is to keep Pik Mama sated. Like the boiling cauldron in the foreground the tension cannot be sustained much longer and finds its release in the subsequent act of matricide.
Nestori Syrjälä’s Norwegiansalmondrizzleusbflashdrivenylonmeshwindshieldwiperlichenjumprope (2015) is a playful take on our contemporary rituals and urban labour chiefly those related to fitness regimes and gymming equipment. Employing a queer mythic lens the artist views these haptic eclectic hand-shaped sculptures as coded signatures by the same hand whose prehensility bestowed him with a toolic imagination that paved the way for cave paintings, totemic religions, modern civilisation and ultimately to conditions of immaterial labour where it became divorced from its own handiwork. By emphasising the totemic aspects of the moderately alienating gymming equipment, Syrjälä attempts to reestablish the lost touch, a sense of haptic visuality that allows for a more immediate kind of understanding of our environs as well as intimacy with its materiality.
Australian dancer and choreographer Matt Shilcock’s Alchemia Exteriores (2018) is an investigation into the notions of ‘injury’, ‘exhaustion’, and ‘rest’, words that typically connote a counterpoint, if not a limitation/ debilitation to classical dance practices that set great stores by finesse, technique, symmetry, dynamics and agility. Co-formed/ informed by the personal experience of navigating his daily world with osteogenesis (brittle bones), Osteogenuine offered a possibility for Shilcock to harness physical limitations in search for new movements, aesthetics and bodily repertoire. Starting their enquiry with sigils that served a reinforcing function in the past, the dancers attempt to redefine for differently abled bodies the geometry of classical beauty expressed as the golden ratio best personified in Leonardo da Vinci’s ‘Vitruvian Man’, trough the idiom of dance, an alchemy in bodily terms.
1 Silvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body, and Primitive Accumulation (Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia, 2004), pp. 63.
2 See Peter Gray, ‘Rewilding Witchcraft’ in Scalet Imprint (June 13, 2014) http://scarletimprint.com/2014/06/rewilding-witchcraft/
Installation view of Anni Puolakka's Timanttimaha (Diamond Belly) (2018) and Louise Waite's edible sculpture Bread and Butter.
Installation view of Sasha Huber and Petri Saarikko's Remedies Mildura (2015).
Installation view of Nestori Syrjälä's