When there is a call for an Occult themed show, I jumped at the opportunity. I absolutely relate to that aesthetic and find it to mirror the concept of exoticism. Also I love the DIY art events that pop up in that communal space and the lovely individuals who organize and create within Greenough Gallery. Thank you Magick’s Dark Sister for this awesome group show!
My relationship to the Ouija board is like many, surrounded by fear and the media because of films like the Exorcist. But I wanted to do this performance because I knew it would help me face my deepest fears of spirituality and the residual energies of both life and death. But my biggest fear of them all: continuing to make art after graduating. After organizing in Chicago, I felt that big event postpartum depression. After graduating from college and losing regular times for critique and looking at work that my peers were making, it feels daunting to try to pursue art after school especially when you’re working a non-art job to continue to pay the bills. I needed this performance to be cathartic and it was.
My process for creating work is generally on a whim, finding a concept I find interesting and researching it until I find a way to create a meaningful action that is interesting for a viewer. I didn’t want to make an Ouija board because I think there is something very ironic in purchasing a device for communication with energies. One can’t be too sure about who or what you will get. This object with ancient history has become commodified and manufactured as a “game.” Which is profoundly interesting, because the way we move through our daily lives through technology and how that has warped intimate interactions. It sounds funny for me to say, but really what did people do before there were phones, mass media, and limited access to information? A romantic might think that people probably used Ouija boards.
Prior the performance, I opted for precautions and self-care. It was important for me to get a tarot reading to seek guidance and confirmation of my resolution to make this performance happen. The tarot reading was my first and it was transformative. The after-care involved gifting the art objects and sage, candles treated with Reiki, and protection potions and actions.
The space that the organized envisioned me in was originally in the living room space by the window, but I decided to relocate to the porch. During my tarot reading, it was hinted that I would most likely change locations and I took that advice. The porch was a wonderful space because it was transitionary in many ways: a space between outside and home, open subtlety for private and public gathering, beautiful weather, many chairs and furniture that could be utilized, and there I met Alice, a black cat who adorably interacted with my set up. I named the performance after Alice because she became part of the performance site for me.
Action 1: Light candle.
Action 2: Assign roles: leader, scribe, 1 or more participants.
Action 3: Pour bourbon.
Action 4: Open a circle for communication gesture.
Action 5: Cheers and take a sip.
Action 6: Lead questions and keep neutral energy.
Action 7: Open conversation to viewers.
Action 8: Say goodbye to the spirit or energy.
Action 9: Close the circle gesture.
Action 10: Discuss and reflect.
When I lit a courage candle, that’s when the performance would begin. The first participants were fellow artist friends and an organizer. Though it might seem strange for the organizer to initiate the interactive performance, I was grateful for Coorain to take that leap. I decided to share bourbon with my participants as symbol of offering to our bodily selves as well as to the spirits. The glasses I used were also unique because they were not flat-bottomed but could balance and move on their own or you could play with them. Alcohol can’t be used as a social lubricant as well, allowing people to open up and let a little bit more exhibition through and to speak a bit more freely.
Needless to say, we were able to directly reach a young spirit who was very clear and patient with us especially with all of our questions. Even I was shaken up by how quickly we connected with someone or something. After a brief couple of seconds of silence, I quickly cut off the communication out of nervousness and uncertainty. We exchanged stories about our past and present experiences. More people began to show up to the event. I was able to do one more session before I took a break to see Princess Beautiful, an amazing collaboration between Phillip Fryer and Rosie Ranauro.
I don’t want to reveal too much about what happened in each performance because some sessions are difficult to describe. But one in particular where we had someone who had recently lost someone and wanted to reach that spirit. And we did. It was beautiful and special.
Would I perform this piece again? Would I perform for the dead and the residual energies that are present? I’m not sure. I just know that I was happy to connect with many new people and non-people through this intimate performance. And for the record, nothing strange as happened. Life continues, but I am aware of the parallels of our existence.