Performance, Video & Ritual in the Era of Climate Change

Given the monumental devastation brought on by global climate change, as an artist I feel the urgency to be vigilant, a warrior and, despite our dystopian present and the probability of a worse dystopian future, courageous enough to hope. Last year I found myself in a state of veritable despair. I wondered,”How can I make an impact on something so much larger than me?” I was in the midst of making my performance/video piece BUNNY GIRL, shooting from the gut, with no script nor understanding of where the piece was going. Towards the end, however, cathartically the piece revealed itself and gave me my answer. I found a new focus in my work, drawing from a side of myself that I used to hide from the art world, the suppression of which has played into the patriarchal structure contributing to this global mess we’re in…

bunny-girl-video-still-2016-performancevideo-28min-50sec-monet-clark
BUNNY GIRL (video still) performance/video piece, 2016

BUNNY GIRL is driven by the crises state of our biosphere. In it, I play a Playboy Bunny/animal of the same name traversing sweeping landscapes layered with found footage of the current mass species extinctions, as well as recent toxic catastrophes. With wry humor, the piece ties environmental destruction to the vulnerability and suppression of the feminine. In the surprise ending, the title character blossoms and realizes, as have I, that our hope for the future lies within the rising of the feminine.

bunny-girl-poster

Through the making of BUNNY GIRL, I discovered that I had internalized misogyny. I saw parallels between the destruction of our environment, and the marginalization of the feminine and the indigenous perspective. It is a great irony that toxic masculinity patronizes the perspectives needed to save our world. Also ironic is the historical term ‘white man’s burden’ when now what we have is ‘brown man’s burden’! Indigenous people are trying to tell us, as they have all along, that when we destroy our environment we destroys ourselves. Why is it so hard for westerners to understand holistic theory, that parts influence the whole and the whole influences the parts? Even our thoughts and beliefs contribute to the whole, so our fears and negativities have negative impacts. Therefore, internal work is important. I’m a big fan of the present moment. It is from the present that we are building the future. We all have options in the present for positively shifting humanity. Part of that can be by just shifting ourselves. As we clean up our own internal environment, our actions become more effective to remedy the crises of the external one, and our evolution influences those around us and it reverberates from there. My latest pieces incorporate all of these ideas. They work to expose internalized misogyny, and use a combination of technology and ritual to transmute individuals’ negativity.

I grew up in a marginalized subculture. I was immersed in California’s utopian back-to-nature movements of the 1970s. As a small child, I learned from the studies of my mother and her friends, developing skills to cultivate food without toxic pesticides, visiting indigenous peoples whose perspectives influenced us on issues ranging from traditional spiritual forms of healing, to the delicate balance of ecosystems. There were the ongoing studies of healing plants, holistic eastern medical traditions, and how to prepare food nutritiously vs buying processed foods. Meditation techniques revealed the mind/body connection, eastern spirituality exposed the energetic component of our physical bodies. We rallied for no nukes and clean air and water, coming to an understanding that we all share one biosphere.

There was a clairvoyant church that we attended when I was very young, headed by a robust psychic, an older woman with big eyes and a round face. I only remember her as being named Gloria. She predicted many events that have since come to pass, which my mother wrote in notebooks while Gloria spoke: a benevolent Russian leader with a birthmark on his head would lessen cold war tensions with the U.S. ushering in a new era of peace and freedom (Gorbachev); the tearing down of the Berlin wall; wars in the Middle East. There was one prediction that has stuck with me, as a kind of looming backdrop to my life since I was 6. Gloria said that water would become a precious commodity, and she saw visions of people killing for it to survive. In the 1970s, before bottled water was on stores shelves, we took water for granted and her words seemed odd. Now, 40 years later, Gloria’s words make perfect sense.

BUNNY GIRL (video still) performance/video movie 2016
BUNNY GIRL (video still) performance/video movie 2016

As an adult, I expanded on the knowledge-base my upbringing gave me in Bay Area academia and in feminist art-making. I also spent 25 years rigorously training in eastern spiritual practices and in the healing arts, including with my own indigenous relatives, working to recover from a life-threatening neuro-immune illness I developed after a toxic exposure. I began to work with clients, as a clairvoyant, energetic healer, and nutritional coach.

After I made BUNNY GIRL, I used my clairvoyant and energetic healing skills in a live performance called The Intuitive Feminist at Krowswork Gallery in Oakland, acting in defiance of the patriarchal influence which makes these skills taboo in an art world setting. In the performance, I directed each audience member to focus on an issue. Using bibliomancy, I randomly opened pages from classic feminist texts and intuitively expounded on them, with a focus on the individual’s internalized sexism. I administered a vibrational flower essence remedy I had specially prepared for masculine/feminine balance. These are tools that women were once burned at the stake for.

The Intuitive Feminist performance, Krowswork Gallery, Oakland, CA 2016 (photo Jared Johnson)
The Intuitive Feminist performance, Krowswork Gallery, Oakland, CA 2016 (photo Jared Johnson)

I’m currently working on two performance/video ritual pieces. One is an 11-screen collaboration with video art pioneer John Sanborn, called NOW, where we humorously address fatalism. Two opposite female characters, one sarcastic, one optimistic, provide instructions for transmutation using a ring of monitors that envelopes the audience in sacred space. Utilizing technology as a conduit to unlock physiological power in participants, we seek to invoke altered states where beliefs transform into reality. NOW will be unveiled in February 2018 at San Francisco Camerawork. In my other project, I humorously play three female archetypes which are commonly shunned in feminist discourse and critical theory. These point to the patriarchal influence, racism and misogyny within these discourses. They will be projected larger than life. Like NOW, this piece involves a nexus between ritual and technology.

______________________________

Monet Clark is a performance/video artist and photographer from California, with a BFA from SFAI. Her works are raw, refined, wickedly humorous, political, feminist and semi-autobiographical. She depicts women in media and subculture, exploring dichotomy, ritual and transmutation. Exhibitions include WP8, Germany; The Kitchen, NYC; SFMOMA; solo at Krowswork Gallery, Oakland; Rapid Pulse, Chicago; and more. She recently completed a residency at Krowswork where she finished BUNNY GIRL, which has since shown in film festivals internationally.

One thought on “Performance, Video & Ritual in the Era of Climate Change

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s