Journeying backward in time to experience early human sensibilities is currently being routed through vision quests, special breathing exercises, guided visualizations, drumming, chanting, cleansing with fire and water, invocations, listening in silence, meditation, offerings, incense, anointments, and so forth.
The Earth’s waters, atmosphere, topographies, and living species are remote from lifestyles which are dominated by machined products and digital communications. Whole industries have developed based on the principle that this breach should be and can be healed by tapping into humanity’s evolutionary history. Journeying backward in time to experience early human sensibilities is currently being routed through vision quests, special breathing exercises, guided visualizations, drumming, chanting, cleansing with fire and water, invocations, listening in silence, meditation, offerings, incense, anointments, and so forth. In the sixties and seventies an entire generation awakened latent psychic territories through music, dance, poetry, art, and hallucinogens. Here they communally and individually experienced the dissolution of ego and immersion into Earth’s visceral and vital energies.
Red Earth contributes to these efforts by designing ceremonies and spectacles that are always tuned to the location’s particular history. Enclosure, for example, occurred on a piece of land that resonated with the vast expanse of time because Neolithic humans formed its contours into a ritual center. Such large scale, multi-sensory, participatory events have been created by Simon Pascoe and Caitlin Easterby in a variety of locations in collaboration with Japanese Butoh dancers, Javanese shadow-puppets, and British archeologists, geologists, farmers, and historians. Each event links the public, the landscape, and the local geological and cultural histories. The path they chart is enriched by humanity’s long explorations with the sacred, reincarnation, the collective conscious, transmission, transmutation, transubstantiation, hermeticism, alchemy, and so forth.
In 2003, Pascoe traveled to Mongolia as a participant in the Roaring Hooves Art Festival. The trip took him across the globe and backwards in time. In the following excerpts from Pascoe’s narrative, he explains that he performed for audiences of nomads who “somehow know you’re coming and are prepared to travel distances; who arrive on horseback to see what you have to give. It (Mongolia) is the last frontier, the Wild East, full of nomads chasing after huge herds of wild horses; a nation reared on mare’s milk and living off goats. It does something, this vast, open wilderness; it has the capacity to open you bare. It brought me face to face with my intentions as an artist and as a human being, and opened up questions as to the nature and value of our work as a company.
“This quality of place and time rubs off on you. As a direct consequence of this trip I have begun to review my entire life/work/history as an inclusive process. My several alter ego/performance personas merge into one constantly transforming entity operating in a liminal dimension between ‘art’ and ‘not art’.
“I’ll go back, to stand alone and do my thing in a landscape of insurmountable beauty and scale. You are insignificant, and at the same time there is nothing between you and the power of that landscape. Whatever happens, ultimately you are there to experience that huge, terrible, awesome silence. It crackles.”43
a. Other artists who sought a reprieve from the clamor and pace of industrial and post-industrial societies include Joseph Beuys, Mario Merz, Alan Kaprow, Andy Goldsworthy, Tue Greenfort, and Carolee Schneemann. The works of art by these artists that are discussed in this book exemplify this principle. They all found refuge in the elemental materials that defined the lives or early humans, but have been supplemented/supplanted by Gortex, acetate, Formica, Styrofoam, polyethylene, polypropylene, PVC, polystyrene, nylons, polyesters, acrylics, polyurethanes, and polycarbonates, etc. Explain how elemental materials factored into Enclosure by Red Earth, and a work of art by any one of the artists listed above.
b. Hans Haacke once commented, “In countries with industrialized agriculture, the soil‚Äôs fertility is no longer enhanced through prayer and sacrifice. Chemical fertilizer and ecological methods replaced them.”44 Haacke made this comment with regard to crop failures which “have lost none of their horrors. They are reflected in the cost of living index, the options market and in famines – as they did thousands of years ago.”45 Haacke’s statement indicts all three strategies devised by humans to guarantee successful crop outcomes. One is prayer. Another is modern agriculture. The third is ecology. Haacke asserts that humans are no more secure today than they were in Neolithic times.
Considering the site and the events that comprised Enclosure, do you think that Red Earth devises its ceremonial art events in order to cajole natural systems into being cooperative, as Haacke implies? Compare Haacke’s pragmatic approach to Red Earth’s connections to Deep Ecology.