And our bed is verdant...
collaborative performance with AGROFEMME during Essential Departures, a week of collaborative investigations into the female body and nature, in a nonjudgmental and feminist environment at the Rosekill Performance Farm (satellite to Grace Exhibition Space), Rosendale, NY July 25, 2015
title from the erotic Bible story Song of Solomon
His brow was pierced with many a thorn,
His hands by cruel nails were torn,
When from my guilt and grief, forlorn,
In love He lifted me.
From sinking sand He lifted me,
With tender hand He lifted me;
From shades of night to plains of light,
Oh, praise His Name, He lifted me!
Now on a higher plane I dwell,
And with my soul I know ’tis well;
Yet how or why, I cannot tell,
He should have lifted me.
- Charles H. Gabriel
"What does the body become, post-trauma? Each scar augments us, each wound becomes a new limb, each memory a landscape through which we move." - Máiréad Delaney
Ian: The performance for me began as an out-of-body experience. Gilded, burned, bitten, partially blinded, pissed on, and dragged through the scratchy meadow, I realized that I was witnessing the destruction of some no-longer-necessary part of myself. For Agrofemme, I embodied the past: regrets, betrayals, emotional dead weight. She was the spiritual healer, crouching over my wounds (and her own), showering them with that golden human divinity that capitalism has rendered abject. I grew conscious of being lead through an as-yet-unknown sacrificial rite, fear mixing freely in the remote night air with the eager anticipation of a promised transformation. But my journey to the post-corporeal abattoir was not to remain a passive one. I emerged from our initial flirtation with the incorrupt to meet Agrofemme head on in her parallel need for transfiguration and animal becomings. I strained under the weight of her body-in-motions, a stand-in for my own past traumas, discovering the essential mutual charge which is true sacrifice and self-renewal. We were each the vehicle for the other's discovery of resilience and moultability, a relationship seared in our overlapping actions of pain, extreme trust, empathy, and new love towards one another.
PART I INCORRUPTIBILITY OF FLESH
1. He is tenderly gilded on his extremities, his hands, feet, face, and genitals. My hands spread cocoanut oil and adhere the delicate sheets of silver leaf. His hands grip two candlesticks, hot wax runs down, drop into the hair of his chest and harden in the cool night air. He lies on an old wooden sledge, suited better to ice and snow than this late July night. People gather around us. My lipstick has been smeared across my mouth, and rather than oil, my saliva was still on his foreskin, where I press silver around his now flaccid cock. The insects gather under the florescent glow of a battery operated lantern slung low in the yew tree above us. They swarm around us like snowfall as I place the last sheet of silver leaf over his eyes and I wonder if he can sense them.
2. He lies gleaming in the light of moon, candles, and a harsh LED glare. I wish for a cigarette but drink the last warm swill of a can of beer instead. A burp rises in my throat; I let out an unladylike belch, and the audience chuckles. I hear someone say my name.
3. A long stream of my piss runs down his the center of his chest, down his body, on the incline of the earth, into the curl of the slats of the sledge. He is still and silent, hot wax drips out of his fists, as the candles burn low to the skin.
a. An unplanned fire crackles in the bracken beside his hand. I stamp it out with the toe of my shoe.
4. Incorruptibility is a Roman Catholic belief that Divine intervention allows some human bodies (specifically saints and beati) to avoid the normal process of decomposition after death as a sign of their holiness. Bodies that undergo little or no decomposition, or delayed decomposition, are sometimes referred to as incorrupt or incorruptible. A sweet smell is said to issue from the bodies.
PART II HURRIER
5. I place the lantern in between his feet. I sling the rope of the sledge around my waist. I take a step. I pull.
6. I pull the burden of the past; of men I gild in memoriam, then haul over a field of ruts, stumbling forward by sheer willpower. I trip over the stones in red stripper heels, groaning curses and crying for help in a voice hoarse with sleeplessness and cigarettes.
7. A hurrier was a small woman or girl employed to transport coal from mine shafts. Common particularly in the early 19th century, the hurrier pulled a corf, a small wagon or sledge full of coal, along mine shafts as low as 16 inches in height. Bent or on their hands and knees, they would often work 12-hour shifts, making several runs down to the coal face and back to the surface again. Hurriers wore a "gurl" belt – a leather belt with a swivel chain linked to the corf. They were also given candles as it was too expensive to light the whole mine.
8. FUCK This isn’t working. I am wearing six inch plastic
stripper heels and I can’t go on. I’m only half way there.
I fall, crawl, the rope digs into my hips and hands.
I beg the audience for help. Two men step forward,
but then a girl runs to help me. She pulls.
We need more help. A woman pushes.
We slide together this laborious dead weight of a man over the rest of the field.
PART III SACRIFICE
"I ween that I hung
on the windy tree
hung there for nine nights full nine
with the spear
I was wounded
and offered I was
Myself to Myself
on the tree that none
what root beneath it runs none made me happy with a loaf or horn
and there below I looked I took up the runes shrieking I took them
and forthwith back I fell"
10. I am under an ash tree with a long branch. Tied to the branch, twenty feet high, is a knotted rope, extending to the soil. I stand under the rope and he rises from the sledge. In the glaring electric light he kneels beneath me. I step on his shoulders, my stiletto heels digging into his flesh. I can feel his pain and hoist myself upward, pulling my weight up with my arms. I am weak now. I try to climb upwards but my weight brings us back to the ground.
11. He lights six sparklers, each placed around us in a circle.
Slow to light, they burn unevenly in time.
12. I push my heels into his back and strain to pull my own weight. He pushes me upward, rising, til my legs straddle his neck. My legs dangle and he grips my heels.
a. My arms are up, clinging to the rope, alternately stretching and slumping with exhaustion and will.
b. I begin to weave in the air, and he shifts his weight under me.
13. I can only see the fire cast of the sparklers moving now, every moment closer to the ground. We are waiting.
15. Darkness. We slump into a bank of poison ivy and I close my eyes. I can hear his heart beat through his chest.