Rituals are myths performed. I operate under the performative everyday as a Witch, investigating and developing new myths and rituals that acknowledge and queer the notion of power. The presence of the witch throughout history has always been one embraced and celebrated in radical and queer communities. Channeling the abject nature of the Witch is a powerful way of using myth and metaphor to critique and invent new ideas of gender and agency. The interactive nature of my work is part of the spell.
There is a healing catharsis that can be achieved by spitting into a cauldron, being blindfolded to another dancer to walk cautiously around a space while a person in a bull mask makes you question the limits of your imagination. In all my work, there is a sense of magic or ethereality. If for a moment you can allow you mind to invent meaning and ask questions, the ritual has succeeded.
So much of my work depends on human interaction. IN creating strong collaborative work, and artist must be willing to let go of unnecessary and superfluous content. Working with Noelle Tolbert is an practice of total trust and love. Our collaborative investigations have helped nurture both our shared and individual artistic practices.
The Everyday Movement Lexicon is an investigation of the everyday through gesture and movement research. People are asked to present a movement, gesture, or pantomime of an action they move through each day. Movements have been gathered from locations throughout the world, and continue to be gathered in order to develop an extensive language of the everyday. This language can exist as pure information, or fodder for larger more specific performances.
“Persephone/Tiffany” was a durational performance exploring the power dynamic between Hades and Persephone as part of *Over/Under Limbo Lab* a performance art event curated by Baltimore performance laboratory, *LABBODIES*. Persephone’s banishment to Hades was retold as violent argument between the two over an elegant dinner. The feast itself consisted of animal organs and a pig's head enshrined in flowers, beads, cutlery, bones and other magical objects. *Thesmophoria* was an ancient Greek festival honoring of the goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone. A ritual of the ceremony involved burying a sacrificial pig into the earth by night and unburying the decaying remains of the pig sacrificed the previous year to commemorate Persephone’s banishment to Hades. The rituals were exclusive and secretive. I saw the exclusive and mysterious nature of this ritual as one of the first examples of a Queer Safe Space. “Persephone/Tiffany” was the Thesmophoric ritual obfuscated into performance art. The audience witnessed me moving from one side of the diner table to the other, climbing over the enshrined pig’s head shifting personas from Hades to Persephone. Hades emerged as a strict, virile male energy in a black suit. Persephone was more wild and androgynous, performing vulgar erotic gestures wearing nothing but (at times) a faux-fur coat. I began the ritual performing the dining etiquette described in *Tiffany's Table Manners for Teenagers*. Blindfolded, grabbing forks to pantomime eat an elegant meal the gestures would trigger a trance like state that would allow me to transform back-and-fourth from Hades to Persephone. Persephone’s role was to destroy social expectation rules of the body. Interacting erotically with the pig head, and catching the gaze of people in the space, I became the protest and outrage of Persephone. Hades intention was to subdue the outbursts and dominate the wild Persephone. The dinner battle between two characters allowed me to embody the tension and pain of Persephone’s circumstance, and Hades oppressive demands. Although Hades wins in the end, the residue of the ritual can resonate far beyond the initial performance. Its empowers me, the audience, and the pig with a sense of confidence and regarding the critique and protest of social norms.
Ritual is everyday. Sometimes, the most powerful rituals happen over a long period of time, with no clear beginning, middle and end. As part of CHASAMA summer performance series, WITCH BONES was presented at the 266 West 37th Street location in New York City from July 24-July 30th. WITCH BONES was an ongoing ritual of magic, dance, and movement research. Working with artists Noelle Tolbert and Porter Witsell, and Li Cata the durational performances function as an archeological dig for new movements, ideas, and performance rituals. On occasion, someone would knock on the door and ask to participate in the rituals. The films extracted from the rituals function as Notes for choreography. I can rebuild and understand the content that emerged from each ritual. Witch-Bones was performance laboratory for all of us to discover and uncover tools and ideas to carry into larger more refined dances and rituals and intentions.
The first time i was able to fully recognize the entity of the Glitterwitch as a persona to conjure and perform was their emergences at Labodies: the Flower Shop a performance pop up in an old flower shop organized by LabBodies. I presented a piece called Pot and Planted. I knew I needed heels, blindfolds, and witch fingers, and that I would be potting and planting myself. The performance was an invocation of queer expressive Pot and Planted investigates this idea of transformation, blossoming, and the movement of change in a quiet and surreal way. I unearthed bones and was covered in a sweaty grime of earth, glitter, and spit. I took sips of water and swished them in my mouth for the duration of my stay in the antique flower coolers. At moments I would come out and spit into the soil, casting a spell that no one but me myself and I would understand or recognize.There is power in the esoteric nature of magic. It is a mask, and illusion that allows an intention to exist regardless of whether or not its welcome/visible in the space. For me, the esoteric and unexplained become a queer survival tactic. The duration of the performance concluded as I left the pot, left the building, and wandered to the street armored in the residue of my newly acquired persona.
The Glass Closet
The Glass Closet is an invisible yet real boundary that all Queer people experience on varying levels. My closet is a boundary between the world hetero-hegemony, and my own self-empowering mythologies. I perform on a platform that has two clothing racks on either entrance. They are filled with garments I wear everyday: work uniforms, costumes and props from previous performances, masks, heels, pointe shoes, etc. The performance is a ritual of passing in and out of the closet, allowing the platform to function as a stage to perform movements and gestures exploring notions and politics of my queerness. The garments, objects, and closet ephemera are gathered each time I pass through one rack onto the stage, and hung back on the opposite rack as I walk off the platform. Moving from to ballerina, to yoga-girl, to naked body, to super butch, to super femme, shifting from persona to persona until I have arrived at Glitterwitch, the personification of my queerness at its core. The performance ends when I off the platform and out of the gallery into the "real world." This performance was presented first at Gallery CA, for Lab Bodies Borders/Boundaries/Barricades performance art review.
The Swan: A Serial Killer Ballet
“The Swan: A Serial Killer Ballet” is an immersive performance following the gruesome musings of a killer who uses Grindr to seduce and kill men in order to create a deranged variation of the “the Dying Swan.” Throughout the ballet I present vignettes of gay sex, blood, ritual, and queer rage.
The audience passes through a wall of caution tape into a dimly lit room with a bed surrounded by campy plastic skulls, real bones, incense, tutus, and plastic taped to the walls. They are immersed in my sinister glittering head space.I invite my first victim into my bed after asking someone from the audience to read a script transcribed from Grindr conversations. Amidst our sexual encounter, I tactfully poison him with a cookie. Once unconscious I cut off his penis. It is my trophy. Following my kills I dance to invoke the swan. The dances are panicked, sloppy, and animalistic. Afterwards I ask men to help me carry his bloody emasculated body to a large wooden altar into a second room. I’m following an old magic trick described in Reginald Scot’s the Discoverie of Witchcraft ,“The Decollation of John Baptiste” I need one victim to be the head, and the other the body. This illusion is my variation of “the Dying Swan.”
I am obsessed with identifying the patriarchy present in each victim in order justify the murders. After a toxic BDSM ritual, I find flaw and homophobia in my second victim. With two emasculated bodies I can create the decollation, an offering for the swan. The whole performance is a ritual to find liberation from the violence of gay men who assimilate to cultural standards of misogyny and homophobia in order to find acceptance and grace in the world. By the end I have murdered two men, cut off their (rubber)dicks, and had asked the audience to adorn my bloody body in clothes pins with feathers.
The satin is ripping off my pointe shoes as the feathered close-pins cling to my bare skin like St. Sebastian’s arrows. Scattered Bourrées atop the altar with my victims deliver “the Decollation of John Baptiste.” Video projections with swans killing swans accompany a ghostly distortion of Camille Saint-Saens “le Cygne.” You can hear blood dripping from the altar onto a giant paper mache swan head. Bloodied and triumphant I am transformed into that ethereal being: The Swan.
Alexander D’Agostino is an interdisciplinary artist, teacher, and arts organizer based in Baltimore, Maryland. He graduated from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2009 with a BFA in painting. He investigates the queer and otherworldly through dance, ritual, teaching, installation and performance art... more