Post-Ritual

[To Ana Escobar – I appreciate that the prefix ‘post-‘ creates a ripple of yawns around the room, but it is meant specifically in the context of late twentieth century understandings.]

It’s interesting to think about ritual from the perspective of a world where everything is considered or feels preemptable. Because I was thinking about ritual as a disruption, and in art it has generally been associated with shock, unpredictability and the taboo. If you choose not to approach it from a shock approach (which is advisable even though shock is still possible – it’s just hard to choreograph in a London art-space), and instead think in terms of how a ritual can ‘work’, i.e. perform a convincing event, then you have to think about disruption in a much more nuanced way.

Ritualistic behaviour appears to have opposite applications: Firstly there are the rituals of comfort, ways of coping with destabilising or disturbing behavioural patterns. Secondly there are rituals of discomfort, intended to channel new information or emotion at times of confusion. However, they are both a comfort in their way. A shaman’s attitude seems bonkers but the intention is not to create chaos but to court chaos for the stability of the whole. The ritualistic behaviour of children is considered part of the natural growth cycle, a part of learning how to order thought.

Now I’m wondering what you think when you say the word ‘ritual’ and perhaps how you would translate it into Spanish. ‘Ritual’ derives from ‘rite’ which means the correct way of doing something. But when we think of ritual we often think of an unusual or apparently chaotic act. I think this is because we could posit such a thing as ‘post-ritualism’. This would be ritual that creates a holistic approach to the generation of practice. Imagine that I wanted to create a ritual for friendship. I can drink with, eat with, dance with, embrace, praise or travel with people in order to experience some form of friendship. In fact, think of a birthday, what can be more ritualistic than a load of friends wearing pointy hats in a circle, celebrating the passing of 365 moons whilst one of them extinguishes a burning pudding?!

So if we use ritual in performance, are we using a unique language or are we parodying ritualistic language?

Say we are generating a unique language of ritual. In the contemporary world this ‘post-ritual’ would need to appear disruptive in order to achieve some comfort with a chaos. In your ideology I imagine you would be comfortable with the idea that there are many strands to the world. We can both agree that existence is filled with a huge interlaced bandwidth of communication, loosely labeled by sociality (religion, economics, witchcraft, morality, love, nature). The divisions of communication are dictated by possessive doctrines of linguistics, “I choose ‘God'”, “I choose ‘Allah'”, “I choose ‘Science'”, “I choose ‘Prada'” (blunt analogy). For the purposes of (post-)ritual the shaman must break down and deliberately misinterpret these divisions. Language must be an open invitation to the visual, verbal, spiritual, physical and emotional (socialistically). How is this different to any art practice? Well I don’t know, and the similarity is surely your point for your essay, these worlds are the same. So why is making a ritual any different from painting a picture?…

This is when I return to parody. This is why we are dealing with a post-ritual and not a traditional ritual. The post-ritual is parodic but in its parodical form it must also spread wider than the parody of religion and shamanism. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges to shamanism has been the anthropologist armed with psychology. But if it has been this, then it is easily deconstructed and developed. Anthropology has often worked as a debunker of traditional held beliefs of psychoanalytical theory.

Anyway, these were just some thoughts I had.