ritual - otherness

The work Green Women and Green Beasts is about recognising the need to initiate a change in how culture operates within the wider social and environment context. Suzi Gablik in the “re-enchantment of art” observes “There is a need for new forms emphasising our essential interconnectedness, rather than our separateness, forms evoking the feeling of belonging to a larger whole, rather than expressing the isolated, alienated self”. Taken from a 'Western' perspective, which tends to be dualistic and focussed on the individual experience 'ritual' has not been fully understood, “taking us away from a sense of wholeness”.[1]


The holistic model for society and the integration of the individual within it raises questions about identity within the context of a Western capitalist society. A feature of this ideology is the notion of the 'other'. The 'other' can pertain to how we view other people (foreigners) and also to how we view our interior and exterior selves in relation to 'nature' and the material world.


Ritual an also cause feelings of trancendence. Otto called this concept of the numinous. A 'creature-feeling' - being in the presence of something that is completely different from us in every way, of being in the presence of something wholly other.


Simone de Beauvoir addressed the concept of the 'other' in relation to women in her book The Second Sex. She observed that woman was “defined and differentiated with reference to man and not he with reference to her: she is the incidental, the inessential as opposed to the essential. He is the subject, he is the absolute – she is the other.”[2] This lends my work a certain timbre as it is a women-only performance. Here, I had in mind works by artists such as Deb Margolin.


The issue of the 'other' is inherently bound up with and compromised by it's connection to our idea of ourselves and our connection to the world. This highlights the approach in western thinking towards duality, of taking binary positions. One of the central issues and a consequence of dualistic thinking is viewing ourselves as separate from each other and from the natural world.


In ‘An Open Letter to Thomas McEvilley, New York artist, Mary Beth Edelson - who works with ritual as a theme - admonishes the critic for sustaining the spurious notion of 'Goddess art' as essentialist by employing the construct of "nature/culture and of presenting "feminist work as a hierarchical progression from nature to culture, setting one against the other"[3]


She unpicks the assumptions McEvilley's makes: "you presented what you called ‘Goddess Art’ of the Seventies as nature, and deconstructionist art of the Eighties as culture. This construct also advances the idea that women artists working with nature have accepted their bodies and intuition at the expense of their cognitive minds, and that deconstructionist artists have accepted their intellects at the expense of their sensual bodies"[4]


Mary Beth Edelson has helped bring about a re-evaluation of ritual. A valuable tool has been revealed through the re-evaluation of ritual helping bridging divisions: working towards accepting others while simultaneously embracing a sense of the other, inside and outside [5]. Betsy Damon thinks ritual is a safe way to come together. She believes a good ritual provides a vessel for people to examine themselves and the world (at least energetically) where they are and how they feel. However, she is unsure if the transcendence always occurs.


The work ‘Green Women and Green Beasts’ is about ritual and a sense of belonging, recognising the need to initiate a change in how culture operates within the wider social and environment context.





[1] Suzi Gablik (1991) ‘The Reenchantment of Art’

[2] Simone de Beauvoir (1997) ‘ The Second Sex’

[3] Mary Beth Edelson (1989) ‘An Open Letter to Thomas McEvilley’

[4] Ibid

[5] Hannah Stevens (2012) ‘Discovering Otherness: Female Artists and Ritual’