by Sara Muthi
Wilder Being Command was a performance event that stemmed from an ambitious exhibition titled As Above, So Below. Featuring modern masters and landmark contemporary art works, the exhibition explores “how the spiritual endures in our everyday lives”.
Rather than creating a detailed report on the relationship between art and spirituality over the last hundred years, it brought the audience a selection of perspectives into art and spirituality by significant figures in both modern and contemporary art. The success of this exhibition was due to its approach in allowing for wonder and astonishment on the part of the audience, and this carried over into its accompanying performance seamlessly.
Golden flowing robes on bicycles, chimes echoing through the wind, emerging yellow-dressed figures performing rituals in wide open spaces and marching with a devil-masked parade were a select few of mystical moments that flooded the night. There was no hidden motive within the various performances, no agenda or recruitment that was being pushed, as is the case with many spiritually centred events. Instead, there was a communal energy as visitors lounged and communicated on picnic blankets which reinforced, according to the description of the event on IMMA’s website, “an organic connection to the earth, to the present and to one another”. Intentionally curated as a night of overlapping performances engaging the audience at different stages of astonishment and socialisation, the night took form in performances that happen around you, along with performances that demanded to be followed, or gave instruction. Visitors were even asked to stand lightly as to not make a dent in the historic grounds, also known as “the meadows, adjacent to the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, drawing no. 12 – 005 provision 2, that is to say the grounds of the unexcavated heritage site of St. Maniums Monastery” as repeated during one of the evening’s performance by the group Barry on site of Camping on the undertow.
There were few single performing bodies, apart from the of the compelling work of Isadora Epstein titled Presentation on Mesmerise (2017) and Christopher Mahon’s piece (performed by Oona Doherty) titled The Longest Arms in The History of Pugilism (2017). Overwhelmingly there was a myriad of concepts and rituals performed by groups that filled the space, creating a sense in which the absence of the single performing body was a near relief. The concept and ritual of the work Experiment in Falling by Emily Mast overcame the urge to analyse one body but appreciate a collective, ritual of people that emerged from the very audience watching. Not only that, but the communal energy that surrounds people when music wraps a group is no cheap trick, but a powerful force to gathers consciousness together.
Wilder Being Command did not simply give a single view of spirituality in today’s ever increasing secular society, but offered a comprehensive sample of spirituality through the lens of contemporary practitioners, allowing a thirst for more. While each event acknowledged its immediate context and became borderline site-specific, every artist had an important autonomous point of view worth sharing. Although dealing with spiritual subject matter, no answers were given, either directly or indirectly. As with other, but not all spiritual encounters, the experience of the here and now is paramount over answers and that is what we were given.
The evening orchestrated a blend of light hearted enjoyable works, as well as thoroughly enchanting and thought provoking pieces, which accumulated to the build up of the final act of the night. The first point of the manifesto CVLTO DO FVTVRV states: “we have no answers to your problems”. This statement and the procession of the CVLTO DO FVTVRV is what finalised Wilder Beings Command. The manifesto of this group gives us insight into the motive of the near thirty-minute march that concluded the evening. Leading the audience all around the historical grounds of the Irish Museum of Modern Art the third statement of the manifesto reads “We believe in the immediate data of consciousness and we march for the improvement of its content”. The simple marching alongside other invested witnesses on historic grounds with a near hundred drumming beats echoing the space is an experience you could not help but be wholly absorbed in. While no answers were found in this spiritually charged journey of overlapping moments within this event, we are reminded that the spiritual takes many forms, many perspectives and “endures in our everyday lives”.
Wilder Beings Command, featuring Gareth Anton Averill, Stephan Doitschnioff, Stephen Dunne, Mark Titchner, Daniel O’Sullivam, Isadora Epstein, Christopher Mahon, Emily Mast and Barry (Edward Clydsdale Thomas, Sjoerd Westbroek and Frans-Willem Koresten) curated by Rachel Gilbourne and Janice Hough. took place on July 29th, 2017, at the Irish Museum of Modern Art. Images by Misha Beglin.