by Jana Astanov
This morning I’m finishing the preparations for the performance. We are scheduled to show our work at Queen’s Museum Park at Flushing Meadows between 3 and 5 pm. To give me some space Niko takes Yanis to work as he is having a walk-through with a client who needs lighting design for a dance performance. Both Niko and Maija work today so I am slightly anxious that they may be running late. I print all the messages for my “Fortune Apples” and buy a large bag of red delicious and another of gala apples. I borrow Niko’s drill and make the holes in each of them, fold the messages and put one message into each apple. One of the projects I am working on is The Cosmic Serpent Journey, in which I and Maija are both Evas and serpents with an aim to rewrite the mythology of our civilisation. Retell the story of the human fall, so that instead of giving the apple to Adam, we feed it to each other, wake each other up, and then exercise the power over the world so as it serves us. I decided to use the apple metaphor in “HerStory Hopscotch”. An apple as a symbol of knowledge, or a human fall from paradise, turns into a divination tool, connecting us with the all-knowing Universe that is always there to guide us. I like to call it SheUniverse, the self-replicating, creative lifeform that birthed the galaxies, our solar system, Gaia, our primal Mother Earth, and the human race. How different from the Greek mythology of Uranus, Kronos, and Zeus… We need new mythologies for the changing reality of the human race, we need to rediscover ancient Gnostic teachings and incorporate other cultures and religions to best serve the development of human consciousness.
The performance is divided into 3 parts: maiden, mother and crone. Whenever I explain the narrative I am asked about the crone; people think it’s my bizarre accent and what I mean is “crown”, they repeat after me to correct me. The archetype of crone isn’t really present in our culture; she is the wise woman, possessing worldly knowledge, and in folklore also magical powers. So in a way one could see her as the wise queen, the Crown. I sometimes enjoy viewing human life evolution through an astrological lense. The Crone stage of a woman’s life cycle occurs after the second Saturn Return at age 56-68 and Uranus square at around age of 60-62. It marks the entry into what used to be called “Old Age” – now that 70 is the new 40, all of our conceptions about aging have changed. However, older women don’t have as much influence over our world as the “old white men” of the calcified patriarchy. We need a Wise Women Council to oversee the world’s economy in the same way Davos men are protecting their interests of big oil and entrenched economic systems based on exploitation and rampant inequality.
I am getting ready, overdoing my makeup, and waiting for Niko to arrive so we can pick up Maija from the aerial class center in Bushwick. Niko is stuck in traffic on the Brooklyn Queens Expressway, and it looks like he is going to be 1h late. Maija decides to travel to my place together with Laila, and finally at 2pm we all meet in Williamsburg and head to the Queen’s Museum. The day is gorgeous – really perfect for an outdoor performance, especially with two one year olds that want to run around and play all the time.
We meet Hector Canonge and other artists in front of the museum and begin. Performing in an open public space is a completely different experience compared to the gallery setting. We need to spawn our own audience, engage people, and create a presence that encourages them to participate. Both Maija and myself, dressed in red dresses with bright orange makeup, walk around passersby with our apple baskets giving out the Fortune Apples. Our audience grows quickly and we begin the dance routine with various performative actions, and for the second part we bring our kids into the performance. They are joined by other children, and very focused on the apples. I am aware that the third part may not be that clear; Maija devours an apple – she eats all the world’s knowledge. Myself, I walk around the audience holding a glass with the question “Am I visible?”. Then we use the apples to clear a glass window and draw crowns on top of it holding the glass in front of us in a magical spell – transmuting the concept of a crone into the Crown, the Wise Woman, the Feminine Knowledge, and the Feminine Force. As we are both mothers, we know so much about responsibility and the sacrifice one needs to be prepared for to bring a new life into this world. Women are the life bearers, light bearers, the nurturing, the maternal, manifesting the creatrix force of the Universe that needs to be recognised. That’s the paradigm shift the New Earth is waiting for, so that we could all peacefully and consciously coexist and co-create with the primordial Earth Mother Gaia.
After the performance, we stay in the park for another couple of hours as Yanis and Laila are having so much fun playing. I am having a conversation with Lariel Joy, an artist from South Korea who is currently based in Chicago and who also performed at the Queens Museum Park. She is sharing with me some wonderful insights on female agency, and I am glad that my message resonated with her, and feel inspired by her thoughts and work. Itinerant is such a great concept. I am amazed how Hector Canonge manages to create it every year and gather so many international artists across all of the New York city venues. It is a magical enterprise where you can meet people from all around the world and experience the work they do. Even though I didn’t see as many shows as I wanted to, I got to know Dorothea Seror from Germany, and also finally saw a performance by Kathie Halfin, who is originally from Ukraine. I wrote about their work before: http://www.creatrixmag.com/juno-diary-may-22/
Also you can see the full schedule of ITINERANT 2019: http://www.creatrixmag.com/itinerant2019/
Kathie came to the Queens park and we all head back to Williamsburg as the final closing ceremony of the festival is nearby my flat at The Last Frontier in Greenpoint.
I am determined to see the final performances, but unfortunately, Nikolas needs to do some work and I have to stay with the baby until 9 pm. Once Niko is back I jump into the shared lyft which costs me less than a bus fare (how is it even possible!), and arrive at the Last Frontier exactly when Hee Ran Lee finishes her piece. I see two kettles filled with pacifiers and some members of the audience sucking on the large green pacifiers, the same ones I recently gave away as Yanis lost interest in sucking the pacifier (which we call “a dopi”) when he was 7 months old. I am sad to miss Hee Ran Lee’s performance, from what Kathie Halfin says it was quite special.
I’m excited to see Arantxa Araujo and look forward to her performance but to my surprise she lets me know her performance is canceled… I am totally disappointed as I was looking forward to her participation in the closing event. I get a chance to talk to Veronica Pena and Miao Jiaxin before we watch the performance piece by Natacha Voliakovsky from Argentina. Natacha presents a highly conceptual piece that makes us all aware of our digestive system as if through our guts we were able to comprehend the manipulation that is being perpetuated through the media channels. It’s visceral, cringing and moving. A blatant statement on the world we are all part of.
There is one more performance, Hector Canonge and Veronica Pena are repeating their collaboration presented on Thursday at BAAD (Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance) as the finale of this year’s festival. We all gather in a small part of the studio space and are reminded that taking photos or videos is not allowed. The piece, like all their collaborations, is sensual and visually rich. The couple seated across each other, each on their stool, both half-naked, with their heads wrapped in immense amounts of muted blue and green tulle become every man and every woman in an act exploring togetherness. The silhouettes are making uncertain progress towards each other, sensing the presence of another, desiring but fearfully. I am seated on her side, the emotional intensity of Veronica’s most minuscule body turns and twists is spectacular. Halfway through, the music starts, intensifying the emotional depths. The bodies meet, the act turns into an abstract yet passionate exchange. The piles of tulle fly in all directions, transporting me to the place where all my sexual encounters reside and bring this ethereal communion with human nature, allowing me to disappear and blend in with the gestures of the artists. Their meditative journey towards the deep desire to relate is by far my favourite piece by this duo of performance artists.