A multimedia stereoscopic ritual and participative performance for synthetic videos and electronic sounds

“These are major rites that symbolize the events of human life, but the symbol goes beyond the act, explains everything we do in terms of eternal mechanic. The education received at Eleusis should remain secret, it has also less likely to be disclosed it is by nature ineffable. Formulated, it would result only the most obvious commonplace, there just is its depth. “

Marguerite Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian

“Demeter felt well disposed towards our ancestors. She gave them two presents of the most valuable ones: agriculture, which allowed us to live differently from the wild beasts, and the mysteries that make fidels to conceive comforting hopes about what awaits them at the end of life and forever and ever.”

Isocrates, Panegyric IV, 28

  • Intention

In-Existence is presented to the public in the form of an initiation ritual to live by the body, sight and hearing. It is a visual and sound piece based on both performance and participatory multimedia installation, inspired by the mysteries initiation rituals practiced in ancient Greece.

Participants, guided by the two artists-performers, are gradually immersed in a world of sound and light in metamorphosis which leads them to a state of contemplative presence, both to body and surrounding world. Through successive states of birth, passion, death and rebirth, the participant explores the subjective landscapes of his own reverie, in which he experienced individual and collective creative freedom. Contrary to the classical form of contemporary entertainment according to which audiences remain passive, standing or sitting on a chair, the public will be invited to participate here with his entire body: at different moments of the ritual, the spectators will indeed be suggested by the artists perfomers certain movements and displacements in space.

The show takes place linearly over a duration ranging from one to three hours depending on participation and responsiveness of the public. The narrative scheme is based on characteristics common to various eastern and western cultural traditions without focusing on their singular religious, philosophical or mythological aspects. The ritual takes place linearly in three movements, steps needed to reach a state of contemplative presence (by acquiring the minor insider status, or Myst in the terms of the past Greek Eleusinian Mysteries). The viewer will successively experience the separation of subject and world, the dissolution of the subject in the cathartic ecstasy, and finally the simultaneous experience of its irreducible singularity and its ownership to the universal organic processes. If the three movements are immutable in their form and composition, sounds and images broadcast is generated through a real time work of interpretation by the performers thanks to a specific gestural interaction device.

Focusing on a non-figurative aesthetic, compositional approach and expressiveness aim at speaking directly to sensations and emotions.

The general aesthetic is built in continuation and development of the one already explored in the past three versions of Gestes created in 2008 and 2009 at the Cube (Issy-les-Moulineaux, France), at L’Autre Canal (Nancy, France) and at the Bellevilloise (Paris, France).

  • At the origins

In Greece and Rome, the mystery schools were reserved for the elite dignitaries, aristocrats, diplomats, generals and other senior and junior officers, including engineers in charge of directing the construction of bridges, roads, canals… Their priests and priestesses taught moral virtues and dramatizing rituals that a uninformed western modern look would take as forms of folklore typical of civilizations still searching for geopolitical, strategic, economic, civic and philosophical stability. Among them, in Attica, on the bay of Eleusis, northwest of Athens, (to which the city of Eleusis was connected by a sacred road), stood one of the main temples of the Greek religion, dedicated to Demeter, the goddess of the earth, which were celebrated with small and big mysteries.

This initiation was split in two stages: minor mysteries were held each year in February, the candidate went myst, major Eleusinian mysteries took place between September and October, the candidate became epoptes. The Eleusinians which lasted nine days consisted of sacrifices and purification rituals, processions and performances, and other mythological scenes including representations of the removal of the goddess Persephone, daughter of Demeter. This creation, In-Existence § I: Becoming Myst, refers to the first level of these mysteries, ie the minor mysteries.

The Eleusinian mysteries involved obviously learning and development of a balance discipline between opposing tendencies to introversion and extroversion. Major insiders managed to overcome the apparent contradiction of these two movements to synthesize them in a unique form of consciousness.

Thus, the mysterious nature of In-Existence, a ritual initiation of the digital age, does not concern imply a knowledge taught, but a sensibly integrated experience. Thus, throughout the course of the play, In-Existence guides the participant through the game of death and rebirth (descent into hell and passage in the Elysian fields) inviting him to examine his fundamental nature and experimenting ways to deploy new modalities of consciousness.

The choice of abstraction is thought as an extension of different approaches to non-figurative sacred art, manifested equally in Islam, as well as in Taoism or in Mahayana and Vajrayana buddhist traditions (especially in the art of the mandala) and even, what is less known, within Christianity. In all these not figurative traditions, the objective was to remove the object and the concept to allow a progressive and sensitive access to an image of transcendence.

  • Description of the three movements

Each of the three movements of the piece can last from twenty minutes to an hour, depending on the audience participation. The progression from beginning to end, however, remain broadly unchanged, the authors being attached to the fact that this is a composed work interpreted in real time, not an improvisation.

During the Prelude, participants will relieve their tensions and externalize their violence in a cathartic dance, ecstatic, impulsive and sharp, similar to the ones that can be seen in shamanic rituals in Africa and South America, always under the guidance of the bright and sonorous shapes.

The First Movement takes the spectator from the outside world to gradually introduce him with the abstract shapes of the installation, using warm and slow textures. During this stage, the participants stand facing the screens and will be invited to adopt body movements baggy and relaxed, similar to the Taiji gesture, while being guided by the projected textures which intend to excite the creative curiosity of the spectators and encourage them to explore the abstract and multi-sensory part of their inner being. Then the lights and sounds gradually blend into one resonant entity and gather everyone’s energy into a growing collective energy, prelude to the second movement.

The Second Movement shows the violence of the birth and the separation from the original matrix. The participant experiences the loss of innocence in the fury of terrestrial passions, the submission to commitment, desire, suffering, and finally, exhausted, the surrender to Thanatos and Hades. The sequences of this movement are characterized by ecstatic and stroboscopic rhythms, spins of light, underground resonances with chthonic and little saturated colors.

Finally, in the Third Movement, the multi-sensory experience leads the participant to put into perspective his own subjective experience, in order to include it in the broader context of life cycles. During this stage, the public is invited to adopt an immobile sitting meditation on cushions or on the ground, open to the visual and acoustic void to which he can identify while keeping distance, in order to experiment a consciousness both internalized and externalized. Visually and musically, this stage achieve a synthesis of the first two movements, and express simultaneously the ethereal and embodied dimensions of spirituality.

The performance ends with a Final Meditation in silence and darkness. Participants are invited to stay ith their feelings and sensastions as long as they want. People can go out of the sacred space when they feel it, without clapping or expressing any loud artistic appreciation, to keep the experience within.

These three movements are developed continuously, without break or intermission.

  • Set up

The technical set up of the ritual can be adjusted to the characteristics of the performing place. An optimal set up requires a closed and totally obscured and soundproof room of 20m x 20m in which three stereoscopic screens of 6 meter base are arranged in a semicircle, and a 6.1 sound system. The screens will be raised so that their bases arrive at about the chest of the participant standing, roughly 1.50m from the ground. In a simplified set up, one can imagine a unique rectangular projection screen and a 4.1 sound system.

The audience is placed in the center of the stage, facing the projection screens, and cannot approach within 3 meters of the screens. The stage will have no chairs, but cushions will be offered to all participants. Ideally the floor is carpeted and the participants can lie on it.

Spectators and performers participate together to the ritual and there is no séparation between the stage and the audienc, so that everyone can feel free to be his own player in a collective experience. Two tables facing each other are positioned on each side of the screen. They are dedicated to sound and image, allowing artists to influence the evolution of the ritual.

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