This story of performing at the Encuentro Arte Corporal festival submitted by my friend Ego Kornus (visit his blog for more info on Kavadi rituals). It was originally posted in 2007 on BodyTwo.com and I am reposting it here now — continue reading for the article if you haven’t already read it. Thanks again for his support and wonderful stories. – Shannon
Several months ago I was invited by the festival “Encuentro Arte Corporal” (7 September – 17 September) to do a performance on the opening night of the festival which would take place in Caracas, at the Theatre Teresa Careño — the biggest and most important in Venezuela. The festival invited people from all over the world to display paintings, photos, videos, movies, and do live performances related to Arte Corporal (Body Art).
I couldn’t find out much about the festival in advance, and only found out what was going on a few weeks before it started. The biggest art form in the festival was body painting and that was being done by diverse artists with diverse specialties. Furthermore there were performance workshops in several forms and classes introducing the meaning of rituals in old tribes. All of this was going to happen after the opening night, throughout all of Venezuela, fully supported by the Ministry of Culture.
The reason why the festival invited me was for aesthetic reasons, to show my rituals. They asked me to do a suspension. Normally I do not do performances on stage — maybe once a year — and I keep these things private. I saw this as an excellent chance to show how things can also be done in a ritual context. I wanted to show the relaxed and beautiful part of the ritual and to take my time for everything. I wondered what I could do as a bonus for this festival, and for my own experience. If there’s one thing I don’t like so much, it is repeating myself. Of course I like to recycle the things I do, but not in the exact same form. I make combinations, create new things, leave other things out.
My first idea was to do two crowns of spears and a coma suspension together, where the crowns would function as columns. The tricky thing was the construction that was needed to realize the idea, but on the other hand, the festival gave me the opportunity to bring people with me (which was necessary to realize my idea), and to buy the things I needed. I asked Harm over from Holland to give me a hand in the construction, and here in Buenos Aires I asked my wife, Anyi, to do the crowns of spears together with La Negra. I asked Manny to support me in putting in the hooks, and to give me a hand with the suspension itself. The colors black and red, along with the color of bamboo, were the main colors that would rule the scene. A few weeks before the festival Harm told me he had a complete idea for the structure.
After meeting each other in Caracas, only two days before the performance, we needed to start right away building the structure and organizing everything for the performance. Unfortunately we had a problem to solve, since a law had passed a few months earlier making bamboo prohibited for sale in Venezuela — the organization realized that the day we got there! They came up with an alternative bamboo, but after inspecting the bamboo in the store, we concluded it was not strong enough for what we had in mind. We had to change our idea about the actual suspending and use the theatre’s hoist to do the suspension rather than using the structure itself because it was way to weak to handle my weight.
The organization reacted well on all our requests, and the people of the theatre gave a hand where possible. We finished everything on the day of the performance, just before we had to go on stage. A few things I envisioned weren’t possible — the red hope had to be replaced with yellow rope, and the red roses extending the six meter red dresses of the girls had to be changed to red carnations. The stones they bought for me to use were fantastically beautiful cut minerals!
As far as achieving my vision prior to the performance, the aesthetics of the whole was good, and I entered the performance with a relaxed feeling. The organization gave us only fifteen minutes to perform, but I ignored that point and told everybody to relax and do what was necessary to do the whole performance. For myself the performance was relaxed even when I couldn’t see anything. I heard the noises and talking of Harm and Manny, from which I could understand where we were at in the performance. With the twenty one stones hanging down from my back the performance ended and I heard the applause.
Afterwards they told me there were 3,500 people in the seats and on the stairs. The curtain came down and first thing I saw was that we were surrounded by a league of photographers, mainly from the theatre itself. When I came out of the structure my head and body gave me the usual flash and I needed to calm down for a few minutes. I stretched my arms and legs a little and went to the dressing room. In the dressing room we did a little overview of the performance and everybody was happy about how it came out. I heard the things I couldn’t see and about the response of the public.
I changed into a comfortable suit and started walking around in the theatre. Several performances were going on outside the building, and several documentaries were playing. One got my special attention and gave a very good vibe, as it was about scarification in old tribes. The next couple of days we went to several organized parts of the festival to enjoy our last days in Caracas.
L-R: Manny, La Negra, Anyi, Ego Kornus, Harm.