A Dance Videopoem: Shadow Cave

direct link: Shadow Cave.  [The video is subtitled, so you can read along if you like, or have Google automatically translate the text into one of 25 languages. The option appears after you press play. If the cc in the play bar is red, the subtitle track is on; if black, it's not. Mouse click to toggle. Click on this image to see the steps to opening the subtitle/caption file:

This videopoem is a postmodern fairy tale. Sort of Jungian. Integrating the shadow into the self. I re-wrote a piece I'd written many years ago of an inner journey though a land of strange figures representing repressed selves.

And I did everything in this video. What a lot of work! Shot the clips with a tripod. Edited the footage so many times that it's like a Samurai sword, beaten, and wrapped onto itself, over and over again. At one point I so overloaded my video editing software that it crashed every few minutes. But I pushed it, until the effects I was seeking emerged.

That she becomes quite pixelated in it is fine - it's all reflection, image, celluloid, burned light, a digitally composed moving image.

As an artist, I cannot help but think of the screen as a canvas, and so I expect that some of the all-over appearance is influenced by Color Field Painting, like a Larry Poons, has an abstract art quality to it. Meaning, while there were probably 50 cuts, I didn't do any zooming or duplicating or other fascinating video possibilities.

Also the tribal influence is strong. That's my childhood in an African jungle in Zambia, it comes out from time to time. This is the first video that I've attempted to create a sound track for. I used rattles, a singing bowl, a bell, two different drums. Since it's all quite primitive, the story, the dance, even the reading has a colloquial quality to it, I wasn't too worried about melody. My postmodern fairytale needed a strange and primitive soundscape, which it certainly has. ::smiles::

The dance footage was shot for my forthcoming videopoem, a triptych, Tangled Garden. (Which I have been working on for 5 months and hopefully will one day finish.) But, see, I had this abstract pastel clip that emerged from another project... oh, background, I thought, so went looking among my clips for something that might work with it. That's how it goes...

I enjoy the stills, too. Crazy, how'd I create those scenes? Seriously, it's like it creates itself. Magic behind and magic in front. Movie magic, that is!

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'Shaman: Reflective Face,' 2009, 13"x16"; 33cmx41cm;
India inks, oil pastels, acrylic, varnish and dried leaves on archival paper

No idea why I keep working on it - wasn't my original idea or even close (which was some colorful decorative masks) and I don't know where he came from, or why painting his face is so difficile. Because I took him to DOWH yesterday for the alter, and the women said, 'oh he's a shaman!' he now has a new title. Shaman, he is.

(In my original conception one aspect I wished for was cat eyes, not quite but almost-sort-of, eyes that can see in the dark - how else is a shaman to get about in the obscure spirit worlds?)

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Fate of the Lhapa

In my four and a half years in the jungle in Zambia as a young child there was a Witch Doctor who I remember clearly. He has been with me all my life - though I had a strong feeling he passed on in 1997 - I went to my cottage alone and fasted (only water) for 3 days and helped him, his spirit on the journey to the Great Oneness.

My memories of him and his power and his work are entirely different to the New Age posturing of so called "Shamans." From my own tribal African vantage, I understand the difference between the pose and the reality. "Shaman" seems to me to be about power, and is sold as such in workshops and books and New Age CDs et al; whereas, the traditional Witch Doctor or Medicine Man or Woman is about healing, and it is a most difficult path of great responsibility for the chosen practitioner.

Last week, as part of a Planet Earth film festival, I saw the film this trailer advertises of three Tibetan Lhapa who are in their elder years living in a permanent refugee camp in Nepal who do this difficult work with illness and Spirit. They may not have heirs to their calling since the signs of Lhapa have not appeared in any of the younger generations in any of their families, which is why they requested a documentary to remember them and their work.

It is a beautiful little film, shot in natural light. The Lhapa are disarmingly open about the traditional Tibetan Medicine they are doctors of. The Lhapa hold nothing back in their sharing of their understanding of what they do, the processes involved. Perhaps to us it may seem superstitious, though we also in our Western medicine use a set of metaphors to explain bodily and psychic processes in terms of illness and cure and we should understand that they are only sets of metaphors and are no more or less valid than the ones the Tibetan Lhasa use to describe their treatments.

The Lhasa give themselves fully to the work they do; more than this, they give themselves over to the spiritual calling of the healing processes. It takes its toll on them; it is not an easy calling. That they live hard lives is quite evident, though they do not see themselves this way.

The Lhapa become gods while they heal, the deities enter them, this is an incredible sight to see. It's not about 'power' either. The Lhapa take no personal credit for the healings.

It is a difficult calling, to be a Medicine Man or Woman, and nothing at all like what New Age therapist types propose. There's no glamour in the true Medicine Way. You don't become more powerful and able to command life and those around you with your psychic force; rather than a display of special powers, the real Medicine man carries the heavy mantle of a healer who heals by exorcising disease, who takes on the ailment to expel it. Who continually works to understand the ways of the spirits in their interaction with the human and animal and plant worlds.

This is in striking contradistinction to advertisements I've seen for workshops and whatnot with New Age healers that appear perfunctory and rather imperious.

The sentences in these ads have a 'feel' of business talk and of someone who is an 'expert.' Yet I well know from exploring some of these offerings that an (often not very thorough or self-reflective) intellectual knowledge of various traditions doesn't thereby accord the moral and emotional wisdom that should accompany the teachings. Their aim is to convince others to spend money on their modes of healing, their workshops, their retreats. Healing is a game being sold.

Compare this to a Lhapa, whose kindness and compassion radiates, you can see that in the trailer, yet there is a humbleness that surely comes from not identifying with the healing forces. And for whom healing is a very real and difficult path that must take great moral courage to stay on.

But you, my gentle reader, know this better than I do.

When we read, we should be intensely alive: the writing "a ball of light in one's hand."
Ezra Pound
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