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Samhain, Halloween, Day of the Dead

1 Nov

“End of Summer”

Samhain means “end of summer”. The Gaelic festival marked the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Today it is celebrated on the night between October 31st – November 1st. It is also associated with St. Martin’s day, November 11th. Some also connect it with the midpoint between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice (or the nearest full moon), when the ecliptic longitude of the Sun reaches 225 degrees.

Samain is also the name of the Celtic god of death, who from this point on ruled over the land, while the goddess of vegetation was forced to decent into darkness until the coming spring. Her parting is accompanied by the honk of the geese leaving for the South. Any herb harvested after this point would be considered harmful, save for the grey mugwort. During Samhain the doors to the spirit-/ underworld opened, and the spirits that would enter, were not always friendly. In some tales, spirits of darkness and chaos (such as the Irish Fomorians and the Crom Cruach) would be given human sacrifices.

Rural people’s survival depended on the harvest. The fear of loosing the harvest, fierce autumn storms, the long nights etc. was real. It was essential to secure the harvest and protect the home, barn and family. It was custom to cleanse and protect the home by burning herbs. Processions and rituals were performed to ward off revenants – or Wiedergänger – the returning spirits of the restless dead.

From the need to protect oneself may also have sprung the latter-day custom of placing candles in hollowed out objects. Turnips or pumpkins were turned into grimacing lanterns. Similar to the scarecrow, the lantern was to ward off ‘evil’ and at the same time its flame lit up the night. This “light in the dark” is embodied by amber, a shiny yellow  fossilized tree resin. Amber is called Bernstein in German, from Low German börnen, meaning “to burn”. The Greeks knew it as ḗlektron, from ēléktōr, meaning “shining sun”.

Samhain also marks the time when deciduous trees have shed most of their leaves. The leaves fall to the ground, decay and nurture the cycle of life. Burning their wood keeps men warm, their bark heals. Evergreen conifers deliver in addition aromatic resins with cleansing and healing properties.

“Day of the Dead”

The pagan festivities surrounding Samhain have been substituted by Christian feast days throughout a large part of the Western world. Folkloric customs continue to merge with modern consumerism. From the pagan Samhain to the Christian All Saints day, the modern world celebrates “Halloween” with plastic skulls, led pumpkins and dressing up as corpses. Everyone can be a zombie for one day or night. Halloween gives a good example for cultural appropriation gone wild. It is part of human nature, both to adopt other traditions as well as to defend one’s own culture and rituals.

One tradition that has been sinking into Western culture and heavily influences our aesthetics, is the Mexican Dia de los Muertos. As the festival in Mexico becomes bigger and is celebrated in impressive ways every year, so grows the fascination with it outside of Mexico, similar to how the cult of Santissima Muerte is growing in numbers both in and outside Mexico. The worship of death and the dead is prospering and it is nothing extraordinary.

All over the world people venerate their ancestors and saints, with altars at home, at their graves or in temples or chapels dedicated to them. Often there are special festivals dedicated to the veneration of the dead. In some countries these celebrations fall in the months of July and August, such as the Japanese Obon or the Argentinian feast for San la Muerte. In other countries they center around the days and nights spanning from All Hallow’s Eve (October 31st) to All Saints (November 1st) and All Souls Day (November 2nd).

In Germany it is custom to visit and adorn the graves of family members on the Totensonntag (the “Sunday of the Dead”). It falls on the last Sunday before the first Advent (usually at end of November) and, though of Protestant origin, is a protected holiday in all of Germany. The day is meant to be spent in silence and it is forbidden to dance or play loud music in public.

In Mexico the celebration starts on All Hallow’s Eve, when children make altars for the angelitos (the souls of dead children). November 1st is referred to as Día de los Inocentes (“Day of the Innocents”) or Día de los Angelitos (“Day of the Little Angels”), which is when the souls of dead children are honored. On November 2nd, the actual Dia de los Muertos, the graves of dead family members are visited. The graves are adorned with cempasuchil flowers, the flowers of the dead. Between the orange sea of flowers, candles are lit and Muertos (the bread of the dead) and sugar skulls are placed as offerings, along with favorite food, beverages, photos etc. The dead are greeted and welcomed back to the world of the living for one day and night. Dancing and intoxication are welcome and encouraged.

Finally within some antinomian and Gnostic traditions Lucifer or the “Bringer of Light” is worshiped and called upon during this night, e.g. by using the formula:

Lucifer, Ouyar, Chameron, Aliseon, Mandousin, Premy, Oriet, Naydrus, Esmony, Eparinesont, Estiot, Dumosson, Danochar, Casmiel, Hayras, Fabelleronthu, Sodirno, Peatham, come, Lucifer. Amen.

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Circle 1 “Bad Intentions” – Impressions from the Exhibition Opening and a few Words on the Works

25 Nov

“Bad Intentions” Exhibition Opening @ Circle 1, Berlin

The candles have been lit, the incense has been burnt; my work now vibrates in the rooms of gallery Circle 1 until December 23rd. What started as a vague idea of creating artwork for a list of magical plants, has years later finally taken shape. Now was the point when everything fell into place naturally. It was preceded by searching and researching, trial and error, sowing, growing, loss and gain in the very basic and earth-bound occupation as a gardener and harvester. The first hand study of the actual plants laid the foundation, my rediscovered love for ink became the tool for manifesting my visions.

The installation is hence titled “Harvest” and consists of an earthen altar with dried plants and harvest related offerings: self baked bread, honey from the neighborhood and self-made beeswax candles. The souls and spirits that were contained in the once alive, now dead corpora of the plants, find a new house in the form of fetishistic ink drawings: the “Sigilla Magica” series.

With these new forms I also find an own language, which aims to both entertain and communicate memes to the viewer. 12 ink drawings reference 11 magical plants as well as the ‘queen bee’ – “Regina Bombina” – governing the vital interaction between plants and pollinators. In addition, 2 anthropomorphic drawings depict the Aconite and Mandragora in half-human form, as the armed and poison-dart struck “Wolf Shaman” and beheaded and re-headed “Regina Amandrakina” with her freakish offspring. Lastly, 2 botanical studies of the roots of the Aconite and Mandragora are meant to act as a bridge between abstraction and realism and honor the individual and fascinating shape of each in detail.

Some of the works:

 

Impressions from the vernissage:

Thanks to all involved!

17.11.-23.12.2017 – Bad Intentions,
a group exhibition curated by Avi Pitchon and Alona Harpaz

Opening times:
Thursday – Saturday
12:00-18:00

CIRCLE1 Gallery
Mittenwalder Stra­ße 47
10961 Berlin

“Bad Intentions” Exhibition Opening

8 Nov

Dear followers and friends,

I am happy to share the news with you that I will be part of the exhibition “Bad Intentions” at Circle 1 gallery in Berlin, opening November 17. You are all invited to attend and spread the news!

This is a unique opportunity for me to bring my plant inspired art to a new audience. I will be showing ink drawings of my “Sigilla Magica” and illustrations, supported by an installation with different magical herbs from my garden and surroundings.

Below a quote from the introduction text, by curator Avi Pitchon:

“Bad Intentions” seeks to modestly contribute a tiny voice to hopefully echo into a massive abyss. The title is a reference to the good intentions of ‘artivism’, and where they lead to: the disappearance of both art and activism. The exhibition does so by staging an absurd tear between art and artist, in the hope that a gaze into the tear might enable a distinction between art and politics. The artists selected for this group exhibition are Jewish-Israeli, Palestinian-Israeli, Jewish, Palestinian and German. However, no artwork in this exhibition forms an explicit mirroring of any social or political tensions formed within the above ethnic/national triangle. The artwork does not ‘speak for itself’; it simply speaks by itself. “Bad Intentions” intentionally ignores the background and circumstance of the artist, in order to destabilise anything that is expected of such a grouping of artists, because all of those expectations are not only tired cliches, they also silence the speech of art. “Bad Intentions” is thus an invitation for the viewer to empower themselves by placing the weight and responsibility of attention on them; by not providing crutches of meaning.

Bad Intentions

Artists: Eitan Ben MosheWiebke RostGeorgia KuhnTamy Ben-Tor & Miki CarmiMerav Kamel & Halil BalabinMika RottenbergOsama ZatarAnat Ben DavidNeta Dror and Keren Cytter

Curated by Avi Pitchon and Alona Harpaz

17.11.2017 – 23.12.2017

Friday 17.11.17 at 19:00 – Exhibition Opening 

This exhibition is supported by the Szloma Albam Stiftung

http://www.szloma-albam-stiftung.de

Neta Dror – Keyla, 2016

Ostrale 2017, Opening

3 Aug

Impressions from the opening of Dresden’s Ostrale 2017, third largest exhibition for contemporary art in Germany. This year’s motto “re_form” reflects on cultural and political changes, with 1118 works by 164 artists from 25 nations. Noteworthy, the NSK (Neue Slovenische Kunst) state in time has its own “protectorate” in the exhibition halls.

Soundlab inside artistgroup SARDH and Said Dokins and Leonardo Luna (MEX) opened the exhibition with a sound/light installation. Alexander Nym (Kultur-Aktiv e.V. Dresden) gave a thought provoking opening speech (video uploaded with permission).

King Dude

4 Mar

Of capnomancy, silver crucifixes and pesky crane drivers….

King Dude and his Demon Brothers, Feb. 26, 2016, Scheune, Dresden

Bringing the devil’s music to town and entertaining the audience with an explosive mix of melancholia, laughter and anger. We have to thank mister TJ “King Dude” Cowgill and his musical companions for a fine show.

Sensifer at Elbhangfest 2015

1 Jul

Saturday, June 27 2015

I arrive at Grottenwirtschaft, the sky is gray and clouded, but it has stopped raining… I am still tired from last night, now enjoying a beer, chatting and finally the music starts… at first glance one wouldn’t think so, but Dresden post-rock band Sensifer produce one massive guitar sound on stage, which draws you in and takes you away… it’s a weird surreal scenery: the band is playing inside this garage, the audience is standing at the other side of the road, in the distance the boats on the river and summer-green meadows… people are passing by as the band keeps playing, cyclists and passengers turn heads, slowing down, stopping, some stay and become immersed in the atmospheric guitar sound, others keep walking on by, from one stage to the next, following the river upstream and downstream… then the clouds tear open and the sun breaks through… rays of light are blinding me as I continue listening and photographing…

Sensifer play nearly 2 hours at this year’s Elbhangfest. I had come here because I expected this to be the perfect music for my melancholic mood. Turns out it is a hell lot of fun, which ultimately results in me walking around with the begging hat and collecting donations from the audience, who approves… Sensifer in concert means commitment. They are currently working on a new Ep. For news visit: http://www.sensifer-music.de/news.


Deutsche Version:

Als ich an der Grottenwirtschaft ankomme, ist der Himmel grau und voll Wolken, aber es hat es aufgehört zu regnen. Ich bin noch müde von der letzten Nacht, genehmige mir nun ein Bier und unterhalte mich hier und da, bis die Musik endlich anfängt… Auf den ersten Blick würde man es nicht vermuten, aber die Dresdner Post-Rock Band Sensifer erzeugen einen gewaltigen Gitarren-Sound auf der Bühne, welcher dich hineinzieht und mitnimmt…

Es ist eine sonderbar surrealer Anblick: die Band spielt dort in dieser Garage, das Publikum steht auf der anderen Seite der Straße, in der Ferne sieht man die Bote auf dem Fluß und die sommergrünen Wiesen… dazwischen die Straße, Menschen laufen an uns vorbei, während die Band weiter spielt… im Vorbeilaufen drehen Fahrradfahrer und Passanten ihre Köpfe in Richtung Bühne, werden langsamer, bleiben stehen… manche verharren und tauchen in den atmosphärischen Gitarren-Sound ein, andere gehen weiter, von einer Bühne zur nächsten, sie folgen dem Fluß stromaufwärts und -abwärts… dann lichten sich die Wolken, die Sonne bricht hindurch, ich bin geblendet von ihren Strahlen, als ich weiter der Musik lausche und fotografiere…

Sensifer spielen beinahe 2 Stunden auf dem diesjährigen Elbhangfest. Ich kam mit der Erwartung her, dass die Musik sehr gut zu meiner melancholischen Stimmung passen würde. Doch am Ende war es ein Höllenspaß, was letztlich dazu führte, das ich mit dem Sammelhut herumging und vom Publikum Spenden einsammelte, welches die Aktion auch belohnte… Sensifer im Konzert, das bedeutet vor allem Hingabe.

Die Band arbeitet gerade an ihrer neuen EP. Für mehr Neuigkeiten besucht bitte die Website unter http://www.sensifer-music.de/news.

Die Toten Kommen (the dead are coming)

28 Jun

Die Toten Kommen

If you are wondering about the grave-cross photo I posted last night, here is the background story: the “grave” is part of a nation-wide campaign against European refugee policy. Berlin art group, “Zentrum für Politische Schönheit”, calls out to create awareness and establish artificial graves all across Germany and Europe in memory of the unknown refugees that died when trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Part of the campaign is also the transferring of bodies of dead refugees to Germany for giving them a proper burial and giving relatives the possibility to say goodbye in a respectful manner. Their activism is of course not welcomed by the German government. However people all across the country and the EU can take part in the activities that aim to create awareness, as opposed to ignorance and looking away from what is happening at the Southern European border.

It was a surprise to find this “grave” last night. I’m occasionally lighting grave-candles here in necromantic cross-road workings. I’m usually honoring Hecate and other, known and also unknown dead, e.g. I also give offerings to anonymous dead. Now I come here and find a grave with offerings, looking so familiar. I really do support the cause behind it.

“Die Toten kommen ” (The dead are coming) – the motto is to be taken literal. If you want to support the efforts made to give the dead a proper burial right there, where it hurts politicians the most, please consider donating: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/die-toten-kommen#/story

In turn for donations you can chose to receive art items, postcards, posters, shirts etc.