14. Playing With Reality

48 Hour ProcessDuring the time of the O.B.R., I felt the need to go back to the core of the ritual work. I started creating 48-hour pieces. During these 48-hour pieces there was created an altered reality around one person who undertook this journey to obtain a list of life goals.

I had a team of assistants known to the pilgrim. But I also had actors, unknown by the pilgrim, whom I placed in the normal world to interact with the pilgrim. By saying, "I have planned everything you (the pilgrim) will experience during this process as well as everyone whom you will meet...but I may be lying," it melted the normal reality with dream reality to form a liminal state. In this liminal state anything was possible and anyone could be a conspirator in this dream production. This was not only true for the pilgrim, but for everyone, including me. Real waiters, whom I had never met before, acted as if I had paid them. This liminal force occurred even before the actual process. For example, I was painting a woman the day before a process. She turned out to be the pilgrim's girlfriend (one of many) whose very existence he had been hiding from me. To his shocked amazement, she appeared in an erotic scene in his process. I had to be flexible and open enough to use everything and anything that the dream gave me.

Within the liminal state, what usually is unbelievable, corny, tacky, suddenly becomes extremely powerful. Pilgrims not only swore I made beautiful women appear out of thin air, they gave me power to make the women disappear back into the same thin air, even though that was not a part of my trick. Things like water became potent magical drugs just through words. Within these temporary living myths, time became very plastic, as did other forms of reality. In these trance myths, I could use a wide range of ritual from smearing mud/food mixtures on nude bodies to high tech audio-visual spectacles. Another tool I discovered in these prolonged spells is to hide the powerful erotic rituals from the pilgrim audience by performing them inside a locked box, hidden cave, or secret tent. In this way, the unseen ritual affects the audience on the feeling level directly, without being filtered by the mind. But I was serving two masters in these 48-hour dreams: the dream's vision and the pilgrim's goals. This became increasingly uncomfortable for me because the dream's vision would lead us into a much deeper, richer soil of realities than the goals would allow.

Mud Painting at 48 Hour ProcessWithin these pieces, I was able to evoke an awake dream where all things were possible, where limitations melted away. This is possible when taboos are broken -- not just "sexual" taboos, but also taboos of time, of space, of the accepted natural laws. You could not tell where the dream performance ends and the normal reality begins. You could never be sure if the sexy woman you happen to talk to in the cafe at lunch was a real person or an actor placed there specially for you. This mixing of realities opens the doors of freedom.

I said the group broke up because I failed to pass on the hidden shamanistic dynamics of the O.B.R. to the group. This is true. But in reality, the break-up was far more complex than this.

In my work, I always have used nudity and physical acts which most people would call sexual. It is just one of my ways of breaking normal reality into new ways of communicating and relating. I combine this with breaking time/space taboos, my unique body, and other tools. But the "sexual" content of my work grabs most of the attention.

There is a common misconception about the deformed shaman tradition that it gets its power from the mental and the spiritual plane, since the physical and sensual are almost nonexistent. In truth, the wounded healer uses his physicality as a channel to unite the spiritual with the physical.

Photos by Ken Jennings

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