Queer(ed) performance has always placed the individual at the centre of an artwork and for good reason; we are each the centre of our own universe. Joseph Morgan Schofield reminds us that although each a cosmic centre, we are - none the less - longing, spiritual animals in need of communing. Their durational acts of endurance facilitate moments of ritual, where all present are drawn into sacred acts of sharing, with Joseph becoming our Champion. As we hold space for these personal acts of magic, in turn we are gifted the opportunity to engage experiences of desire, acceptance, loss, grief and reclamation; enabling catharsis through Joseph's embodied rites.
Here is a practical magic to be shared; affording the potential of emotional, psychic and spiritual transformation for all present.
benjamin sebastian | artist & co-director ]performance s p a c e[
a leap of faith
I remember us sitting on top of the cliffs in Folkestone and talking about ecological collapse and excessive genders and the Greek myth of Icarus. I remember the warning - “don’t fly too close to the sun” as I watch you arranging the objects of this ritual on a small table - a bag of wax, a small pan, needles connected by fishing line, a blowtorch. There is no ceremony or grandeur - just a number of actions which need to be completed and a respectful quiet.
Earlier today we joked about your need for aural stimulation (always disco), but this gesture is in silence. The cars on Regent Street are the intermittent roll of waves as you stand atop that cliff, holding a pan full of small pieces of wax. The breath of the blowtorch is quieter and more steady than I imagined it would be, and you roll the flame over the base of the pan. It becomes even quieter as the main light source on you goes out and we lose a low buzz from the score. Footsteps as Adam comes back, probably to change a fuse. We teeter on the edge with you in the near-dark. Finally the audible bubble of molten wax is a sign and the straight guys on the central table let out a gasp of vague discomfort - oh god no way oh jeez fuck.
I take a leap with you and we fall. The sound of hot liquid as it runs over your arm and patters on the plastic tarpaulin is the crumble of soft chalk tumbling down the cliffside. I take a leap with you, trusting that the white folds I see are wax, not the puckers of blistering skin, that the red I see is blood from earlier and not something else.
When you raise your arms to reveal your stalactite wings, the needles fall from the skin of your temples, one by one. As six trails of blood run down your bare chest I remember the warning - “don’t fly too close to the sun”. I fall with you. There is no perfect harmony between the sun and the sea. Either the damp will clog your wings or the heat will melt the wax and you will drop into the ocean. The purpose is never to fly.
I remember your burns. I remember your wings. (J.M.S)
Within the matrix of hetero-patriarchy Icarus was suitably punished (death by drowning) for he did not head the instructions of The Father. Bad boy. Yawn. You however, through a poiesis of queer(ed) futility, radiated the knowledge that something is created through a departure from, or failure to adhere to, hetero-patriarchal scripts.
We too have wanted more, refused instruction, scorched our wings and fallen. But we have not drowned. We are awash in an infinite ocean of potential. An Icarian Sea.
I see you.
You messaged me the other day with this quote (after witnessing a performance from Nicholas Tee); “No satisfaction whatever at any time... There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching...” - flying or swimming - “...and makes us more alive than the others.” The quote is from the late choreographer, Martha Graham.
As I watched you manifest your fingers as feathers the transformation was choreographic and outright. I no longer saw fingers, I saw the dance of feather tipped wings in flight. I saw blood fall from your brow. I saw the damage from previous flights.
I remembered and felt that we are not drowning and our unrest reaps its own rewards in our Life.
Joseph Morgan Schofield acts with and upon their body, calmly not-so-calmly piercing skin as if it was fabric. Not-so-calm because it requires me to be there, the witness, diluted in my witnessing, distracted, wanting rather to drape myself over the person next to me and breathe only in for a while, as Joseph takes care of breathing out. Or is it the other way around? Joseph does the breathing in, we do the breathing out. The tip of my tongue presses lightly into my front teeth and I suck the sides of this stupid, mute, always-active organ inwards, creating a rush of cold air between top and bottom jaw.
“Thssshhhhhh.” Would I bite the bullet? Would I grab the needle? Would I feel pleasure? I feel only their body matters. I feel heroic for not running up and saving them and then I feel stupid and then I feel sad and then I feel brave and then I feel hot. We’ve all agreed to watch and learn. We consent to every moment because they’ve consented to the longest moment and all the moments and all the labour before and afterwards. The cleaning, the white flannel that turns red, the tentative, too-casual post-show discussions, the avoidances, the calm after the storm, the storm swirling above and around us as they tip hot wax onto their arm.
There’s a tension between action and impact, reaction and smooth, calm observation. Body as observant subservience. Malleable bloodstream. Tightening skin. Decisions made long ago coming back to serve us an enormous platter of fuck-the-present, hold-on-tight, simply-close-your-eyes-if-you-need-to feeling.
I’m starting to really want a tattoo.
Sacred skeletal wings
Trying to take off through heavy dust
Spitting golden threads on mirrored wounds
In latex gloves
Eratic and urgent openings
Needles of labour and legacy
Dirtied knees for our collective prayers
Ware new paths, new patterns
A commitment to dirt
Pointing the future into existence