White Snake at Parse Gallery runs through April

White Snake Ritual Performance Animates Parse Gallery in NoLA

On view at Parse Gallery, through April, is an interactive ritual and healing art performance, presented by artists Amanda Stone and VnessWolfCHild.  Parse Gallery is a contemporary art gallery and artist situation space in New Orleans, as part of their programming they have an artist residency, and operate alongside artists of all disciplines to create exhibitions that are often ambitious in scale and element.

Stone and WolfCHild worked with Parse Gallery to create an extension of a series of healing ritual performances, entitled White Snake, that they have performed throughout the country.  This is the first time the artists have brought the performance into a gallery space and incorporated an installation.  In the first incarnation of White Snake, Stone and WolfChild shared that they, “built a ritual performance by intentionally visiting specific outdated belief systems within ourselves through a trance state,” and through movement they presented these patterns of belief in an abandoned naval base in Richmond, Virginia.

In another manifestation, and in the fashion of Butoh, a series of organic movements closely affiliated with dance and first expressed in Japan after World War II, the artists, “painted their bodies white and used very intentional movements as they walked and danced,” through the city streets of New Orleans.  At the (e)merge Art Fair in D.C., the White Snake was performed through, “moving prayers of ecstatic gratitude and archetypal triumphant joy.  These movements reflected the expansive feeling of living in the energetic current of our highest good,” according to the two artists.  The artists noted that working with Parse Gallery in this latest exhibition was an “incredible experience culminating our ideas into a gallery show.” They credited Margot and Ricky, Parse directors, with support to see the show grow into “its most potent version of itself.”

The White Snake is inspired through myth-telling and ceremony traditions.  For the two artists their art form is, “living the practice of Alejandro Jodorowsky’s theory, that inventing and executing personal ceremonies gives one power over the creation of their reality.  By giving objects and actions symbolic power we are creating archetypes to interact with our purposes of our own transformation through ritual.”

The title, White Snake, refers to a Grimm’s fairy tale.  A king is brought a secret dish each night by a servant, one night the servant peers into the dish and notices a white snake. The servant takes a bite of the snake and instantly the servant is able to communicate with the animal realm and is further given protection and guidance by the animals.  To Stone and WolfCHild, “the white snake symbolizes the awakening consciousness, the thing that allows us to have a deeper understanding of our existence and of the emotional and spiritual hardships we face.”  For them the practice of healing ritual performance is their white snake.

During the opening of the exhibition the artists performed in a space packed with quiet viewers.  The artists were painted white, as in Butoh performances, and their movements were calculated, slow, and cathartic.  At times the artists movements were in sync,  and sometimes they emulated familiar yoga postures, but were performed in such a way that they seemed intuitive and created on the spot.  This was not a choreographed dance, but in application was evidence of the artists intimacy with one another, for with eyes closed and covered with cloth, the two were able to instinctively sense the other’s presence and actions.

The viewers entered the gallery through a yoni shaped hallway, being absorbed by the scaly body of a white snake.  Mostly constructed of wood, cardboard, and fabric, the installation is best experienced at night, when natural light is not coming through the gallery windows.  Illuminating lights shine through beams you cross, creating a theatrical space that is self-reflective.  The viewer is in a spotlight before entering a much darker clearing, which housed the opening nights performance.  Without the artists performing the dark space is reminiscent of the underbelly of a seaside boardwalk.  It seems you are underneath the falling support beams of a bridge.  The artists have also placed sand piles intermittingly throughout the room.  The constant sounds of animals such as wild grouse, badgers, and frogs, are flooding the gallery. The artist took further inspiration from these animals, “because of their innate transformation qualities and how they spoke to what guidance we needed in our lives at the time.”

Like the Rothko Chapel, the exhibition has been created for others to enter and utilize, Parse Gallery is located off the busy and often hectic thoroughfare, Canal Street.  A sense of calm blankets you as the exhibition slows the breath and invites a meditative state.  Stone and WolfChild hope, “to find here, and for others to find here, in our resurrected myth, the keys in our spirits that unlock the belief patterns that cause us pain.  Allowing blockages to break away, we wish to reveal the path to more joy and unleash a purer intent inherently living in our Selves.”

Image Credit: Keaton Andrew

Write us your thoughts about this post. Play nice.