The Temple Trilogy

The 1st International Convention of Nubölarîs was an immense, immersive artistic experience that took place on the 23rd, 26th and 29th of July 2017 in a post-industrial space consisting of an 80-minute display of visual art, sound rituals, multimedia installations, dynamic sculpture, fireworks and performance art, all wrapped up in a sort of microexodus guided by “human bees”. Art critic David Castillo referred to it as “sensory immersion made art”.

For the Convention, I chose to work on a relatively narrow space of about 20m2, where I would perform three different actions. From the very outset, I found that enclosure to be worthy of a quasi-metaphysical investment. To put it bluntly, it felt like a chapel, yet one without any trace of faith whatsoever.

I decided to elaborate on distinctive significations according to three different religious traditions. Coptic (Egyptian Christian) immediately stood out as my first option. I wanted to make a bold statement against the hideous attacks by terrorist Islamic State to a Christian minority in a country with a Muslim majority.

Digital invitation postcard. Coptic was supported by the International League Against Racism and Antisemitism (LICRA).

For this action, I installed 16 halogen lamps of 500W each, 8 on each side of “Icon”, a black monochrome painting on a white wall. A few seconds after the witnesses got in the premises, all the lamps were switched on, all of a sudden, causing a sense of flare. However, the light was kept until the action came to an end, with the halogens producing an additional thermic discomfort. I greeted every one of the 40 witnesses attending the first night with a “reciprocal gaze”. I was wearing a black apron over black underwear.

A moment of Coptic. I’ve looked at every witness in their eyes and then touched their shoulders briefly while trying to respond to their gaze. From right to left: Mercè Homs, Sílvia Arnau, Luz Trujillo, and myself. Photo: Mauri Naph.
Installation for Coptic: 16 500W halogen lamps, 8 on each side of my black monochrome “Icon”. The room was painted white. The lights were controlled from a distribution board in an adjacent room. Production: Nubôlaris. Photo: Mauri Naph.
View from the outside. Photo: Xavi Lloses.

Coptic was generally praised by the audience as a deeply emotional, transformative action. It was also the performance that relied the most on a contextual installation. To some extent, I was afraid it would end up as a site-specific update of the ‘reciprocal gaze’ device. I am sure, though, that Coptic would not have taken place at all outside the scope of Nubôlaris, nor would it have achieved such political transcendence without LICRA’s enthusiastic support.

Nevertheless, I must admit it gave me the boost I needed to convert the unusual temple in a much more recognizable cult locus, albeit with Satanic overtones. Back in 2016, I was having a strawberry mochi at Takeshi Ochiai with Isabel Chavarría, widow to Genís Cano, Barcelona-based counterculture poet and glamour icon deceased in February 2007. Besides the fact that we love strawberry mochis, we wanted to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his passing away in a way he might have enjoyed: cheerfully yet blatantly patriotic, and tastefully subversive.

Isabel kept sending me inspiring pictures of Arab faqirs and other fascinating gentlemen from an exhibition at the Louvre some years ago, like the one below.

Genital was a pagan, quasi-Satanic act in memory of counterculture poet Genís Cano, who passed away in 2007. I celebrated a non-confessional mourning service dedicated to his widow with elements from Christian and Rosicrucian rituals. Blood spilled from my forehead as I punctured my skin with four large needles, thus evoking Catalonia’s national flag.

Of course those were beyond inspiring. The objects used in the noir grieving were: his last poety book Taps de llum zenital, a Jean Louis Scherrer eau de parfum, a Medusa cup and a pillow blanket that belonged to Genís, black Empordà wine, three makeup cotton pads, and four extraction needles. The texts, treated as objects, were Cano’s untranslatable “quan satan s’atansa tant” and Apocalypse 2, 18-29 (to the angel of the church of Thyatira). Since representing Genís was out of question, I decided to wear his clothes and accessories, including a Konrad Muhr shirt and an Enrique Varón tie, J Lindberg jeans, and the unfailing Catalan alpergates.

Christian and Rosicrucian elements were easily syncretized into a Satanic masquerade of poetic blasphemy evolving into a declaration of the Independent Republic of Catalonia, something no one seemed to pay much attention to. Indeed, Genital was an in-your-face accusation of political inertia two months before the secessionist referendum. Puncturing my forehead with four large needles made me bleed in a way that evoked the Catalan quatribarrada (four-stripe) flag.

The third and last action was the least political yet the longest lasting, physically demanding, and also the most mindblowing for some witnesses. I wanted to facilitate the participation in a speculative approach to knowledge, following the previous action Palm Springs (2016) with Alex Pallí. Under the influence of The Cloud of Unknowing and the Brazilian Vegetable Church (Igreja do Vegetal), I told the witnesses I was going to give them my most treasured good: my consciousness. To do so, I made sure someone would stop me or calm me down after about 10 minutes so that the Convention would go on with or without me. Under the effect of a DMT blend, I answered spontaneous questions made by witnesses. The interaction felt relatively dull during the first act. However, during a second act, witnesses were invited one by one to the temple where they could ask the Oracle privately. The action lasted four more hours and it was one of the most directly rewarding I have done as a performance artist.

Eventually, my dearest fellow performance artist and poet Ester Xargay told me that Oracle was also the name of the last action Carles Hac Mor did (at Muga Caula festival) before he passed away last year. Perhaps the Temple Trilogy was first and foremost an experience on the nature of grief.

Oracle was a performance artwork in two moments: a suite to Palm Springs (2016) and a series of one-to-one actions. It completed the Temple Trilogy initiated with Coptic and followed by Genital.