Ritual For Money

 

 

 

 

May 4, 2009

 

 

Ritual For Money, Words, performance, 30-40 mins, April 18th, 2009

 

 

 

 

Universe

Particles of air all around me

This is our impermanent home

You will make your roads come forth

Your winds will blow

Your clouds will come and grow

Replete with living waters

You will send forth to stay with me

Your fine rain caressing the earth

Until I say

Universe

 

I am a money magnet

Everything I touch turns to gold

I have more riches than kind Solomon’s mines

Money falls like an avalanche over me

There is more money being printed for me right now

I am receiving money making ideas everyday

I am receiving unexpected checks in the mail

I have more than enough money for everything that I want

I have my dream home

I have the best of everything

I’m grateful and celebrate everyday

And I know when I ask for what I want

No matter what it is that I want

No matter how impossible it may seem

If I believe and know that it’s mine

It will come to me.

 

 

 

            I say these words with command, belief, and the joy that I have already received all the money I could ever want.  I say them over and over again while preparing for my performance of the Ritual For Money.  Based on Native American rain dances and The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, Ritual For Money is an auto-shamanistic ceremony using the Law of Attraction- the idea that what you visualize will come to you.  I make it rain money.  And I will tell you how I do it!  I will give a detailed description of the project, discuss some of the symbolism and meaning, give a brief outline of how I came to invent this ritual, including some descriptions of earlier artworks, and finally, share the manifesto it brought me to.

Eating Cinnamon Life cereal with my left hand as I write at my kitchen table, I drop a piece, expecting the grizzly bears to come running for it, but the dogs are slow to get up this morning.  There is a baby squirrel out the window on my neighbor’s garage roof eating green leaves.  It’s cute and small like a mouse, gray but with a big bushy red tail.  It’s in the gutter under the satellite dish I photographed earlier this year.  One of the round TV styles bolted to the roof.  I like anything circular; the shape gives me pleasure.  Right hand coffee break. 

            It’s sunny and beautiful out –temptations of summer.  The trees bend and I can hear the wind moving the new leaves and making the house creak.  The upstairs doors wine.  I can’t feel the wind though.  But I can feel it on my body as I ride my bike down Honke Road in my Michael Kors sandals with no real grip and my Anthropologie sundress flying up.  Down the hill past the little beast running out barking, cherry boxes, swaying grasses, old beautiful yellow truck I want to marry—if I wasn’t already married.  Pale yellow and white, I think it’s a Ford or Chevrolet with the wooden boards around the bed in the back.  Still it sits there as I fly past, like my grandfather winking as I turn the corner onto Good Harbor Road.  Sun bright, a few miles more to the beach with the flies.  But today they wouldn’t be there.  I could have my picnic in peace. 

 

Cinnamon Life, digital snapshot, 2009

 

I am almost done with the Cinnamon Life.  One week left, licking the sugar crystals from my fingers.  Then I will be a true adult, so it feels.  You should see the bottom of the bag- it’s all sugar- like the rock candy kind.  This is not a cereal I would give to my kids.  I shouldn’t eat more.  But it does have the Quaker Oats guy on the box.  He’s quality and pure and all American wholesomeness in his puritan hat. 

            I made a well out of fifty pounds of dry oatmeal —who knows how much it weighed cooked.  It took me three days with an evening of help from my friend Kyle just to cook it all.  I did it in my kitchen, with my own regular pots and pans.  Each one had to be washed after each batch or it would be too caked on and burn and ruin the pot.  It was a lot of work, stirring constantly pots on the brink of foaming over all that smell of muck like at an orphanage.  I love oatmeal and could eat it everyday, but I usually put a lot of cinnamon in it.  And this much oatmeal made me queasy. I didn’t eat it for at least two weeks afterwards. 

            So I cooked it all, then spooned it into flat pans or put the hot pots in the fridge to cool them down.  It wasn’t cold enough outside for it to cool the oats down in those bulky quantities.  Actually some of the bags were still warm when I started to build the well at the gallery. 

            All that mush then got spooned again into clear plastic pull zip bags about 7in. by 10in., filled to about two or three inches thick of oatmeal.  It was maybe four cups a bag?  Probably more.  Like bricks I made them, and loaded them into boxes to take to Cave, a sheet of paper towel between each bag.  (I don’t know why, seemed like what should be done to keep the bags clean and smooth.)  The boxes were like fifty pounds EACH it felt like.

            And I built this well four times.  White duct tape rolled pieces between each brick like a Lincoln log cabin.  My brother played with Lincoln Logs when he was little.  I thought of that as I was building; but my well toppled, more like sludged, over like the Blob, after layer four.  The oatmeal was sliding around in the bags under the pressure.  I push it up, and it falls over again heavy.  I take it apart and rebuild it with more tape and help from Eleyana from New York City, Kyle’s new girlfriend in undergrad at SVU.  The well was looking so beautiful and I decided to go out and have a cigarette in the hallway of the Russell Industrial Center third floor, building number four.  Don’t tell my hubby.

 

N.O. Levee, digital snapshot, 2009

 

When I came back in it was down.  Over like a New Orleans levee.  Nancy Bar said it looked like a war bunker to her, sandbags, and her husband, Glen Barr, who I met for the first time at the opening.  He’s a painter and shorter than her, and I got the vibe not as cool.  He was telling me about how he’s getting ready for a show in Australia.  Are people short or tall there, I thought for some reason as he was talking.  I am tall like Nancy, the DIA works on paper curator. 

            So I finally got the well up on day fifteen.  No – it was the third day at the gallery.  After cutting it all apart again- duct tape is strong!  Watery oatmeal seeping through gnarly bags on the freezing concrete floor, as I replaced the bags that were ruined.  I consulted my brother, an engineer, who just moved to China, about how to make it hold strong, and he said use a brace made out of cardboard or something between each layer so there would be no sliding—plastic on plastic or amorphous forms touching, resting on each other.  I didn’t want braces showing though, so I went back to my own trial and error testing.  Plus, I kind of enjoyed it failing all week long.  It needed love, this well of oatmeal.  It was funny to me, this weird thing I was building like a womb for my body. 

            So I taped all the bags tight, no extra flap of plastic bag, with transparent duct tape—who knew they made that?  Then I organized all the bags into different groupings based on their size, flatness, consistency, juicy-ness, and flaw quality of their outer surface oats. 

Coffee break.  I hold my right elbow very high when I pour from the coffee pot—like that childhood song, “…Tip me over and pour me out!”  Well, it’s nice form I think, (if I were being secretly judged). 

            Starting from scratch again building the well, I decided to move the center of it over two inches for aesthetics, and began taping.  The diameter was about three feet wide.  This time I was alone in the gallery with my ipod on.  I could concentrate.  Paul Simon coaching me.  I got my layers of oatmeal bricks on straight, perfectly balanced construction; the corners had to stick out more to work right.  Finally.

 

Well, Quaker oatmeal, plastic bags, duct tape, gold string, about 3ft. x 3ft. plus ceiling height, 2009

 

You could see through between each brick of oatmeal.  They stayed taut.  No slouching.  Those oats were working.  Good form.  I built it just over two feet high and then saved the last few layers to put on the night of the opening.  It smelled vaguely fleshy like hospital or something, and the whole circle would jiggle a little if you touched it on top.  Like fat.  It was a heavy jiggle like a body, and it felt skin-like and looked skin-like, nude, too.  Down the middle of the well, I hung a gold string, cut just to tickle the floor.  It swayed and could barely be seen unless looking at it when the light reflected off of it.  The golden string caressed the bare floor within the well.  It’s the temptation—the way out for someone miniature.  Or it’s the wish, the life force filling the well.  I think it’s whatever each viewer wanted it to be.  The answer to her wish.

 

                      

Wedding picture, photograph, 8in. x 10in., 2004                         Penny and BoBo, digital snapshot, 2008

 

We have a wishing well my friend Joy made us as a wedding gift five years ago.  It’s in our backyard now.  Fairly small, it’s Seven Dwarf size.  Right now, the baby squirrel is lying on the biggest power line going through our yard, above the wishing well.  He is squeaking and his legs are splayed out over the sides of the wire like the dogs lay like rugs on the floor.  Sunbathing. Watching.  Holding on in the wind.  I think he sees me.  The dogs don’t notice him.  They are wresting like lions right now.  Neck biting, paws up, circling, they are animals.  Nose to nose, they smell, kiss, and then break away. 

            I am in green satin, rich, luxurious, expensive, a Diane Von Furstenberg wrap blouse like a movie star from the 1940’s.  I have my Spanx control top undergarment on and a black wedding skirt ruffles in the breeze around my ankles.  My hair is hanging down shaggy, purple embroidered shoes on my feet.  Tribal, red, green, blue, yellow, circle beads, and a pointed elf toe, they are new shoes, I wear for my performance, that I drove to Twelve Oaks Mall in Novi to buy.  Somerset Mall was out of them, and they were perfect.  I will be able to wear them all summer when the dog’s black fur is hot.  Definitely worth the 120 minutes in rush hour and almost being late for yoga with Sam. 

            My arm is raised, right, straight out extended, nails painted sparkly brown, My Own Private Jet, it’s called.  Leather and deer toe rattles tied around my wrists like cuffs, location monitors with invisible micro tracking technology weaved in their fibers.  I play an old instrument, African or South American in decent, of grayed wood and rusted tin discs on either end of its hourglass shape, strings of rain, sheen, running down, dripping over the edges.  Two steps behind me the ritual assistant shadows in white playing the berimbau.  Echoing, strings pinching, basket shaking, we march by the music of his tune and my step and shake.  Eyes focused, vision on the path to meet the universe and give it my command.  “You must decide what you want or be stuck with whatever you get,” Eleanor Roosevelt once said. 

 

Ritual For Money, Procession, performance, April 18th, 2009

           

I can feel the energy of the people as they loan their nerves to me and I part them like the red sea to make my way.  We come to a cliff, which marks the circle of life like in the Lion King, and people are balancing up to the edges, chest to chest, shoulder to shoulder, around my pulpit.  Circumference of faces I do not see. 

            I stop outside the circle of cinnamon shaken onto the marble museum floor to let it float to my nose and inhale the comfort of the familiar dust amidst perspiration.  Pause.  On the border.  Slip my slippers off, eyelids drape as the bang of the cup gong reverberates through the hairs of my skin and I b r e a t h.  Heart pumping, cheeks enflamed, I step over the threshold and enter the magic circle, another womb.  My guards stand like black pillars on either side.  I feel the volume of their masses in both ears.   

            I know, without looking, the placement of every article within my circle.  My safe-zone, like the brail of a lover, I reach where I need to next, lifting up a strip of butterscotch leather dangling with black deer toes.  Tie the knot around one ankle and the next, tight.  I clatter with a gatherer’s call to nature.  Organic clanks and clicks, open- happy sounding melody mirrors my every movement, as I reach for the next costume piece from my antique cloth-covered travel trunk screen.  I wrap the white snowstorm of chiming golden bells around my waist and secure it tight.  A pink transparent pouch hangs from its left side, filled with white sage, a tea bag fortune reading—“Empty yourself and let the universe fill you,” and a single orange Dayquil pill.  The not-so-secret power pouch.

            Next, in green string, a single white crystal halos my heart, my husband’s, and I tuck it under the edge of my blouse.

            The last is the headpiece, a simple design, that my hand stitched, a cross over my skull with ties left undone to add onto over the years to come.  The back has a ponytail of gold, the front, a wave of baby pearls.  And a white gold, bird of paradise link chain marks my forehead.  The headpiece channels my brainwaves.  It makes me powerful, and I feel it tight over my hair.  This is the same headpiece crazy people have worn in insane asylums for shock therapy years ago.  My brother, an honored member of the Order Of The Arrow, passed its form down to me.  In wartime a Mohawk can be tied on or in celebration, a strand of diamonds (like I expect to get at my 20th wedding anniversary). 

Dressed in the weight of these pieces, I assume the role of a Shaman, a priestess, and I turn around clockwise to my mother’s hand mirror carved with a rose on its back.  Pick it up gracefully, hold it high, kneeling on one knee, boy and girl, warrior and princess, star and virgin, I draw gazing at my face, with the urban decay, circles of gold, filled with green, forehead, cheeks, and neck, sleet of blue through my eyes, rolling down my neck.  I get ready to go out, “put my face on,” as my Gram says, dress up, put my jewelry on, so people will see me.  My engagement rock, my wedding ring, my snakeskin purse, amulets to protect against glaring eyes, mark my position in line.  Amulets give passive protection against outside evils (Hill 147).  They give their wearers the sense of a force field, comfort and well being (Budge xxix).

            I feel transformed and connected to all the figures in myths we know by heart and history: the shaman, the priest, the Voodoun witch doctor, the medicine woman, the mother, yogi, and Jesus.  “Ritual is simply myth enacted,” Joseph Campbell says in his book Pathways to Bliss (xix). 

            All eyes are focused on me, I set the mirror down, put the eyeliners back in the long needle basket my father gave me, shift, stretching to the left and pick up the sprig of cedar resting in my mother-in-law’s borrowed wooden salad bowl.  Dip it in the adjacent bowl of still water and shake once at my feet, waist, left arm, right, back, and face.  Cleansing all present residues, distractions, drops of holy water, blessed, art-water from the museum spiket.  Cedar sprig down to the screen, then moving right again, I crouch to reach the cup.  Silver and rich purple glass, it looks medieval, a chalice, with a trance inducing potion, in my case amaretto, my favorite sweet liquor.  We use this cup in our family Shabbat dinners Friday nights; for the last eight years I have seen it.  I drink the liquid fast, and then get up and start turning my body awkwardly, neck round, arms out back and forth—one arm is stick straight, hand disjointed, the other swirling the air in front of me.  Round and round, whole body swinging, faster and faster as I move my lips to speak the words, “Universe!”  As fast as I can without throwing up, up and down, swaying, circling, falling down and starting the rhythm again.  The people, I don’t see.  Only the motion I can feel like the wind moves the trees violently.  The atmosphere churning, high-pressure to low-pressure.  Getting ready for rain.

            I am as loud as I can be, (no rehearsal can shape the declaration here—it’s purely felt emotion).  “I am a money magnet!  Everything I touch turns to gold!”  Faster and faster, round and round, a tornado, a Rainbow vacuum cleaner.

            I reach down to the left and grab the china marker, drawing with energy and urgency, sweeping motions, on the museum floor, counting points as I draw the Gnostic spirit symbols.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

            Each symbol represents a power; for example, the seal of Marbas from the key of King Solomon tells truth of secret or hidden things and bestows shape shifting onto humans (Waite 197).  The Emperor symbols control goods and riches and discover hidden treasures, bringing money from far off places (Waite 184-5).  The Grand Duke Astaroth sign has power over the Americas’ rain, hail, wind and lightning (184-5).

            The money signs make a hypnotic melody as I go on writing them with fastidious obsession.  Like a cave woman I draw what I want to control, own.  My rambunctious mind is focused, centered on money coming to me.

            Dropping the crayon, I kneel close to the large glass bowl of clean water and pick up the small round dish of blue liquid soap next to it.  With an echoing chime of one glass bowl hitting the other, I pour the translucent bright liquid from a high until the last drop drips into the surface of the water.  I pick the bowl of yellow dish soap up, edges chime, claiming the moment’s attention, and pour, raising my hand up high like the veterans at Lafayette Coney Island in Detroit pouring your chocolate milk.

 

Ritual For Money, Clouds, performance, April 18th, 2009

 

Sitting near the bowls is a utensil-sized, forked-stick like the dowsing kind, to conduct my energy, to whip up clouds of soap bubbles, and change the water green like money.  Faster, faster I turn my wrist crouching consumed with my action over the bowl, face hovering close to feel the sprinkling water droplets, arm tiring like stirring sticky cookie dough.  The most important dishwater recipe I have ever combined.  Suds spill over the caressed edge of the bowl onto the floor.  I drop the stick and immediately put my hand in the slippery water.  I fling my arms out throwing rain across the circle, to the sky, and on the people with energetic emotion.

            I jump to grab the grass green linen pouch from the floor to the left.  Untie the ribbon and pour the gold into the weathered wooden bowl from high—like a jackpot—its loud crash, cha-ching, cha-ching, shiny, new one dollar coins cascading down.  The pot at the end of the rainbow, discs of gold, suns, hot, I pick the bowl up with both hands and spin its jackpot around and around hypnotizing everyone.  The coins stack up on the walls of the bowl like fresh masonry from Versailles.  My concentration is on the glow. 

            Then stop, put it down, and grab the white circular leather pouch I sewed like the moon, fringe shining out in diagonals, open the pouch the size of my palm and grab a handful and gesture toward the audience in an arc.  Then I dump the diamonds from the bag into the small crystal candy dish.  I let the pouch go and pick up the prism-cut dish to lift to the sky, taking some diamonds and dropping them over myself, showering in their sparkle. 

            My husband is a diamond broker. It’s a family business.  We met when I worked for him—when they used to have a gold department.  People love diamonds, ice, bling, a girl’s best friend, while the guy’s is the dog.  A diamond is like a marriage gift, a dowry in kind, apart of the arrangement, and it comes from showing off how much a spouse is worth, a status symbol to show the community—this woman is taken in wedlock by a powerful man.  Beyonce sings, “If you like her, then you shoulda put a ring on it!”

            The sky is getting darker and the thunder begins to rumble.  I jump to the front of the circle, past the purple and gold stained leather Book Of Ceremonies, to the large white rock. 

            Let it be me.  Fall in love with yourself.  Imagine everything you want to be as already you.  How charming, like Cinderella’s slippers or the purple slip-ons I left outside my cinnamon circle. 

            Bare feet on the old marble floor, I envision myself as a lung of the universe.  I push the heavy weight of the white rock over until it crashes and echoes through the museum halls.  It calls the people’s attention from rooms away.  And again I push its weight over to the next angle with drama.  I slowly and dutifully trace the interior edge of the cinnamon boundary.  I think about Sisyphus confined to a life of pushing a rock up a hill.  The daily grind, which so often can feel futile.  Like a jagged bell, I am making thunder, the tension of the tight path of my corridor evident for all the watching eyes to see.  I make my way full circle bending down.  I remember the field workers, the food gatherers, the mothers in the caboose.

            When I return to the place in which I started, I hop back to the center of my circle and reach again to the long needle basket where the small white box of kitchen matches sits.  Strike a match.  The light, sound, and smell quiet the audience as they watch me stare at the flickering flame for a moment.  Light the wick, take a breath and blow like the picture of the cheek-filled wind cloud we all know.  The smoke sways towards their noses, and I strike another match.  The growing flame works its mesmerizing magic as I ignite the wick again.  We are all feeling the rhythm together now and know my next move.  I pull a match and strike it again.                 

Ritual For Money, Candle, performance, April 18th, 2009

 

He’s got her in the sweet spot he says.  She has gone back and forth again and again and now he’s got her in his taupe suit.  He’s using his kids.  They are having a play date and things are going very well he said.  In fact, they had lunch just yesterday, he and Lucy.

            I yawn and can see the detail of life much clearer.  The white lace tree blossoms, the Be Well store sign, the cottony sky.  It’s all crisp like digital imagery, sharpened.  The science is gone, you don’t have to wait any longer to see the picture – its automatically right there recorded in rainbow specs.  Last sip of the fourth cup of coffee, webs of dried bubbles fossil on the inside cup walls.

 

White Lace and Cotton, digital snapshot, 2009

           

And I move my hands around over the heat of the white candle’s flame, bringing its light towards the sky, and then with a deep breath, blow it out one last time.  You can smell the sulfur dioxide lingering out. 

            I collect elephants.  I probably have about seven elephant objects now.  A bronze bank (painted ceramic) with a partially broken trunk, a stuffed elephant with a green homemade hat from my cousin Kate, an elephant cup that was manufactured to look ‘hand carved’ that I keep my toothbrush and Colgate Total Care in, a very small pin, a realistic looking heavy cast little statue, a blue, bright like cartoons, and pink small elephant bank that came filled with bubble gum- the old fashioned kind.  I also have a small glass baby elephant statue Sam and I got on our honeymoon to Africa as a welcoming gift from the tour company.  It was in our car when they picked us up at the Johannesburg airport.  In a small wrapped box, I opened it on the hour-long drive through smelly, sickening pollution and horrific traffic to our hotel in the semi-safest area of the city.  The Saxon Hotel.  Even though every house in the neighborhood had eight or nine foot tall fences or walls around it with barbed wire at the top.  Oprah and Nelson Mandela love The Saxon.  They told us so there, and they have a bunch of drawings of Nelson Mandela at different ages, as a child—his older selves looking at his younger selves, in the hallways of the hotel.  Kind of creepy I thought. 

            But the room was amazing and huge and African looking with tribal flares.  We ate impala the first night there.  Very good.  Not better than cow.  I have no recollection of what kind of impala it was—there are hundreds of them after all.  We saw so many on the safaris, mostly the tourist view of their butts as they ran away.  I carried that small glass elephant for two weeks in Africa and one week in Mauritius. 

            Elephants are good luck.  They stand for knowledge and family and have been sacred in many cultures through the ages.  What did Tarzan say when he saw a group of elephants coming over the hill?  Oh there’s a group of elephants coming over the hill.  What did Tarzan say when he saw a group of elephants coming over the hill with sunglasses on???!  NOTHING! He didn’t recognize them!  Now picture me saying it with great build up and delivery.  People give me elephant objects because I tell these jokes about them.  I think I am also subconsciously drawn to them; I bought that toothbrush cup without thinking about it. 

            My friend Sarah also told me she collects elephants.  I bet she has a more extensive collection than I do.  I have had a studio next to her for two years now at Cranbrook and just found out last Christmas that she collected elephants too.  So I bought her a mini Horton Hears A Who elephant stuffed animal from Blockbuster video.  I was excited to give it to her, but then I realized we were going to my other friend’s house for brunch, who has a young daughter, Miya, about a year and a half, and I though it was a good idea to give it to her instead; she would play with it, and it was her size.  She did for about five minutes, and now its probably lost.  But it’s the thought that counts.  I never had the chance to buy Sarah the same cute elephant.  I saw a full size stuffed one, but that just wasn’t the as cute.  Baby things are always better.  Do you want to hear another elephant joke?

Money Goddess, Email chain letter, 2009

 

            There are a million songs about money.  To name a few: I Make It Rain by Fat Joe, Money Ain’t A Thing, P.Diddy, Shake Your Money Maker by Ludacris, C.R.E.A.M. (Dolla Dolla Bill Ya’ll) by the Wu-Tang Clan, For The Love Of Money by the O’Jays, Paper’d Up, Snoop Dog, Baby I Got Your Money, Hundred Dolla Bill Ya’ll, Got Money by Lil Wayne and T Pain, All About The Benjamins P.Diddy, BIG, Lil Kim, Cash Money Money, Money by Pink Floyd, Foe Tha Love of $, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Mony Mony by Billy Idol,  Money On My Mind, Lil Wayne, I Get Money, 50 Cent, Cash, Money, Hoes, Jay Z, Money (That’s What I Want) by Berry Gordy Jr., I’m coming Up, BIG and P.Diddy, and Sex and Money by Paul Oakenfold.  I could keep going.  This is my Money Mix, my warm up for before the performance. 

            The Candle is energy.  It’s electricity.  The spark for the lightning.  Firelight is fascinating to our primal selves.  The power and beauty of nature and free entertainment.  On Survivor the reality TV show on CBS, the contestants once called it “fire television” or something like that. 

            I imagine the scene of a fire lit cave.  Warm and quiet.  Animals leaping through the flickers of the flames.  The arrows of early man strike the buffalo’s hide and fall from the rock walls.  His pictures helped him visualize the slaying of his prey so his life could be sustained.  The prehistoric animal paintings on cave walls like Lascaux were probably signs of the early use of sympathetic magic (Hill 44-5).  Based on the idea that whatever happens to a part of something or its image will happen to the whole or in reality, sympathetic magic was used to transmit power in all kinds of rituals (Hill 46). 

            The Pueblo of New Mexico, for example, used imitative magic to summon the rain.  The priests, also known as weather shaman, would roll stones on the floor to simulate thunder, throw water on the ground like rain, and set a dish of water on their alters to represent full springs and pools (Hill 37-8).  Other acts of emulation included blowing tobacco smoke skyward and whipping up soap-like suds to produce clouds (37-8).  Even the priests themselves would try to impersonate the spirits they wished to control by wearing masks, face paint, and elaborate costumes.   They would pray and incite commands to the gods of nature pretending to bring rain, so that it would actually happen (37-8). 

            Like these shaman before me tried to use the law of attraction to harness what they wanted in the world, I created Ritual For Money partially in response to the economic hardships we face today.  We are a nation obsessed with money—more addicted to its constant generation than is recognized of our addiction to foreign oil.  But we are easily gripped by fear and greed.  Doubts of enough money for everyone and every problem invade our thoughts.  After all thoughts are brainwaves, vibrations of energy, that can be measured- they have a powerful effect (Byrne 10-11).  The mental attitude is like a magnet and like attracts like.  With this knowledge we can control what we want to manifest (Byrne 10). 

            From the lingering smoke of the candle I make a counter-clockwise rotation round, reach down and pick up three beaming yellow lightning sticks.  Rattles of eight-foot long curly willow branches, each stick is painted with gold detail, a zigzag, a line, and the tips like emperor’s gold.  Fastened with knots of twine, one stick has a gold ring the size of my hand hanging from it, the next is piercing through a labyrinth of bended, barbed copper wire with a smaller beach stick protected inside.  This small sun-washed stick like a snake struck to stone is a personal charm I found on a Leelanau beach in Northern Michigan.  It reminds me of home and the smell of cool Northern summer air where peace never fails to permeate my soul.  I watch it in the wire harness like a baby on a roller coaster as I swing the lightning rod round, up and down and fling it skyward.  The third rattle is tied with a prismatic translucent orange wind spinner—the kind they show in Twister as foreshadowing of the F5 tornado to come. 

            Grasped strongly in my hands, I churn the atmosphere with the electric sticks circling the spinner round and round like a spoon stirring a boiling cauldron.  My body jerks to the rhythm I hear in my head of a drum—wind, sky opening and swirling black to heaven.  Every pound on my bones, ever muscle clinching and releasing, dun, dun, dun, Dun, dun, dun, dun, Dun, dun, dun, dun, Dun… I step forcefully going round and round the clock backwards, bare feet smacking the marble floor—diamonds stabbing my soles. I go on and on seven times round gaining speed, power, focus, breath deepening, heart pounding, I exercise, I call the spirits—Do as I do!Do as I say!MAKE THE MONEY RAIN!

 

Ritual For Money, Dust, performance, April 18th, 2009

 

            Jolted, on the brink of dizziness, I spin once more round fluidly putting all three sticks in my left hand.  I reach down and pick up a small circular caramel pouch and lift it above my head; tipping it with a pinch, golden dust floats quietly in swirls down around me as I turn slowly and gracefully now.  Sparkling in the air, this is the moment of calm before the storm. 

             I lay the rattles and dust pouch beneath me, stepping forward into crescent warier position.  I cross my arms to opposite sides of the circle over my chest, and in one great grand sweeping gesture the magic happens —I make it rain.  Like Abracadabra ~green money floats and floods down over me covering the circle within, falling on the big black safe, around the edges of the golden framed pictures, into the green water, and beyond the cinnamon.  As the audiences’ eyes widen, the surprise climax of their hypnosis, an “Oooh!!!” breathes from them.  That moment the green, focused saucers of irises all around me could not withhold their love of money and the power they give it.  The alien looking eyes tell tales of fantasies of greed and green glorious success.  The glamorous life, where each one of them is at the tip of the pyramid, top 1% of the hierarchy.

 

Ritual For Money, Rain, performance, April 18th, 2009

 

            As I feel the collective mental force of this burn, I slowly lay down supine on the bed of Washingtons and eagles, extending my arms and legs out to take the shape of DaVinci’s Universal Woman.  I am still —like death with breath.  They wait. I tingle with the chill and unalarming heat.  Breath in, breath out, a star shoots by, someone is born, someone dies, while they watch the clock tick. 

 

Ritual For Money, Angel, performance, April 18th, 2009

Everything Is Energy, The Secret, 2006

 

Ten times more slowly than I lay down, I begin to turn over to one side, fetal, pushing myself up fatigued like a wounded domestic soldier, I make my way through the classical poses of history until my body is standing.  A new Venus in a sea, I reach for my silver bucket and little broom and go to work. 

            It takes nearly as long as the first half of the ritual itself to gather all the money and lock it in the safe.  The bucket clinks around awkwardly and the small handmade broom is somewhat helpless in its sweeping capabilities.  Every last dollar within the cinnamon I snatch up, under the safe, in the soapy water, mixed in with the gold dust and diamonds, I gather it one bucket load at a time. 

            The safe weighs 1800 pounds.  It’s a serious looking burglary safe.  The kind my husband uses to store diamonds and jewel in.  At the office he has two even larger ones on time locks.  We went to Anchor Safe in Detroit to pick it out, on Eight Mile and Livernos.  It’s the kind of place with a dirty, old tiny office and dark, dungeony warehouse, serious metal working tools mingled with body-size safes stacked on top of one another.  The kind of place where all the guys stare when a girl walks in no matter what she’s wearing. They had antique safes with beautiful rusted clock-like gears and blinged-out shiny white and gold drug safes, with plenty of walk-in sized vaults.  I thought of all the Detroit gangsters that must have been there before me, and the Oakland County millionaires.

            I picked out two choices from their used safe selection, which I could rent for $25 a week.  The most expensive part is moving the safe because it weighs so much.  They have to come make an estimate for the difficulty of the move and final location.  Every step costs more.

            It took at least four weeks to get the use of the safe approved by the museum.  It had to go through the head engineer at Cranbrook because the area of weight was so concentrated on a 28in. x 30in. footprint.  They had to check the old building plans and exact structure underneath my space.  They had to check the marble floor and the entrance into the museum too. 

 

Ritual For Money, Sweep, performance, April 18th, 2009

 

Finally, the museum staff agreed if it was set on two pieces of wood, 4in. x 4in. boards the length of the safe, if they used a palette jack with at least a four foot span between the wheels, and the wheels had to be rubber.  We had to use the loading dock and freight elevator rated to 7000 pounds in the New Studios building, and then wheel it through the Fiber department and the Wainger Gallery, and lastly, to the South gallery in the museum where the old fragile marble had to be plated with aluminum sheets as they moved the safe to its final resting place.  Of course the museum preparator supervised the whole thing.  They charged me $300 each way to move the safe and an extra $50 for the preventative metal plating.  The job took three guys, Abby and myself. 

            The safe is black with two circular dial locks and a big silver bar handle.  It’s mean and ominous looking.  It’s got a solid, still forceful feeling to its presence.  Just the weight I wanted lurking in the back of my installation.  When the locks are unlocked and I turn the handle to open it, there is a deep heavy chuurrk as you hear the weight of the eight-inch thick door moving.  It’s a beat up black hole inside.  Looks used.  A metaphoric empty, suffocating hiding place, like the financial institutions and bellies of the fat cats of the first world.  It’s whatever we don’t want to see, we tuck away, hide, black out, like the closed off, blotted-lined secrecy of the Bush administration. 

            I dump all the money in the safe and once it’s all in, put the wooden salad bowl of gold coins on top and the crystal bowl of diamonds on that one, and lock it with a big clank.  It sounds like Fort Knox in my mind.  The money sits securely inside until the next time I do the performance and load it up again.  Any bills outside the cinnamon circle stay outside of it.  In fact, on the opening night my guards told me I made $9.50 from people dropping one-dollar bills and quarters like a wishing well.  It’s working already.  Even when I went back last week someone had left me a two-dollar bill!  It’s not my job to figure out how the money will come to me, it’s the universes!

            With a markedly different feeling to the second half of the ritual, people begin to walk away as I finish the work of cleaning up all the money.  I have a dutiful concentration on my painted face, and in my mind I’m focused on my chore. 

            When done, without waste of a moment, I go back through the residue of the circle to the screen my costume pieces first lay on.  I crouch down and take off my ankle rattles revealing indentations from their tight straps.  I undo my wrist rattles.  Untie my frozen slitted skirt and lay it gently down like I am getting undressed in front of the spectators that remain.  I pull off my crossed headpiece lined with pearls, and my husband’s green crochet-covered crystal necklace, placing it in its own spot on the screen.  I switch knees to sit near the glass bowl of green water and dip the folded gossamer cloth into the fountain.  My gesture is polished with a humble melancholy as I wipe each side of my face, eyes closed, pulling the damp cloth down my neck.  I dip it again and slowly trace the line of my profile once more.  The eyeliner doesn’t come off, just smears like the morning after an over-indulgent celebration or a bad choice.  Like washing the mask off my face before I crawl into bed each night.  Smoothing the exfoliating gel over my cheeks and rubbing the rich amino acids and dead sea minerals moisturizer over my eyes, lining my lips with Burt’s Bees Honey balm, and hand over hand, blending the Vaseline intensive care lotion on my aging fingers.  Routines are our rituals. 

            I walk to the edge of the circle and turn around to face the full moon of glowing gold, now resting against the wall, book-ended by the images of my spirits, I pause and take a b r e a t h, as I lengthen my body and arms.  The gong is rung and virberating through my cells out to the audiences’ arm hairs.  I step over the lowly cinnamon barrier and slip my purple slippers back on, reach down for the hourglass rattle and extend my arm in solemn honor in front of me to begin the march out.  The musician in white follows me three steps behind picking the berimbau’s string and echoing its body in his hand.  Step after step we push through the crowd, eyes looking beyond.  Out the museum’s back exit, down the stairs, out the door to the natural evening air. 

            I can walk through my house in the dark.  I have the steps between each room memorized, the doorknobs, the fridge, the faucet.  The landscape of lights downstairs —blinking box clock red, blue, green, shine through the house, dots of light switches and garden lanterns. 

 

                                                         

Call, archival Inkjet print, 34in. x 52in., 2008                               Immunity Idol, archival inkjet print, 22.5in. x 30in., 2008

 

 

Every once in a while I have the craving to watch an afternoon soap opera.  Like today, at home in the rain, while I make my lunch I want to see soggy drama: The Days of Our Lives: secret lovers and runaways and family feuds and unsuccessful apologies, desperation and makeup and opulent interiors.  As the hourglass turns. 

            The market for self-help in the United States must be in the billions of dollars with Oprah leading the way as a present day shaman.  The definition of a shaman is, “A healer whose power and knowledge derive from intimate, ongoing relationships with personal helping spirits,” as stated by Tom Cowen in The Pocket Guide to Shamanism (118).  A shaman is anyone who heals by connecting with the subconscious, another world, whether of spirits or intuitions, a microcosm, which can be connected to the macrocosm (Cowan 118).  “As within, so without.  As above, so below,” The Emerald Tablet circa 3000 BC (Byrne v). 

                                 

You Don’t Even Know Me, archival inkjet print, 30in. x 40in., 2008

R.O.S.E. (Radar Observation System for Erudition), archival inkjet print, 35in. x 54.5in, 2008

 

There is a desire in every one of us to escape from routine and certainty (Hill 136).  The yearning for self-improvement and to seek self-help is a natural occurrence between the working mind, the ego, and the hunger we feel deep inside, which stems from the lack in present day spirituality.  Religious practice is a way to feed this hole, connect to the unknown and surpass the everyday.  In ancient times and even in tribal societies today one would go to the community shaman or witch doctor to tend to this internal turmoil or manifested external sickness.  The shaman performs some kind of ritual or rite of passage that acts as a healing process and a way to mark and pass a change sacredly with awareness.  In primal societies the shaman provides a living conduit between the local and the transcendent.  The shaman is one who has actually gone through a psychological crack-up and recovery (a call, sickness, or such) (Campbell xviii). 

            Joseph Campbell talks about the importance of ritual as a coping mechanism in his book Pathways To Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation: 

 

“Ritual is simply myth enacted; by participating in a rite, you are participating directly in the myth (xix).  What the myth does is provide a field in which you can locate yourself.  That’s the sense of the mandala, the sacred circle, whether you are a Tibetan Monk or the patient of a Jungian analyst.  The symbols are laid out around the circle, and you are to locate yourself in the center.  A labyrinth is of course, just a scrambled mandala, in which you don’t know where you are.  That’s the way the world is for people who don’t have a mythology.  It’s a labyrinth.  They are battling their way through as if no one had ever been there before,” (xvi). 

           

            The artist can take the role of the shaman by providing a means to connect their viewers’ inner and outer worlds, and also by rewording, re-visualizing historical myths to fit the mind and conditions of conflict today.  Joseph Beuys is good example of this. 

 

My Hairdryer, wood carving, about 12in. x 14in., 2008-on going

 

 

            I have a million self-help books.  I am one of the suckers that goes for each new fad, each new approach to look and feel better.  To name a few titles: The Secret, Skinny Bitch, The Assertive Woman, The Power of Now, How To Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, A Good Girls Guide to Bad Girl Sex, Conquer Your Critical Inner Voice, The Dance of Deception, Bob Green’s Total Body Makeover, French Women Don’t Get Fat, Getting Things Done, Make The Connection, Perfect Weight, Vision Quest, Grow Up: How Taking Responsibility Can Make You A Happy Adult, etc.

            Although these books often deal with the circumstantial and superficial, the real yearning beneath it all is for some kind of awakening, enlightenment, where I will release all my inhibitions, flaws, and fears and seize each day with joy.  It’s a craving for some kind of greater connection to the world —to my inner and outer circles, and for some great wisdom that will change my perception for good. 

            My relationship with art has also acted as a tool in this search.  I have always worked very intuitively and found that my artworks gave me access to a side of myself that I couldn’t easily get to.  In this way making art has been a method of self-help for me.  A means to gain self-awareness, grow, and even process the simple disappointments of everyday life we all can relate to.  Auto-shamanism.  The shift in Ritual For Money is that I am working in the present for the future, not in reverse, reading the past.  It is a stronger, more optimistic method in this project.  I make myself the hero.  I give myself the abilities of magic and the courage and site to lead people.  It’s been a challenging and invigorating experience for a first time performance piece. 

 

All The Bowls I Own, installation, photographs, personal artifacts, dimensions variable, 2009

 

 

            In an earlier series I did before coming to graduate school, I collected images from all kinds of available cultural sources and photographed my life, arranging groups of all these images into different conversations.  How do we make meaning in the world was a question I thought about often and still do.  It was a processing of visual information and reading visual signs and subtleties. I was investigating how meaning can change by context and juxtaposition.

 

For What To Live, archival inkjet print, 9in. x 40in., 2007

 

            This exploration led me to the goal of trying to get more personal —addressing the universal through the specific.  I wanted to use a personal system of signs to reach out and connect to common experiences.  However, as my visual imagery got more and more personal, it also got harder and harder to decode.  I thought a lot about subjectivity, and how I didn’t want to feed my viewers some opinion or illustration, but that I was creating visual poetry, purposefully to be interpreted through individual subjectivity.  People can learn something about themselves by recognizing the view of an artwork through the lenses of each of their lives. 

            I became more and more focused on what seemed to be the most essential aspects and concerns of my work throughout my studio time at Cranbrook.  The quest for self and spiritual connection, the meaning of life, both on a grand scale and also in the humble day to day ways we make meaning and think about our tiny and infinite worlds. 

            Enlightenment, the transcendental, and the mystical —researching these areas I realized how symbolism is so woven into representing the unknown.  An image does not have to be something we can fully explain; in fact, it’s more intriguing and fulfilling if it seems to express more than can be verbalized.  “Symbolism, as C.G. Jung notes, is constantly used to represent concepts that we cannot define or fully comprehend …All religions employ symbolic language and images because it expresses the power of the unknown,” (Hill 139).  The magic worker believes by acting upon what is understood, the physical world, he can have some impact on the invisible scope associated with it.  So all spells and rites are symbolic and concrete acts simultaneously, like Ritual For Money (Hill 139). 

Gram, archival inkjet print, 30in. x 40in., 2007

 

 

During my two years at Cranbrook I made many symbolic photographs. 

Domestic objects with a mystical quality I saw in the way I could photograph them, were often the subjects of my images, bowls, lights, my Grandmother’s silver hair.  It was common for me to focus on a singular object, in reference to the individual; I thought they became empathetic with their familiarity and flaw, yet strong and hopeful.  I often communicated the hope through color palette or by isolating the object in a heroic way like a memorial statue as in R.O.S.E.  One may see emptiness, but I feel strength in the power of one carrying on.  They are metaphors for the struggle with self and finding transience in the everyday. 

 

  

Nest, archival inkjet print, 22.5in. x 30in., 2008         C.T. (Handmirror), archival inkjet print, 35in. x 47in., 2008

 

           

A theme and form I am continually drawn to is the circle.  It stands for the ultimate state of oneness, psychological synchronization and openness (Cirlot 47).  “A symbol of adequate limitation, of the manifest world, of the precise and the regular, as well as of the inner unity of all matter and all universal harmony, as understood by the alchemists (48).  The circle implies the passing of time and life’s cycles; it shall always pass (48).  A circular wedding band means eternity.  The Gnostics along with many spiritual societies used the circle as protection from evil spirits. 

            The circle also references consciousness, the mind’s eye, or clairvoyance.  Placing myself in the circle I can imagine my ideal self to myself, place my intentions in the center, which is where my true natural identity will be.  And so although a completely universal symbol, the circle is also something I identify with inwardly. 

            The photographs in the installation of Ritual For Money —one on either side of the safe, are also symbolic.  On the left, titled Money Spirit, a heavy royal curtain, the color of Giovanni Arnolfini’s pregnant bride’s dress in the painting by Jan Van Eyck.  This image is a dotted scan from a Neiman Marcus catalog I got last fall.  Connoting the velvet curtain to the VIP section, the hierarchy of money and status, the wizard behind the curtain, the secret lives of the rich and famous.  The taboo of really talking about money and status —we are all totally obsessed with money but not really supposed to talk about money.  Even though we know exactly where the Jones’ are. 

            The curtain also calls to mind the allure of the unknown, theater, magic, and belief.  The division between reality and illusion, fantasies imagined, and potential —birth, growth, life.  Again I think of the Emerald Tablet from three thousand years ago, which is inscribed, “As above, so below.  As within, so without,” (Byrne v). 

 

             

Money Spirit, archival inkjet print, 40in. x 56in., 2009

Universal Power Spirit, archival inkjet print, 40in. x 56in., 2009

 

The image on the right, titled Universal Power Spirit, is a picture of a white moth against a black background.  To the lower right of the moth there is a nest of light with imagery abstracted as I have layered it together.  A dirty window pane, a husk of fire-starting scraps, a pile of folded up Hershey Kiss wrappers, my own currency, each shape of a different value, and there are elements taken from the back of a fifty dollar bill.  In God We Trust – the words are faintly overlaid.  The capital building re-cycled upon itself to form the grin of a monster, showing its teeth, or a prison cell.  The bottom of the empty silver bucket is blended in and pieces of pictures of our universe and galaxies far away that appear like spaceships or stains on the fabric of the sky. 

            The moth is both angelic and Darth Vader in Star Wars at the same time. A fighter jet, manned by satellite eyes, this photograph speaks of the dark side, the nocturnal.  Moths navigate by the light of the moon, but they are often fooled by artificial light, circling it helplessly, dying in the pursuit and misjudgment.  The definition of a moth according to Webster’s Revised Unabridged dictionary is, “Anything that gradually and silently eats, consumes, or wastes another thing,” (“Moth” 1).  Sounds like Bernie Madoff or our greedy financial institutions lately, having the light shone on them.  Ironically, in the story of Pandora’s box, the moth is the last thing in the box, and it is seen as a sign of hope and possible recovery.  I see the moth here as a metaphor and warning of our relationship with money. 

            The fact remains, just as the Native Americans needed rain to survive, we need money.  Money equals power, class, opportunity, and convenience.  America is the land of the dream of climbing the social ladder.  It’s possible, and if you know The Secret it’s even closer to your reach.  Yet, true happiness and fulfillment comes from a meaningful life.  Money is great, but the small things get us through each day.

 

Blank Check, Universal Bank, The Secret, 2006

 

            The rudimentary gestures in Ritual For Money make up a complex poetry.  The superficiality and desperation of some in our capitalistic culture, glued to the treadmill of work, like Sisyphus, never reach the goal.  Failure comes up as a theme in this piece when the money crashes down, not as gracefully as we had imagined it fluttering to the ground.  Futility.  Stuck in a cycle.  The fragile broom that barely sweeps. 

            These actions are humble.  I think of every woman as I clean up the money.  The dish soap is transformed when I use it in the ritual, but the gesture echoes my chores at home and seems to make them more meaningful.  Even the money scattered all over the circle turns to leaves to rake and put into brown lawn bags.   We become desensitized.  The money becomes something else —the circumstances we get in life- the stuff that happens to every one of us everyday.  Life is messy.  But it keeps moving.  Time does not stop for us. 

            My performance of the ritual is spiritual.  It’s urgent and serious.  It fills the yearning in my soul for more than just money.  A self-test and quest through art.  I am the artist as a shaman believing in my own power and mentality.  I am a woman, a mother, a housewife, a leader, a hero, a storyteller, an American.  By exposing something within myself, I reach the public, political, and streams of our collective consciousness.

 

Ritual For Money, mixed media installation, 14ft. by 10ft. by 14ft. high, 2009

 

Ritual For Money, Aftermath, mixed media installation, 2009

 

My Studio, Cranbrook Photo department, March 2009

 

 

Works Cited

 

 

 

Bord, Janet.  Mazes and Labyrinths of the World.  New York, NY: Dutton, 1975.  

 

Budge, E. A. Wallis. Amulets and Superstitions.  1930.  New York, NY: Dover, 1978.  

 

Byrne, Rhonda.  The Secret.  Hillsboro, OR: Beyond Words, 2006.  

 

Campbell, Joseph.  Pathways to Bliss: Mythology and Personal Transformation.  Novato, CA: New World Library, 2004.  

 

Cirlot, J. E.  A Dictionary of Symbols.  2nd ed.  Trans. Jack Sage.  1971.  Mineola, NY: Dover, 2002.  

 

Cowen, Tom.  Pocket Guide to Shamanism.  Freedom, CA: Crossing, 1997.  

 

Goldberg, Natalie.  Writing Down The Bones: Freeing The Writer Within.  Boston, MA: Shambhala, 1986.  

 

Hill, Douglas, and Pat Williams.  The Supernatural.  New York, NY: Hawthorn, 1965.  

 

Lommel, Andreas.  Shamanism: The Beginnings of Art.  Trans. Michael Bullock.  New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 1967.  

 

Lyon, William S.  Encyclopedia of Native American Shamanism: Sacred Ceremonies of North America.  Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1998.  

 

Moffitt, John F.  Occultism in Avant-Garde Art: The Case of Joseph Beuys.  Ann Arbor, MI: UMI Research Press, 1988.  

 

Mookerjee, Ajit.  Yoga Art.  Boston, MA: New York Graphic Society, 1975.  

 

"Moth." Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary. MICRA, Inc. 02 May. 2009. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/moth>

 

Singer, Andre and Lynette.  Divine Magic: The World of the Supernatural.  New York, NY: TV Books, 1995.  

 

Waite, Arthur Edward.  The Book of Ceremonial Magic: A Complete Grimoire.  New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1961.  

 

The Face of Art: Detroit, digital snapshot, 2009

 

Current business card front and back, 2009

 

 

Museum view of Ritual For Money, Degree Show 2009

 

 

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© 2011 Kelly Frank. All rights reserved Email. kellyfrankart@gmail.com