Rituals for Removing Creative Blocks
Social practice project, 2017-18.
Support provided by Emerging Arts Professionals MADE Grant.
Rituals for Removing Creative Blocks Chapbook for sale at E.M. Wolfman bookstore in Oakland, CA.
We’ve all been there: that moment when we’ve carved out our precious time to make, experience or support art, and instead we just feel stuck, insecure, or exhausted. All we can make contact with is stress, pressure, or the immensity of our to-do lists. We find ourselves wondering why we’re even committed to the making and sharing of creative work, and why we even got into this in the first place.
Rituals for Creative Blocks offered somatic instructions to solve these blocks of contemporary creative life, and presented these instructions through ritualized, playful and magical banquet-gatherings. On October 22, we held three sessions of our Rituals in which cultural workers from across the Bay Area were welcomed into a cozy courtyard with a ritual hand-washing, and seated around a colorful curated table designed by chef-artist Kim Upstill.
We opened each banquet with each participant introducing themselves and reading aloud their individual creative block--which they’d submitted in order to reserve a seat and was conveniently provided as a placement for their seat. As participants read aloud their block, we taught the group to respond “problem,” in chorus, evoking both the call-and-response of religious ceremony and the structured support of a 12 step program. We also made time for participants to share responses to each person’s block, during which we found multiple affinities around what stops us from being able to create.
Once each block was read aloud, we began delivering the rituals. One at a time, a participant would summarize their block, then have their ritual read aloud to them by one of the curators. As you’ll read, each rituals included some kind of somatic instruction, but varied in its context from things the participant might be required to build, to specific ways the participant should wait for or interact with others around them.
As each participant’s ritual completed, Upstill handed them an individualized snack, prepared particularly for their block, and the participant seated next to them sprayed the participant with orange-scented oil as they took in their snack. Once they finished, they described to the group the flavors and sensations of the snack, in order to fully complete the link of the emotional, intellectual and somatic experience at hand.
As others had their rituals read to them, participants listened intently, snacked on the curated table, laughed, and even teared up. One by one, each participant was gifted their ritual, individual snack, and face spray, and as we concluded Upstill poured a barley tea into the ceramic shot glasses she’d handmade for each participant for the event. We toasted as a group (“to rituals!”) and concluded.