The Shamanic Underworld Journey known as ‘Participating in an Art Event’.

 Over the last week I have been involved in an art/performance event in a wonderful archaic tower in London.

Yesterday I limped back to my home in Somerset; broke, dirty, run down and exhausted.

Essentially this happening was a gift. The organiser paid for the rental of a magnificent and evocative drafty old tower, inviting artists of various creative persuasions to participate; the caveat being that there could be no payment or covering of costs for them.

The stuttering and stalling of spring complicated things somewhat. A small surge of the light, warmth and colour of spring after a season of endless grey, plummeted back into dark cold. The event organiser was one of the many whose immune system crashed after this brief flirtation with the end of winter.

At the beginning of the show, I arrived at the tower and navigated my carefully wrapped sculptures past the group of street drinkers lined up amongst benches and gravestones. I was confronted with a heavy wooden door, infinite uneven winding stone staircases, an Alice in Wonderland doorway to a roof that showed a panoramic London and a tiny group of artists who pulled together to compensate for the event organiser’s now serious illness. Over the week this core remained consistent.

Out of the chaos grew an order of sorts and around the order swirled dramas, intrigues and gossip balanced out by art, performance, ideas and excitement

The tower was painfully cold with wind and dust whistling through the brickwork, but we scampered up and down stairs, constructing, arranging, welcoming newcomers and enjoying the stimulation of other perspectives.

The lack of toilets was a grim reminder of age for those of us with an older bladder and I became haunted with the smell of urine as I seemed to wade through it daily in various pay and public toilets in the area.

One morning started with the discovery of a pile of human faeces at the entrance, and various other human dramas on that day seemed to continue from that, but when I faced another direction I could see the beautiful crocus surrounded gravestones, or wander the floors of the tower and be inspired by the art/performance of those willing and physically able to give unconditionally.

In my mind, this sort of event is a journey to the underworld; a stripping away of self and a destruction of ego. A descent, a disassembling, and eventually a reconstruction.

A group of creative people embark on a journey. There are sacrifices made, hardships endured.

People fall away; relationships are built, challenged and sometimes destroyed.

The end result is the creation of wasteland, and speaking personally, a few days of being very battered and vulnerable.

Then consolidation occurs; things shift, inspiration flames and something grows.

At this particular event, I stayed to the end for various reasons; the main being that if you start such a journey, you finish it.

There is a part of me that feels I am a little old to be involved in such things. Staggering  around dusty rooms and public toilets permanently layered up in every piece of clothing I owned topped up by my more and more battered designer coat, I would freak out about lack of mirrors to check my makeup, my awful diet filled with stimulants and trans-fats and the fact that my shoes seemed to smell constantly of urine.

The weird thing is, it was worth it.

I have many friends who are artists, and this sort of scenario is pretty much the norm in some ways.

However this particular occasion was deliberately angled at creative spiritual expression, albeit without dogma or fundamentalism.

When the dictates and intellectual rules of spiritual organisation have their power taken away and when money isn’t involved, the creative dynamic becomes a very deep and transformative.

The word ordeal comes to mind!

All up a great week, and writing this in my serene home, in clean clothes, all buffed, moisturised and filled with vitamins I feel as if I have achieved something.

So a huge thank you to the organisers and participants at St Augustine’s aka ‘The Blasted Tower Event’.Image


About charlottejane2002

Author of 'P is for Prostitution', 'The Bloody Sacrifice' and co-editor of 'A Contemporary Western Book of the Dead' which are all published by Mandrake of Oxford. Italian publisher Roberto Migliussi has recently released 'The Sky is a Gateway, Not a Ceiling', a book of Charlotte's collected essays printed alongside images of his own art work. Charlotte is also an artist who creates spiritually directed art works from road kill and found objects. She has had her written work printed in anthologies and various magazines and on line publications and has given presentations at many events and institutions including Edinburgh University and Brooklyn's 'Museum of Morbid Anatomy'. Her art work has been exhibited widely including at London's Chelsea Gallery and The Bath Royal Literary and Scientific Institute, and is soon to be shown in New York.
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5 Responses to The Shamanic Underworld Journey known as ‘Participating in an Art Event’.

  1. I admire your guts and fortitude but there is no way on earth I could have done that. My days of urinating up walls or defecating into plastic bags have truly passed. Blimey, what a trooper you are. Well done.

    • I think it was the only response possible (bar escape) in the face of necessity Russell, rather than guts and fortitude. All up, it was actually a fantastic experience but I suspect that this was the final toll for such art/lifestyle choices for me.

  2. Thanks Charlotte! The event in the blasted tower reminded me indeed of older bohemian days and was replete with underground energy. I found myself thinking in patterns and circles, precipitated by startling art like nodes of magick in a mundane humdrum of cold church stairways. The place echoed with contradiction and being an esoteric event of course it flows out, even pisses on itself in a rush of confused insights. It was a great event and your art added a lot to it!

  3. Wiebke Rost says:

    What a weird journey.. ‘trip to the underworld’ it was. I eventually found myself calling upon all the guardians and protectors there could possibly be or rather felt their presence necessary – and they were. Eventually the entire event occured to me like one big ritual under conditions you might have thought to be done and over with… been there, done that… Well here we were and despite the never again it was indeed well worth it. I really want to thank you for the warm welcome and immediate interest in my work when arriving on Friday and not knowing anyone. This was quite amazing. I wish I could have attended your speech and there would have been more time to chat. I truly enjoyed your art and appreciate the method and means behind it. Also, thumbsup for bringing the toad back to the garden! Besides Roberto gave me a copy of your booklet, “The Sky is a Gateway, Not a Ceiling” and I look forward to reading it lateron! For now it’s back to business. Take care!

  4. John Power says:

    Yes, I am getting too old for all of that, well done for your powers of survival……and a wonderfully reflective piece of writing about it all.

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