The Witch and The Swarm
The Witch and The Swarm
Johannes Paul Raether
- Location : Transmission Gallery, Glasgow
- Date : Saturday, 13 June - Saturday, 11 July
- Time : 12pm - 4pm
Transmission are excited to present The Witch And The Swarm, a solo project by Johannes Paul Raether, and his first in Scotland.
Raether lives and works in Berlin, but will bring two personae, or self-described 'figures’, to Glasgow that have been in development over several years: Protektorama, the world healing witch, and the more embryonic Swarm Being. The Witch And The Swarm is a project in three parts. During normal gallery hours Transmission’s white womb will incubate an installation of devotional fetish-objects, a hoard of post-fordist swag lovingly collated and stitched together from the witches’ past outings.
The Witch And The Swarm will also be encountered dribbling out of the mouth of Glasgow's ex-industrial bloodline, the River Clyde - where Johannes will present the Swarm Being - and in the celestial setting of the Isle of Arran's ancient stone circles where we, together with Protektorama, will celebrate the summer solstice.
Blue Ferry for Eventual Techno Reflex Dawns on Protean Lamplight: A Pastoral Satire by Neil Davidson
The Vessel: The smartphone is not your prosthesis, it is not an extension of you, you are its prosthesis, you are its toy.
The Ferry moves through a series of predetermined arcs of space, never linear as such but always curving. The repetition of the work of the Ferry obscures most of what it is. These curves arise out of the physical conditions of the Ferry’s movements and also describe in time the principles by which it is navigated and or navigates. What we think of as Vessel is both prosaic (the tool for moving the many) and potentially religious.
It is nautical, with the implication still of carrying the many. It is also that which conveys bodily fluids: ducts, canals, tubes. A person embodying a quality or a principle can be thought of as a vessel. In the sense of there being One vessel we are already aware that there will be many of something else. But in the religious or spiritual sense what is conveyed in the vessel (the person) is uncountable. How many mercy? Not at all. This one has recently been painted and there are spidery paint spills on the deck mimicking lichen and mould forms. From up here it’s possible to view the vessel being fed a variety of cars, trucks, bicycles, and people in and on these. The Ferry has to be tied down to be fed otherwise it might spill its food and perhaps begin to reject some items.
Two structures: a pyramid where the vessel is unique and contains the many and, on the other hand, an equivalence; embodiment. The practical vessel is hierarchical, while the figurative or representative mode is horizontal. The supposedly democratic function of the vessel for moving people around is the more hierarchical in form while the supposedly exceptional case of the religious vessel expresses a (horizontal) adequacy between form and content. What might be useful to bear in mind is an ambivalence vis a vis vessels (singular focal points, identities) and groups, the many.
Passengers on the Ferry function like bacteria in the gut of a mammal. CP notes “ I enjoy it that on a Caledonian MacBrayne ferry all the passengers sit down to a meal no matter what time the sailing is.” They faecilitate (neologisms are integral to this whole scenario) the digestion of the matter that has been fed into the ferry through its orifices. Naturally, the Ferry thinks it is doing the thinking and the doing. It goes back and forth, eating and excreting cars, goods, bicycles and people and living its dream of moving through the constantly changing waters of the firth of clyde. Sunlight warms its surfaces, water cools its nether regions. Basking sharks pass in the night. Much like the illusion of subjective autonomy in humans this is a flimsy premise and yet the evidence of its behaviour would suggest a self determined subject subsisting on what it needs and living on a diet rich in experiences. The mood of the boat changes dramatically with the weather, with time of day and with the changing of the seasons. To compare this with other mammalian experience is not beyond the realms of plausibility. And we know that mood is affected by bacterial populations and their actions within the guts of mammals. Sometimes the actions of the bacteria will steer the host’s mood to their advantage.
No one single person is steering the vessel, where we understand steering as being not just the physical gesture of turning the wheel that moves the rudder but also of assessing the surroundings and gauging the space into which the vessel will move. Navigation on ships is distributed throughout a series of minds and tasks. This is useful to consider when fending off the preposterous idea that ‘The Captain’ is in charge of the boat and that the figure of The Captain is adequate to the figure of the Vessel. From the novel Moby Dick, Captain Ahab was obviously the figment of someone’s imagination and the only logical conclusion to reach is that the Pequad was the one doing the imagining. Who else would be party to all the details of the narrative?The vessel is also host to Johannes Paul Raether gradually transforming into Protektorama. This figure, the focus for the ensuing proceedings, is, like the Ferry, the focal point through which the coming forms and processes can be understood. Already blue in the face she gathers her sisters in the Ferry’s Lounge wherein a short speech offers an outline of things to come.
The Island: Arriving in waves due to limited bus capacity and shop-dawdling, the group acclimatises itself on the moor in a slow ebb. Gradual and patient, short walks, quiet looking, watching the weather move: the cloud is broken with occasional warm sunlight. Decisions come slowly. In time, the second bus load arrives along with a van load of equipment. From the path very few tents are visible. Care is taken to tune everyone to the point when the ritual will begin to take place. Very little is said but what is said quietens the group as they make their way towards the stone circle (Machrie No. 3) where the World Healing Forest has been installed, internet bright against the neutral moor tones. This is a patchwork cloth circle with rings of little coloured pillars supporting knee pads and wrist guards. Protektorama preaches to the group from the centre of the circle balanced on red front loaded anti heel high booted lace contrivances; wearing also an exploded skeleton of pale blue bicycle road-race nylon. The language of the preaching is careful and precise, which is important because it stresses a deliberateness. The threshold of comprehension is always just out of reach. Protekorama’s delivery is clear and purposeful and draws the listener in, and the words hang together in plausible forms. But efforts to reproduce or paraphrase the preaching prove cumbersome and underwhelming. This is deliberate? Neologisms abound, contradictory or incompatible concepts are brought into proximity for the energy they release (one of Hutton’s geological Unconformities lies due north of here noted for the insights into deep time it released). Rational coherence is left politely aside. The time scale of the ritual is unexpectedly brief, tuned perhaps to smartphone determined attention spans. The prospect of sacrifice is introduced and abandoned, an element of pragmatism creeping in; we won’t ask anyone to sacrifice their Smartphone Candy Fetish. The point at which the preaching mode leaves off is an acceptance or a confession that the ritual has always, at that point, been / become disappointing and underwhelming. And that this particular ritual, at this moment, is an attempt to move on from those disappointments. Clay is produced, and ingots of tin. A mould will be made by the group (a handful of clay each) and the melted tin poured in, thus melding (sacrificing) the gathered USB Data devices into a fused object. This will be the the making of the Second Communisate. It takes a while and the melting pot is abandoned in favour of a hand-held blow-torch. From around this time the group fragments and moves to and fro within and away from the stones. Meals come and go, as do people, animals, cigarettes, flasks, visitors, wine, insects.
During the ritual a lark flies low over the stone circle as the group go about the process of kneeling on the World Healing Forest and offering their Smartphone Candy Fetishes. Just as the group becomes most like a single entity and converges on one space, that is when it comes under the clearest scrutiny from the outside, by a small and very loud overhead bird. This same lark has been warning / steering people away from its nest all afternoon but has chosen this moment to come closer and examine them. Throughout the evening animals continue to frame and parenthetically delineate the space. Curlews commuting between field and shore illustrate the distance from the sea. A barn owl traces the acoustic limit of the site, the point beyond which sound does not make itself felt. This also at the time when the light has faded to blue grey, bringing out the colours of the World Healing Forest in high contrast. A small dog satirically mimics ‘allegiance’ and ‘faith’ by repeatedly following the most unlikely figures to who knows what sorry end. In the profusion of sheep trintlets (flocked under foot, under tent, under bench) we are reminded endlessly and relentlessly of the digestive processes of the Ferry and thus the farce of subjectivity.
Technology: one supposes, arises out of particular situations and desires. Not simply through inexorable progression (mythology) but an interwoven relation between capacities and luring. Attention is a resource and technology consumes resources. Our attention then is drawn through whatever technologies are to hand. The neolithic technology of the standing stone circle is no different. It has succeeded in moving us from various parts of the country to converge in one place and spend some time in that place. Stone circles always seem to be in the most ideally framed places on the hill, on the moor, wherever they are; they are situated in the place that brings all the surrounding landscape into its most articulate diorama. During a ridge walk on Arran some weeks earlier we noted that every time we stopped along the ridge to look at the view, that point was where we would find little carcass fragments, pellets, larger bird shits. Birds of prey have the same feeling for aesthetics? Do they choose, for the same reason, to eat in the places where we are inclined to stop and look at the view? The stone circle as technology obscures such a stumbling on the world. It’s not animistic in the least. It is also institutional. So, after all, to what do we give our attention? And through what technology do we attend?
We are seated around a fire towards the end of the evening. Half Protektorama is by means of a small hand held device projecting images of her sisters onto first the dense branches of a hawthorn tree and then a sheet. She introduces another witch whose research interests focus on surrogacy and IVF, thinking a way through the injustices of surrogacy labour into a realm / possibility of non heteronormative reproduction. A new tribe. Into this scene comes a man whose wife has broken her ankle while drinking enthusiastically at the local fertility stone. Earlier they had given us a detailed account of its efficacy. My wife has broken her ankle. He said. It’s crunchy. The eventual ambulance arrives with a highly illuminated science fiction undercarriage. The woman is carried by hand.
Next day on the return journey the Ferry passes a three masted sailing ship heading north east towards the Cumraes, its tall outline an arcane presence in contrast to the squat passenger ferry.