Summer Solstice Ritual, MCA, Chicago

On June 20, 1997 I performed in the Summer Solstice Ritual at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in collaboration with the Radical Faeries

As Kulov recounts in their edition, Kulov 90–15 > Twenty-Five Years of Political Public Art and Performances:  

In June of 1995, while traveling through Europe on an art fellowship, I attended the first EuroFaerie gathering on the Dutch island of Terschelling. This event, as part of an artistic and soul-searching journey, completely changed my life. The faerie movement became very influential in my projects, thus amplifying the transition into performance- and text-oriented work, dealing with gender issues. In 1997, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago asked me to create and organize a ritual with the local faerie community for the museum’s Summer Solstice celebrations. The following is a full description of this performance event (and events leading up to it), written for the EuroFaeries.

Summer Solstice is the longest day of the year, after which darkness starts gaining more and more time until six months later — Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year. Then the process reverses. It seems that at these two points in the astrological calendar, there is an invisible struggle for domination, but with an obvious and inevitable outcome, pre- determined by the laws of our solar system.

This was the museum’s second annual summer solstice celebration. It was initiated with the opening of its new building in 1996. During these solstice festivities, the museum is open to visitors for 24 hours. In 1996, the faeries created their own impromptu drumming circle in the park across the museum. It attracted many visitors and new faeries as well. Prior to that, my partner-in-crime Kokoe and I attended the ribbon cutting ceremony in our own gender-mixing (gender-fuck) drag. There, I greeted visitors and handed out fake business cards with the title “Chief Curator.” This was done subversively, without permission, and although securities forbade us to hand out these cards, the public relations department found the idea brilliant and encouraged us to continue. Being subversive, or radical, was the theme of the rst solstice celebration, but even then the museum showed some openness. So in 1997, the MCA asked the faeries to be a part of the program for the event. “How can faeries be radical and allow themselves to be absorbed by an institution by this invitation?” was my dilemma. “Well, we just have to allow our energy to subvert the institution,” replied Kokoe.

The concept behind this ritual was “opposites,” starting with day and night. I asked faeries in the Chicago community to dress up as couples, or as opposites. I also planned a symbolic tug-of-war game between day and night, and between these characters and/or couples. This game was designed to incorporate the playfulness of faeries and also to provide the ritual with some sort of a focal point or structure, while allowing for chaos to take over if needed. A sun character (Tomi of Finland, dressed up for the beach and smelling of sun-tan oil) and a moon character (Pickles Oksietowicz, wearing a black dress with silver stars and carrying her pillow) were “assigned” to dance on the enormous platforms on each side of the main entrance. The other characters, from a sun and moon on stilts (Fausto and William) to a security roller-blading couple, wearing burgundy wigs (Marsian and Snatchleen), were to frolic in front of the museum to the drumming of Women Spirit Drummers, the collaborating act. Kokoe and I had planned to take the action from the cement entrance of the building to the park across, into nature. The faeries were to have the tug-of-war there, gather more visitors and snake dance in a line back into the museum. This was to be our subversive way of going about the $10 entrance charge, which the museum had initiated for this year’s celebration (the 1996 attendance was free to the public). But this year, there were some hurdles in the form of crowd control stanchions and security guards, who had created almost a stage in front of the museum. This didn’t allow any possibilities for interactive performances, nor for the fusion between performers and audience.

But the goddess answered our dilemmas. Even though we weren’t able to take the action to the piece of nature across the museum and performed a chaotic tug of war in the “stage” area, nature was sent to us in form of a thundering rainstorm. This allowed for even more chaos to be created, and for audience and performers to join in the rush into to museum’s building. No one had to pay the $10 cover charge. The faerie frolic and drumming continued inside for a long time, completely transforming the energy of the place and involving many visitors, something which was not possible outside. Later, the thank-you letter from the museum stated that “the faeries were the highlight” of the event

FAERIEFACT: It is dif cult to describe Faeriedom in a sentence or two. The EuroFaeries is an offshoot of an American alternative gay movement called the Radical Faeries, which originated in the U.S. in the late 1970’s. Although not overtly hierarchical nor dogmatic, at the time of this project in the mid 1990s, it differed quite a bit from the mainstream gay and lesbian (LGBTQ was not a term used at the time) equal rights movement in that it recognized gays and lesbians as a separate “tribe” and even gender — as people with their own unique cultural and historic heritage. In addition, the movement incorporated a lot of different spiritualities into its own eclectic, uid and playful ritualistic expressions. And by providing an alternative to urban gay culture, it had grown into a huge international network. For more information, check out the book Radically Gay, a collection of writings by Harry Hay, one of the founders of the movement, compiled and edited by Will Roscoe.