Excerpts from the creative process of Ouroboros project
ALEXANDRA MEIJER-WERNER, 1998
This is an example of how crisis can push us towards an artistic breakthrough. It has been my most significant experience for future work. At the time I was feeling most depleted and unmotivated with the course of the work in the first phase I decided to take a week off, while a group of Ouroboros kept working. I went to the sea in search for some clarity and peace. I was driven by a strong feeling that I had to bring about a change in the situation and try to rescue my inspiration and passion. I knew that it had to do with trying to follow my vision again. I found out that it is very important to try to pursue one’s dreams and make it real otherwise there will always remain a side that feels incomplete. So, I set out to experiment with how I could use Video, which was the tool I was responsible for. To fulfill my need I started to experiment on myself during that little week of escape. I was carrying the feeling in me of needing to be born again, needing to find a new source of energy and let go completely of disappointments and frustrations. I felt that if someone was going to change the way I was feeling it could be only myself, because no one else had that responsibility. I was ready to die and shed the skin anew and I felt the need to materialize my dreams or feelings by actually putting them into a real scene, so I decided to express my inner landscape in video.
Near to where I was staying, I found a huge part of a rainforest that had been recently burnt down; it was still aching. That landscape resonated strongly with the way I was feeling, thus I decided to take off my clothes and paint my whole body with fresh clay and earth as a symbol of life to come, within that cemetery of trees. I asked someone to operate the camera and started to walk barefoot through the ashes, which were still warm.
The feeling was desolate and incredibly sad and allowed myself to really experience and smell death, the end of a phase in me, a phase guided by fear of losing and holding on. Feeling that in order to really go through death, I needed to die to the fear of death, I let myself actually experience a situation where there was a great sense of loss, where life had left. Yet at the same time while I was standing there, I realized deeply that nothing can ever be lost, because everything constantly transmutes into something new. The earth under the ashes felt like it was getting ready to flower again with more strength. I let myself act spontaneously and improvise whatever began to manifest in me. I had an elastic fabric, a sort of skirt, with me that was like a skin on which I had painted an embryo surrounded by a womb of pain. This was an image I worked with before, whenever I got in touch with my deepest fears. In that burned landscape I put on the elastic skirt like a skin and started birthing out of it, shedding it, dying and letting go of death. It was a very intense experience and once I completed my ritual of death and came out of the fabric skin, I felt life bursting in me, wanting to come out and leave death behind. I never used that fabric -skin again which was supposed to be part of the final performance piece; instead, I did a ritual where I buried it. It simply became a closed chapter for me that I left behind. I also lost the urge to almost obsessively focus on whatever pain and suffering I might have had in my life, which I found myself doing when I searched to heal myself.
Right after this, an incredible urge to re-experience birth came over me, but this time in a beautiful and natural environment, a birth that embraced life. Not far from the tree cemetery I found an incredibly alive tree at the foot of a small river, that had a trunk opened up like a big nest, like a big ear that was ready to listen.
Soon I found myself breathing through the mouth increasingly stronger and I was literally feeling inside a womb, feeling like an embryo in a liquid environment and seeing a dark reddish space. My whole body was releasing the memory of my actual birth, until I started pushing myself out of the tree nest and fell into the water of the river. I started crying like a baby once I was out, my whole body shaking because of the intensity of the experience. Once I calmed down, I could not believe the incredible shift in my perception, in my body and in my mood. I felt released and in awe, and to me the most amazing feeling, was feeling held by Mother Nature as if I had reattached my umbilical cord from my actual mother to the earth. I had an incredible sense of belonging, of being taken care of and nurtured, sensing how earth was holding all of us around the planet.
This ritual brought me to feel again the infinite potential inherent to life.
I wanted to share this experience with the group. I wanted them to feel it personally and get enthusiastic because it fitted perfectly into the Ouroboros theme.
I asked each member of the project to tell me which of the four elements they would prefer to do their re-birth.
Diego López and Eliel Brizola – Earth
IIian Arbelo – Fire
Luisa Garcia – Water
Alexandra Meijer-Werner – Air