Rubber Shaman (Grace Ritual)

For me, music is something that reveals the ritualistic deliberateness of everyday life. The action of putting on a record and playing it from beginning to end creates an atmosphere around common routines, transforming them from unremarkable to sacred. Certain kinds of music ineffably go hand in hand with certain activities, such as making dinner, riding a bike, drinking coffee on the porch or conversing with friends. 

 I gained a heightened awareness of this relationship when I received my second tattoo (a considerably painful two hour sitting) while listening to Paul Simon’s 1986 hit record Graceland. At the time, having the image of a campfire drilled onto me with an electric needle was made significantly more tolerable, even calming, by the cheerful guitars and rich choral chants of Simon’s collaboration with South African and Zydeco musicians. I felt like I was part of something ancient and special. After that, Graceland became my go-to album for any occasion.

 What I plan on doing is a video performance, set to Graceland in it’s entirety, that celebrates the similarities and differences between ritual and repeated action. I intend to create an original contemporary ceremony directly relating to this specific piece of music that comically highlights the ways in which even the smallest parts of a day can become spiritual practices. I aim to do this using colourful, outlandish costumes, face paint and symbolic props evocative of Shamanism and the early roots of Halloween (or Samhain). 

Imagemodern pagan ritual

Imageearly celebrators of Halloween

I’m very fond of the spiritual performance art of Joseph Beuys and Marina Abramovic, and will be taking a lot of influence from them, as well as Marcel Dzama’s costume work. I’ll also be researching the specific movements and dress of different kinds of religious ceremonies in order to believably invent my own.

I’m thinking of calling the piece “Rubber Shaman (Grace Ritual)”. The title plays upon the term plastic shaman which is someone who claims to be a shaman but really has no special affiliation with the religious beliefs of their culture. I replace ‘plastic’ with ‘rubber’ to make clear it that my performance doesn’t pretend to have any religious meaning. It simply uses the themes of invariance and formalism prevalent in religious ceremonies combined with a piece of music that is very meaningful to me in an effort to exaggerate the magic of the mundane.


Marcel Dzama

Here are some songs from Graceland, if anyone is interested in getting a feel of the album before seeing the piece.

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3 Responses to Rubber Shaman (Grace Ritual)

  1. jalexanderson says:

    This is really cool – and might be comical, too. Making mundane everyday activities into sacred rites…’placeth the sacrament of Colgate Total onto the Sceptre of Immaculation; placeth upon thy pearly whites, scrub thrice’…or something.
    Last year, pieces from Michael Dudeck’s project RELIGION was featured in the ‘Winnipeg Now’ show at the WAG the originality and strangeness of it is incredible and I think you might benefit – if you haven’t already – from taking a look. The (documented) performances’ uniqueness and transformative properties are certainly inspiring to me.

    • keegansteele says:

      I actually did get the chance to see that piece! I was really enamoured with it and loved the idea of inventing a religion as art. I didn’t look through the whole thing in detail or get to see any of the performances, but I agree that I would definitely benefit from looking into it.

  2. jenm449 says:

    I am intrigued with the subject matter and the research you did looking forward to seeing this project.

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