Subversive autonomous satanic ritual
Ritual Performance, 2018
On February 10, 2018, hundreds of people gathered to witness Jex Blackmore's “Subversive Autonomous” ritual held at an undisclosed location in Detroit. The ritual was not sanctioned under The Satanic Temple, an intentional choice to demonstrate the power of what people with relatively little access to resources can accomplish on their own, and the capacity to organize and empower communities without institutional support.
Two naked bodies cloaked in chains embody the figures of the Devil tarot card, which represents metaphoric and internal bondage. The chains are only superficially applied, and throughout the ritual they possess the capacity to unchain themselves. However, it isn't until they recognize their own power and autonomy that they destroy the symbol of their servility. This is a metaphor of our own bondage to patriarchal and capitalist power structures which make us believe that our value is to be measured by the extent in which we obey.
Bars of white light appear as our conditioning is questioned: "Who taught you to be ashamed?," "Who taught you to fear confrontation?," "Who taught you to serve and confess?," eventually taking the shape of a prison cell enclosing all ritual attendees. Hogs heads are brought out as effigies of rapacious institutional and political autocrats and participants are reminded of their own power and successes, "We outnumber them. Their existence is only made possible by our own inaction." The way forward is celebrated as the cell bars are smashed, "We will disrupt, distort, destroy, reclaim, resist and rebuild!" A neon Jex Hex shines and pulsates from the wreckage and debris, a symbol of resistance and erotic strength underscoring the conclusion of the ritual.
The goal of the ritual action was defined under the neon lights: "we will make it our primary goal to make things more difficult for people in positions of power. We will challenge them and hold them accountable. We the people will be watching their every step and we will make it known."
Those that attended the ritual were marked upon entry as a symbol of their awakening, and presented with a choice - to subvert and oppose power, or acquiesce to its control. "The degree in which you engage is irrelevant. Any action is good action." The ritual called on people to educate, sabotage, obstruct, innovate, distort, reclaim and rebuild in response to abuses of power.
"THERE IS NO MODEL FOR MOVING FORWARD. WE ARE THE MODEL."
Neon by George Vidas. Video excerpt by Matt Anderson. Photographs by Bruno Vanzieleghem and Kate Sassak.