|2. A Wounded Healer
What I want to do in this is to explore performance as Shamanistic Art, as an art for subverting reality, to create magical change in our world. I want to explore the magical dynamics of this art. To do this, we will need to jump subject to subject in a nonlinear manner. I will use my life and career just as a baseline.
My art is rooted in breaking out of isolation. Until I was 17, I did not have any way to communicate except through my family members. For a couple of my teenage years, I was very hard of hearing. My hearing cleared up. I invented my head pointer when I was 17. My communication isolation was then dispelled. But it took me another ten years to shake off the isolation caused by my attitudes and self-image. This early isolation allowed me to observe life and people as an outsider. I always wanted to break physical, emotional, and spiritual isolation -- first for myself, but then for other people.
My personal roots are in the idealism of the 60's. That was when I broke out of personal physical isolation. I looked for a way to bring about the ideals for me and for society as a whole. The normal channels obviously would not work for me.
So all I had were my fantasies. I read novels like The Magus and Steppenwolf. I started wanting to create other alternative/altered realities just like the magicians in those novels. I read the Beat writers and the French Surrealists, Lenny Bruce and Mort Sahl and Abbie Hofmann, listened to Dylan, watched the hippie movement grow. I wished I could be a hip artist living in S.F. instead of being stuck outside San Bernardino reading, listening, watching, waiting. All of this brewed inside of me.
But I didn't think I could get people to let me direct them in the rituals in my head. It was not until 1970 that I started trying to live out my inner visions. I tried to get the ok at Cal State, San Bernardino, to produce my all-nude play on campus. To my surprise, the college said yes. But I couldn't get actors.
I was offended by such things as body doubles for nude scenes in movies and actors in live plays wearing flesh-colored tights in lusty scenes. My play was a statement against this perverse attitude. I wasn't really into sex itself in my art. I just wanted to see nude bodies on stage -- not sneak them in to a love scene -- and see them do things like paint their bodies with baby food -- I learned it can be hard to get people for weird things.
Also in college, I started doing political pranks, like rolling into the marines' recruiting office to join, wanting to push "the button".
During the time of the Kent State killings, I saw my life was heading back into isolation if I did not make some radical changes. I dropped out of college and hitched to hippieland in Santa Fe.
There I started re-examining things from an occult view.
During these years, there was a period for me of intensive reading of books of all kinds. Many were arcane and occult in many different fields. A few were old, rare books. I somehow stored all of this information in my back brain and "forgot" it. When I needed this knowledge later in life, my back brain gave it to my front brain. I didn't know how I knew. By the back brain, I mean the yin part of the mind which links the shaman to the realm of all possibilities.
After awhile, my back brain started channeling arcane information directly from other dimensions when I was reading or lying in bed. It was like reading two books at once or watching a movie with the subtitles of a different movie superimposed. I was tempted to think I was going crazy.
Thanks to the gentle guidance by Louise Scott, I started to see my body as a tool. I could get away with things that others couldn't. I can stare at people, laugh at them, touch their asses on the street -- because they don't think I understand. I can park myself next to them and observe them close-up without them realizing or changing. That is being so visible that it creates invisibility.
But there are other advantages to my body. People project onto me certain mystical powers -- like seeing through their fronts to their real selves -- seeing the past and the future -- and what they should do. They are reacting to some symbol of the deformed medicine man. They use me as a medium for getting through to other dimensions. Because of the slowness of my communication board, they were forced to slow down. They could project whatever they wanted, misread me when it fit them. I was a symbol. And because they gave me power as a symbol, they were afraid of me.
It was just my luck to be born into the long tradition of the deformed shaman, the wounded healer, the blind prophet, the club-footed "idiot" court jester. Primitive tribes believed that if a cripple could survive childhood, he was blessed by the gods. He was special. He was not really from this physical world. He belonged to the spiritual world, with an inside channel to the gods. He was not suited for the normal activities of living such as hunting and fighting. But everything he did or said were omens from gods. He was taken care of by the tribe and lived in freedom. The court jesters in the Middle Ages came from this tradition. They were given an easy life and freedoms such as the ability to tell the king off because their babbling just might have been divine in origin. Parents were known to cripple their children in the hope the child would become a jester, a prophet, a shaman.
My body gives me a tool that other artists spend years to create. I just laughed. Most artists are not as lucky as me. They do not have the built-in advantages and shields that I have. They need to resist the real world, the normal world, more than I do. They need to be more sneaky to avoid being seduced by the business and politics of art. In fact, historically, performance as an art form came into being as a reaction to this seduction of formal art.
Photos (from top to bottom): Stephen Lupino, Linda Mac