The Cephalophore, The Reliquary and The Rye is an immersive experience, meant to activate the sensory and prime an audience for a multidimensional encounter.

A cephalophore, from two Greek words meaning “head-carrier”, is a saint who is depicted carrying their own severed head. The Cephalophore, who is martyred by beheading and yet does not die, is a dramatic example of miraculous triumph over death.

In Disembodied Heads in Medieval and Early Modern Culture, edited by Barbara Baert, a cephalorphoric saint selects the spot at which he or she wishes to be buried and venerated. In doing so, the cephalophore essentially initiates and localizes the cult of his or her relics. Not only does the Cephalophore suspend death, they also command the attention of the cult and reveal the power of their remains.

The Cephalophore, The Reliquary and The Rye creates a Viewing Cell in the form of a Yellow Green House that acts as a Life Size Reliquary.This interactive set seeks to initiate an audience, awaken them to their lived experience and reveal the power within artifice. A viewer gets to explore the Reliquary Cell and interact with the objects inside. Biomorphic ceramic forms fuse with alchemical alembic glass. These hybrids diffuse scent meant to evoke the wet ground, a place for burial and for life to emerge. The audience is offered a drink of Kvass (kuh-vass) and is able to observe the processes of its creation. From grain to grass, to flour to bread, to its submersion in water and honey. A live feed camera records the fermentation process as well as surveilling the viewer’s movement in space. Traditional Kvass takes stale bread, usually rye bread, and turns it into a bubbly probiotic beverage. It is a common drink in Ukraine and many Central European Slavic countries. Toasted Bread is mixed with boiled water and honey and fermented by the addition of a yeast starter. Fermentation was a process to ward off pathogens prior to refrigeration and Kvass was consumed by the peasant class whom had limited access to clean water. As the Cephalophore suspends death, fermentation is also a process of preservation, a disruption of decay.

The work references Paul Thek’s Technological Reliquaries series, which drew upon the Catholic Tradition of reliquaries, and his work The Tomb, a life-sized effigy of the artist atop a pink ziggurat. In the Technological Reliquaries the differentiation between the piece of meat and the box speaks to what is reflected upon and what is encountered by the viewer. The relationship between thought and experience is echoed within the replica of my severed head. The Tomb was a “set”, a subject of constant change and a complex organism that could rupture and expand. The Cephalophore, The Reliquary and The Rye too is in a state of fluidity, influenced by those who enter.

The cephalophoric troupe is significant in that the saint is presented in actively controlling his/her own remains. In procuring a replica of my head and casting it as my counterpart in my performance and set piece, I am also controlling how my image is capture and broadcasted in space. I film as I perform and I too act as my own relic custodian, my own reliquary. This action is self-affirming, I am real because I have validated myself through the act of self-translation.

In the practice of Inner Alchemy, putrefaction, or fermentation, is the fifth stage and describes the decay of one’s old self and the rebirth of one’s true self. There is a rotting away of the former self. In the fermentation of the kvass, the rye is broken down in the vessel and transforms to a new form.

The performance film is comprised of footage from several non audience performances layered over one another. The first performance occurred on the stage of the The Wyatt Pavilion in the arboretum at UC Davis. The Wyatt Pavilion was originally a livestock judging arena, erected in 1907, but was relocated and renovated into a Elizabethan style theater in 1963. I performed for a camera in the theater while rerecorded footage is projected behind. I manipulate my image and double in space using a live projection feedback. The next layer is footage depicting the preparation of kvass, the bubbly probiotic beverage made from rye bread. The final layer is solo performance staged in the surrounding agricultural landscape of Davis. Each veneer of footage speaks to a narrative of sacred agriculture and vital cycles of renewal found within landscape and holistic methods of cultivation and fermentation.

The distillation stage is the removal of impurities. A liquid is boiled until it evaporates,  as the steam condenses, the essence is liberated from the matter. The diffusers scent the room, its fragrant vapor is a metaphor for the actualization of one's spirit. 

Using Format