Nirvana through neologisms
Rituals play a role in many parts of life, from day-to-day habits like brushing one’s teeth after getting up in the morning to religious ceremonies. The flow of university semesters, the semiannual registration for classes, even the passing of the seasons is a kind of a ritual in its eternal cycle.
Last Friday at 7 p.m. at The Frame Gallery, senior art and dramaturgy major Molly McCurdy and junior dramaturgy major Lauren Parks staged a production centered on the presence of rituals in our lives. Upon entering Pantheon of Neologisms, visitors were met with a fantasy-like area in which the exhibit was acted out. Multicolored streamers hung from the ceiling, swinging in the dim light as a carousel horse hung overhead and a wooden mummy-like sculpture leaned against a wall. A silent montage of film clips flickered against a wall, as a mixture of chanting songs played in the background.
Everywhere visitors looked, they saw objects juxtaposed out of their own worlds and into The Frame. The production space was divided into four sections that corresponded to the four seasons.
McCurdy and Parks began the production with spring and performed their way through all of the seasonal areas in order, acting out various rituals along the way. In the spring cave, constructed with fairy lights and hung linen, they played with flowers; they then played ball games on a trampoline in the summer area, in which hundreds of blue and white plastic bags were fastened to the walls.
The autumn area consisted of a swathe of flags and tapestries creating a canopy over a sitting area constructed with pillows, surrounded by random candles, toys, and a platter of food. Finally, winter was created by a small pool filled with water and surrounded by suitcases and mirrors. The last room, bare except for an ornate chair in the center and filled with red light, represented the nirvana that could be obtained through these rituals.
McCurdy and Parks made their way through the seasons several times, acting out rituals like bowing to an altar, playing with toys, and arranging food and offering it to guests. Other than this repetition, their performance was mainly improvised. Guests talked, ate the offerings of food, and watched the rituals being performed throughout the seasons.
The exhibit was fascinating and beautiful, mixing elements of nostalgia with exotic pieces like small religious statues and foreign flags. First-year art major Lauren Faigeles commented on the impression of the exhibit as she watched McCurdy and Parks perform: “It’s like childhood for adults.”
After the performance, guests were free to mingle and examine the structures around them, as well as partake in the food. “If I could live in a dream land, this is how I’d want to live,” Jena Tegeler, a first-year science and humanities scholar, said as she sat under the autumn display.
The entire production area was constructed in a single night, although McCurdy and Parks had been collecting supplies for several weeks. When asked about the inspiration for this production, McCurdy said that it was based on “fluxes and happenings from the ’60s,” and it was a way to “recreate your own sense of origin.”
“We’re working with cycles and things we like,” Parks said as a way of summary. “It’s about social dramas, rituals, ceremonies, and finding nirvana.” When asked if they had found nirvana through this production, Parks and McCurdy laughed, and McCurdy responded, “In a way.”