Understory (1997) - 8 min. video/performance/installation
For the past three years Rose has been participating in underground Demetrian rituals that celebrate the solstices and equinoxes of the sun. These ceremonies take place in the storm sewers and tunnels that run beneath the city of Philadelphia and have come to serve as the rite of passage for a peculiar urban subculture. Described as a cross between “a ceremony and an incantation”, the work presents us with a story-like skein of images that suggest the journey of a figure that walks in water, the speech of fire, and the mystery of vision. Understory was originally commissioned as a performance work by the American Music Theatre Festival and has been screened at the Osnabruck Media Art Festival.
At about that time, they began to perform Demetrian rituals of uncertain origin in the tunnels, corridors, and chambers that lay beneath the surface of the city.
We may think of this as a story, a story about a story, somewhere between a ceremony and an incantation.
Once upon a time, once beside a time, once below a time, once between a time.....
I don’t know who the drummer is.
I don’t know if he is performing some private act of grief or if he is issuing a public proclamation.
Years later, we will realize, it was the voice of this man he was invoking.
He tells the story. He is an ally of the Ouroborian logos, he gathers light from the five sources and he points to a path thru many metaphors. He knows. He speaks in an invented tongue that resembles, perhaps, the act of mercy. He says- follow me, follow me.... for I will remember .....you.
We are on a journey.
We are on many journeys.
The topography of our dream is not stable.
Our movements are now like the tracings of a circuit in the brain - our perambulations the ideogram of restless thought itself.
Knots, tangles, snarls appear. We begins to sense a restless topology within whose proliferating schemas a mysterious resonance, an interiority begins to emerge.
The totality of our nexus now exceeds linear mapping; the integer of spatiality is root; the rhythm of articulation exceeds boundary wrapping; the apostrophe of dimension is moot.
Another space erupts, enfolding us in its catastrophic embrace. Our voice is no longer our own, and we hear, far off, the invisible speech of another space.
.. and then something must be done. We must make a decision, perform an act, endure, obtain, relinguish, provide, conquer, inhabit, remember, sing.
The narrator tries to make sense of it- to explain, enact, embody, persuade.
“I am trying to speak in a new language,” he says. “Please forgive me.”
“This.....was...... how...... it...... was......,” he says
“this was how it was and this was how they did it.”
But before any of this, before they name anything, they begin to see the world in two ways.
Time stops. Sound ...now .....rules.
Time stops, sound rules, sight falters, vision rests.
“This was how it was,” he says, “ and this was how they did it.”
And then we realize that there are others, more furtive, who gather by night and signal thru the flames.