I decided that it would be good to celebrate the ritual of dyeing with a performance in which an audience was invited to participate. I had been reading about a number of performance artists over the past few weeks in Heartney’s Art and Today : Art and Audience, Nato Thompson’s Living as Form : Socially Engaged Art from 1991-2011 and also in Bourriaud’s Relational Aesthetics. These books have highlighted the diversity of the art of performance and social engagement, and the clever and bizarre ways in which they capture the viewer’s imagination, and participation.I sent out invitations to students and staff at college, with a tear off slip at the bottom of the invite, on which the participant was asked to write a wish which would then be added to the dyepot with a plant or flower that they had picked. Having been inspired by the “Weedrobes” of Nicole Dextras and the Beltane Fire Festival costumes, I decided to paint my face white and to make a headdress of natural flowers (with a couple of invasive plants added in there- ivy and rhododendron). I made a wand/ “spurtle” for stirring the dyepot from a silver birch branch, which I decorated with ribbons. Silver birch is a tree with magical properties and was traditionally used to make maypoles. I had to wait until the morning of the performance to make the flower crown as it would have wilted after a couple of hours. I picked flowers from the garden and also rhododendrons and ivy from the churchyard across from my house. I also decided to cut some stalks from my angelica “triffid” which is about 8ft tall, as I could use this as a prop in the ceremony. I arrived about 10am, to set up a small table and stove, and filled the dyepot with boiling water. I had a few volunteers who helped to tie coloured ribbons on branches of the trees leading up to the location. The audience gathered at the art studio at 10.30am, and we walked to a small clearing in some woodland at the edge of the college campus. When everyone was in position, I began. I wasn’t as nervous as I thought I might be, but was a bit concerned that I would get tongue tied, or forget my lines, which I had rehearsed for about an hour the previous evening. The script went something like this: “Greetings, friends! Welcome to the performance of the Magic Dyepot….The art of dyeing can be traced back to primitive times, when man used dyes and pigments which he made from plants and mineral to dye animal sklns which he wore and to create wonderful cave paintings. In Scotland, dyeing was an important process and was used widely by the Celts to colour their clothing and their skin, in preparation for battle. It was a magical process, a feminine ritual which men were not permitted to attend. Today, however, everyone is welcome to participate and make your own special contribution to the Magic Dyepot. The Goddess of the Dyepot is watching over us, and when you honour her with your gifts, she will endeavour to grant your wishes and your deepest desires.
Let us begin by grounding ourselves…let us all join hands, close our eyes and think beautiful and magical thoughts…. Without further ado, let us now begin…can I have the first volunteer please…(hand stirring stick to them, take angelica to bless each participant) Participants came up one by one, and after placing their offering and wish into the dyepot, handed the stick to someone else.
Luckily, it went without any hitches, and was captured on film my my cameraman Will. Unfortunately, my photographer didn’t show, so most of the photos I have are screen shots, and the quality is not as great as I would have liked. At the end of the performance, I thanked everyone, and took the dyepot home with me to stew, having added my contribution to it…my crown! I intend to stew the contents of the dyepot for a week, and then “bottle” the performance as memento. Feedback which I received from members of the audience was very positive, and I thought they all participated really well. .