ritual

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"Modern Primitives": The Accelerating Collision of Past and Future in the Postmodern Era

The idea of "Modern Primitives" is an interesting one.  I will not attempt to define it with any authority whatsoever.  To my eyes and limited exposure, it seems to intersect the notion of technology and body in a way that encompasses ritual, experience, definition, display and spirit.  I looked it up this morning, to see where I can bring this conversation into sexgenderbody.com and found this piece over at a Dr. Steven Mizrach's page at FIU.

Modern primitive

Today, largely thanks to publishers such as Re/Search and Loompanics, Autonomedia, and Amok Press, many people are familiar today with the "modern primitive" movement. They know that it involves some sort of strange juxtaposition of high technology and "low" tribalism, animism, and body modification - a kind of 'Technoshamanism,' if you will, at once possession trance and kinetic dance. In books like William Gibson's Count Zero , ultracomplex Artificial Intelligences (AIs) take on the personality of Haitian Voudoun deities, seizing the minds of initiates through neural networks, creating an ersatz technoreligion.

The idea of the "primitive" is of course one from anthropology's abandoned socioevolutionary past. While invented to simply function as a descriptive for temporal phases, it inevitably also functioned as an evaluative term, suggesting that those societies to which it was applied were inferior in terms of literacy, knowledge, technology, social organization, or moral judgement - in a word, they lacked 'civilization.' The notion was of course inescapably ethnocentric, since it assumed that all societies on the planet were on an undeviating climb toward the standards of Western culture with regards to religion (monotheism), marriage practices (monogramy), economics (the free market), governance (representative democracy), etc. The 'primitive' was at once reviled and romanticized, especially by Romantic artists fascinated with the taboo and the exotic, and philosophers swayed by the image of the unfettered Noble Savage.

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Paracosm with Neisha

Photo space in Blue Studio, with a Sybian and the suitcase in which it arrived from Wisconsin; and one of the first pregnant mannequins, dating to the 1970s and sculpted by the late British artist Ara Soner. Photo by Eric Francis.

Our ritual my last night in New York was another reach into abject self-surrender. I have gradually learned the emotional and psychic moves to be entirely submissive to myself. A witness or ritual partner is there to facilitate this and help hold open a space where we know which way the ground is; to provide a seemingly external source of love; and to provide feedback that the experience is valid in a moment where doubt could do actual harm.

Much of what we experienced there is too personal to for me to describe. I can say a few things, though. I moved through a sequence of scenes wherein I saw Neisha as cosmic witness, as empath/healer, as my lover, as my lover under very specific conditions, as her own lover, as the mother of my children, as the lover of someone else she wanted (and whom she described vividly), and as one never to be a lover.

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