Photography by Marie Tomanova
QUEEN$ DOMIN8TiN, a Go! Push Pop project in collaboration with Untitled Queen, took place at the Bronx Museum during their monthly First Friday! Series. A performance loosely based on Egyptian queen mythology, pop culture and drag accelerating our current global shift toward enhanced moon energy and the Divine Feminine, the work was a neo-shamanic ritual celebrating the cosmic, sensual creative “Kundalini Shakti” or “serpent energy” coiled at the base of the spine.
Sexuality, trance, and the healing use of vital sexual energy merge in Shamanic activity. Barbara Tedlock, PhD defines shamanism as a means by which drumming, combined with dancing, singing, storytelling and metaphor have been used cross-culturally for ages to bring on trance, spirit journey and deep soul connection by way of communion with ancestors, Gods and Goddesses for communal health and healing. As Tedlock recounts in her groundbreaking 2005 book The Woman in the Shaman’s Body, ideal gender is commonly found embodied in an androgynous deity, a creator of shifting gender, or a co-gendered cultural hero.
Shamans shift gender as they work. Our performance with Untitled Queen highlights the import of the female role in shamanic practice, despite her historical erasure, and the central role contemporary Goddess Archetypes play in the digital age through the cult of popular culture with respect to queer, racial and feminist politics.
Riding the technicolor coat tails of the exploding contemporary NYC drag scene that has declared Bushwick it’s epicenter and the local Bizarre Bar (where you can usually find Untitled Queen and her camp of louder than life high-glam divas in full regalia) its mothership, Go! Push Pops called up Untitled Queen about a collaboration. Having also gone the Fine Arts route obtaining an MFA from Parsons in 2009, Untitled Queen remarked that it wasn’t until she started performing in drag that she really started to garner an audience for her creative work.
It’s been a long time since gays of the West Village had to risk their life crushing glass to make pre-99 cent store eye glitter, before you could get a neon tutu and a spiked bra from nearly every store on Knickerbocker avenue. Although drag certainly pre-dates terms like “queer” or “trans.” Drag is like a primordial state of mind harkening back to when men of matriarchal times castrated themselves so they could bleed and be closer to the Goddess. By making the connection to Shamanism and the decidedly queer nature of mass mediated contemporary Goddess Archetypes, QUEEN$ DOMIN8TiN erases distinctions between high and low culture, eradicating barriers of race and class at the same time we straight murda the gender binary.
We all know gender-bending has run rampant in fashion and music since the beginning of time. We didn’t need Miley Cyrus coming out as a butch lesbian ass-chaser during the VMAs or her spikes and leather S&M look before that to confirm this. Meanwhile scholars are calling out Nicki Minaj and her male alter ego as Elegba, the Yorùbán “trickster” God at the crossroads of transformation. For QUEEN$ DOMIN8TiN, we merely set out to broadcast the current rise of the Queen archetype and confirm the exponential effect of the two-spirited body in the real and virtual imaginary, laying claim to its power as chiefly visual.
As a performative, neo-shamanic ritual, QUEEN$ DOMIN8TiN foregrounded the queer body as transcendent/ shapeshifter/seer/healer for the Nu Age. With Untitled Queen in the lead as Goddess/Queen/Idol Statuette, Go! Push Pops drummed, sang and slowly wrapped Untitled in shimmering fabrics we pulled from our bodies. Rhythmically wrapping Untitled with fabric, tape, crepe paper and neon ribbon, we sang, beat the drum and called maniacally upon the Godesses of the Upper and Lower realms as we prepared the Queen for mummification and celebrated the complete ecstatic cycle of birth, life, and death. Says Untitled of her experience, “When I was being wrapped in the fabrics by the Push Pops, the warmth brought me to a rolling baby carriage, when I was being pushed along by my sister, and it was covered by a white blanket but the sun still shined through it. This cocooning and the singing became an almost lullaby, and as soon as I began sinking into repose, I felt the air also close in, and get darker and harder to breathe intertwining this descent into birth and death. Our performance and collaboration was in its entirety from ideation into action, a presentation and preservation of the feminine/androgynous power and how it can slide, flow, slither, and flip in our DIY goddess ritual.”
Adorning Untitled with jewels and pearls as gifts to take into the afterlife, as a final touch we crowned her with a neon serpent head made from paper. Maintains Tedlock, shamans use metaphors and symbols – in this case the snake – to describe a mythic world and to help their subject manipulate sensory, emotional, and cognitive information in a way that alters his or her perception of inner dis-ease.
The serpent has many meanings, among its association with the yogic Kundalini Shakti energy, within Mayan mythology, the serpent is the personification of the sky. According to Egyptian lore, the serpent also brought upon the suicidal ending of Queen Cleopatra who took her own life by sticking her hand into a basket holding a poisonous snake.
QUEEN$ DOMIN8TiN intertwined the sensory realms of color, rhythm and motion to uphold the cosmic consciousness of the Divine Feminine. Like a gilded and ancient clan we explored the shamanic concept “speaking of the blood,” what Tedlock explains is a physical manifestations of our connection with the cosmos…a remarkable bodily-based form of intuitive knowledge. Ultimately, QUEEN$ DOMIN8TiN occurred as a highly charged and glittering spectacle highlighting one primordial notion, that *Goddess Worship* is the oldest religion of all.