Ritual of Origin


To start with; ritual is not something of the past, nor it is only religious. And to proceed; ritualS are not only symbolizations or representations of socials codes, they create these codes. In other words, social codes are representations of rituals. 

In this quote from “Elementary Forms of Religious Life”, Durkheim elaborates this interaction between the social and the ritual:

“ Collective representations… presuppose that consciousnesses are acting and reacting on each other; they result from actions and reactions that are possible only with the help of tangible intermediaries. Thus, the function of the intermediaries is not merely to reveal the mental state associated with them; they also contribute to its making. The individual minds come outside themselves, but they do this only by means of movement. It is the homogeneity of those movements that makes the group aware of itself and that, in consequence, makes it be. Once this homogeneity has been established and these movements have taken a definitive form and been stereotyped, they serve to symbolize the corresponding representations. But these movements symbolize those representations only because they helped to form them.” (Durkheim [1912] 1995: 232)

That ritual is the source of culture, is a revelation to me, which not only completely changed my previous ideas about how to conduct this PhD, but also gradually, my understanding of life…

Individualism (not the individual) is a young phenomena, it is almost as young as some buildings, which still stand today, maybe a few hundred years old. Not very impressive, isn’t it? 

Prior to this wave of individualism, humans described themselves in herds, groups, families and communities. Collective consciousness was the essential key to existence. Existence was actually defining co-existence, without the necessity to add the co-. Bonding was everyday reality, not outside of it. Ritual time had to be systematically repeated in order to maintain social bonds, hence to maintain society. Most important of all, bonding meant co-existence by way of keeping in time with the others’ rhythm and movement. Co-existence was rhythmic, performative.

Following the tides and after shocks of enlightenment, industrial revolution, secularism; as more and more humans defined themselves less of a community but more of a well-constructed and self-sufficient self, they also ceased to be in need of ritual time. Therefore, we could explain our modern times as anti-ritualistic. 

However, cultural memories do not erase so quickly, and it is also an illusion to think that those (mostly Western) cultures who are now based on individual expression, and self-existence, can shadow or (even worse) re-define the other societies who still express themselves as collective, and co-existing. It is true they are dominant in many aspects, but I think this dominancy is coming from their vocality, which is necessary to maintain the individual’s position. Silent masses are still silent and they are still mass. For some reason which I shall try to elaborate later, silent masses do not need to vocalize, to express, to export ideas. 

And when I look at Art now, or the art of before, I cannot help to think that it has been primarily based on the foundations of individual expression. This is my current suffocation about life and art, and I aim to ease this feeling of suffocation by researching on these topics. 

To exorcise the individual out of the ‘soul’ of art, is my aim. 

While seeking this rather impossible dream, I know that I must first look into life. How life develops, how culture is constructed and practiced. As I mentioned above, individualism is young, so then culture has undeniable been constructed by the co-existence of humans, by the ‘movement’ of the communities, small or big. That is to say they were created in ritual time. There is also no reason to believe/fear that it can no longer develop the same way…

to be continued…

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