… a thought making crooked all that is straight.

Photography

The insider and the out-outsider

Once again my mind returns to thoughts of the individual and her/his relationship to community. I blame my university background in social anthropology.

Tomorrow I am going to a fetish market and the fetish party thereafter. Yes, whips, chains, spankings, dungeon equipment and all. The last time I attended I had a wardrobe malfunction just before leaving, and so opted for the most comfortable and smartest outfit I had. Unfortunately the outfit was totally unsuitable for a fetish venue: unless you are wearing rubber corsets, PVC outfits, Steampunk or transgender clothing, the acceptable alternative is black. How ironic that I virtually always wear black but ended up choosing a psychedelic mixture of patterns and colours instead. As a result I felt out of place and people didn’t know how to pigeon-hole me. I felt like a Sunday school teacher taking a walk through an opium den. Clothes identified people’s proclivities; they identified whether a person was Dom/me or sub. Dom/mes will not talk to submissive people because they might belong to another Master or Mistress, and it is a transgression of unspoken rules to play with somebody else’s submissive.

Years ago I had a social networking account. I was connected with many occult people, mainly of the LHP persuasion. I was new to the path and felt a bit out of my depth although I was making strides in my learning. But I never felt fully a part of the community because I didn’t ever “play” the darker-than-the-darkiest-darkness dude, so black my own mother couldn’t find me in a coal shed shebang. One day I looked at all the status lines:

Hail the chthonic forces!
My soul is travelling the reverse of the tree of life
Hell’s gates open and I embrace the fury!
Today I honour Baron Samedi!
Only those initiated into true gnosis will pass the doors of Death

And my status line?

I’m just about to have a cup of tea and put a chicken in the oven

Sigh. No. Somehow I just wasn’t wearing the right online “uniform”. I remained on the fringes, my hyperbole too soft, too friendly, too this-is-how-I-am. I didn’t wear a mask, and masks were de rigeur!

Groups have rules and etiquette that distinguish them from other groups, otherwise what would make them different? Isn’t it enough to have a different way of thinking, without having to fall into the trap of becoming a fashion clique: got the book, got the T-shirt, got the hand gesture to use on every photo to show that I rock! But humans are base creatures and we find comfort in such binding actions – the “in” vocabulary that leaves all others bewildered, the “in” jokes that no one else understands. Being “in” is so much more preferable as a social primate than being “out”. The outsider has no place in this jungle, she is rogue and looked upon suspiciously. She is the hedge-rider, the traditional witch straddling boundaries between village and … the wild, forbidding “world out there”/the “world beyond life”; she straddles social customs and acts as an intermediary between our so-called civilised, social self and our animal, degenerate self – the latter dragging us down, the former supposedly raising us up.

So even in fringe groups, such as occultists and fetishists, who may define themselves as outsiders because they dwell outside of the mainstream, there is a focus on social integration and rules of belonging … if you transgress them, you are out of the outsiders – a twist on Micky Flanagan’s brilliant skit on going out-out. Suddenly you are the out-outsider.

But if you play by the rules, learn the group language and wear the group mask, then you too can belong! It’s a toss-up between being true to your authentic self and finally bridging that yawning gap of loneliness and isolation. For those who have truly experienced loneliness, what wouldn’t they do to connect and belong?

However, sacrificing your self to the group mores can mean that you lose the outsider edge; you lose the ability to straddle more than one world. You are subsumed within an all-encompassing whole, rather than striding forth on your personal path, however weird or humdrum that may be. Not everybody’s authentic self is eccentric and quirky. Mine is, but that doesn’t make it better or worse than somebody who raises their hands in horror at what I do or don’t do.

The real question is the motivation behind our actions. Are we ACTing or RE-acting? Are we following the herd from a need to belong, or are we driven forward by an internal motivation, a lust for self-manifestation?

So, tomorrow I shall wear the right uniform. I shall behave in a way that people know I am Domme. I shall speak the group language and enjoy a day of belonging. But when I return home, I shall undress, light candles on my altar, pet my rat and continue reading about Pomba Gira. My happy medium is to continue straddling several worlds; to dabble my toes in the “in” puddle, before drying my feet and walking off alone into the woods. I am a hedge-rider, a witch, and I always shall be. I am an outsider, an out-outsider even, and that’s fine by me. The questions I leave you with are: how much of your own behaviour is an action originating from an urge for true manifestation of self, the expression of your unique will? And how much is it a RE-action to a need for belonging, a desire to be “in”, a longing to bridge the loneliness within? Are you straddling the hedge demarcating village life and the wilds? Or are you holding hands with your fellow group members, backs turned to the darkness, eyes firmly shut for fear of looking over your own shoulders?

©StarofSeshat 2012


Ispirazione!

Inspiration comes in unlikely places and I’m finding it hard riding the natural peaks and troughs of creativity.

Today someone called me “an artist”; a name I don’t feel I deserve, but it challenged something inside me, because ultimately that is my vocation and has been since a young age – another neglected aspect of myself.

Then this evening I watched a BBC programme about the designer Valentino. I found him and the people who worked around him inspiring. I found his female clientele insipid, superficial and gushy. As I saw them fawn over him, so obviously out of a yearning to have greatness brush off on them and heighten even further the botoxed foreheads, implanted cheek bones and ballooned bosoms – as I watched them I yelled, “Get a fucking grip, they’re only clothes!” And it’s true; as clothes and symbols of material superiority, they are nothing – they add nothing to a person’s worth but actually highlights the gaping hole inside them. Materialism as the Moloch that devours and expands the dark, empty spaces inside the soul. But as Art, as pieces of fabric couture, Valentino is indeed a genius.

Anyway, following the programme I felt so inspired by the skills of the couture seamstresses and the way-out couture of the 1920s (which taught and inspired Valentino’s work of the 1960s through a career lasting 45 years) that a stream of ideas flooded through me for my own work.

In writing, the advice is “Write what you know about” … some artists have taken the same approach: I have always found Lowrie too literal and emotionless; Cezanne and Van Gogh also show us the world through their eyes but with a layer of emotion; and others have maybe allowed the emotion to flow more strongly, such as Chagall and Dali; or delved even further into the mind as did the Expressionists and Abstract Expressionists. These are just subjective examples (and personal preferences), I am neither an art historian nor an art critic. But it got me thinking.

I am now looking at ways of combining my photography, my embroidery and my writing in single pieces.

My photography is solely about composition. I don’t have a fancy camera. It is a more than five year old, point-and-click digital camera. I don’t understand photo manipulation or photographic software, nor do I want to as I find most photo manipulation to look trite, but never quite achieving the coolness of kitsch.

My embroidery includes original sketches, machine embroidery, hand embroidery (mostly), beading, sequining… I am strongly traditional in my techniques yet experimental in what I produce.

And my writing … well, you read enough of that here, although I have also written fiction and poetry. No embroidery will be big enough to include an entire novel or even short story … or most poems … but sometimes a line is all that is needed. So I will be working on embroidery techniques using different fonts and lettering.

Let’s just say, I’ve gone from staring soulfully at my textile icon of Jesus (his hair is now finished and I have worked further on his halo [or ‘space helmet’ as a friend calls it]) to having a pool of ideas to pick and work from.

We still have no proper electricity here (over 2 years now), so no overhead lights anywhere. I think I need to invest in a daylight standing lamp so that I can actually work in the evenings. Often I feel inspired but the dim and gloomy light from my two lamps isn’t sufficient to see the stitches.

So, thank you Valentino for inspiring me, for reminding me the beauty and thrill of creation. Grazie mille!

©StarofSeshat 2011