Space is the Placeby Timothy Gabb / 02.10.2012
The world opens. The sky bawls with fright as the electric blue of the Karoo excites dreamers into a world which they are free to form. Mobility and perspective are prominent themes – motion, fluidity – from one place to another, one person to another; one identity to another. The playground ignites. Perspective comes with such large spaces; distances. No matter how flamboyant you are, no matter how much your dress screams for attention, you are, nonetheless, constantly dwarfed by the landscape, the large spaces between everything, and of course, the monolithic structures erected all throughout the central ring. Space. The arena alive. An incubator. Space is a central theme; spatial management, spatial dynamics, spatial understanding, spatial coordination, spatial interchanging, being a part of everyone else’s space constantly, redefining your own space.
These types of festivities bear primordial resemblances to ancient shamanic rites of passage and journeys into spiritual realms; there is a sense of nomadic tribalism which fuels the spontaneity of behavior of partygoers. Fashions are borne on the body in a type of positive regress. Partygoers create their own meanings, and fashion their own significations and, although the sphere is not of a truly public nature, the way that identities are performed in such an overwhelmingly aureate way, perhaps attests to the fact that, given the right conditions, the fluidity of self-representation defies the structures of stereotype and the status quo; meanings cannot be fixed, and they constantly evolve with every new narrative expressed by the body – behavior, dress-up, social interaction – it is a phenomenological paradigm, operating around senses and experiences, the whole domain of affective qualities which make us human. Instead of validating the status quo by trying to work within their structures, these gatherings make their own structures, in which the notion of community or society can be reinvented, and taken back, into the world. For Foucault, “the body is produced within discourse… [the body is] a sort of surface on which different regimes of power/knowledge write their meanings”, and thus the body is also the site for the defiance of these regimes of power/knowledge. The body acts as a text whereupon new notions of being are drawn up. This tests the discourses of the status quo, and ultimately attempts to subvert this discourse, creating a new regime of truth – new methods of being and understanding.
The body as vessel, and the mind as a tool. Perspective.
I am sitting in our campsite, when two fairly young trendy cats pull in, evidently fucked up; torn clothes, sweaty foreheads, and bags of booze in their hands.
“Do you guys have a bong around here hey? Please could we use it man… Aweh.”
We hand it over, and they seat themselves comfortably on a bean bag and a bagged tent. The more cordial of the two racks up a bong for his friend, who then inhales the smoke with a contagious desperation. He holds the smoke in, and his head slowly falls onto his pulled up knees. He sits in this position for about eight minutes before his friend becomes cognisant of his behaviour. He looks round at us.
“It was a DMT bong.” He shrugs his shoulders, and turns to his incapacitated friend.
“Russell. Russell. I am going back to our campsite.”
Russell reacts, but his head remains motionlessly on his knees.
“Come man, let’s go find our campsite.”
He struggles for another ten minutes or so, and finally the two crab-walk out of our campsite.
Night has come. Is it Sunday? A climactic burn is beginning. Perspective… Nothing is stable; colours and horizons flow in and out and the cosmos breaths through my nose. The dusty ground is a point of reference, an old friend to turn to when the visual potjie becomes too taunting. A couple of bunnies are swinging around a mounted orb, propelled by humans in the same mechanics as a playground merry-go-round. The faster the base plate is spun, the higher the two bunnies spin out. They are burning. A massive globe nearby starts burning too, and a shark-smiled flame-thrower drives up to it and bursts forth a Dantéan inferno, scorching these structures into oblivion. Next is a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It is a set, about to climax. I am dancing to a van with minimal techno pouring out of it, along with a storm of others doing the same. The dinosaur is blasted by the flame-thrower. It starts moving. There is someone (a real person) being towed behind it. It moves on, in flames, mouth roaring under a starry firmament. It becomes apparent: its trajectory is set to collide with the earth. Huh? Anyhoo, keep dancing. The music builds. The half-moon sets in the distance, as two colossal steel structures collide, and galaxies of sparks shape-shift and dart into the ether. We keep dancing. The music is sounding primal in its simplistic resonances. The T-Rex just fucked up the earth man! Ha, yes – keep dancing. Move with more gusto. Expel your inner inhibitions. Become an animal. Snarl to the stars. Kiss the forehead of the ancestral ghosts which fever their flight amongst the baking collective unconscious on fire in the desert. The moon is scared; she retreats. Faces are contorting – the MDMA heads are chewing their lips in an exhaustive and sweaty appreciation of life. The tides swell in and out, the rhythms penetrate raw atoms, knees jolt, and smiles find one another. Collapse.
No. Keep on keeping on. The circular design of the site is infinite, and one keeps walking around and around, disorientated, yet comfortable. Home at all points. When one lacks all points of reference, a true nature is to be found, something unfamiliar, yet inherently concordant.
A dance here, and a sip there. A smile here, and a hug there. Exchange, give, succumb, smile, froth, wink – walk, dance, jump, glide – the streaming crowds collect and disperse, wax and wane, accelerate and slow down. The moon will rise again, and she shall not fear, she is not scared, scarred, but sacred.
Ah… The base plate spins out. My eyes are watering as myriads of cars churn up dust as they leave for home. What are they thinking? What synapses are firing flames behind eyes behind glasses behind windscreens keeping a storm of dust at bay? I smile remembering the dismembering. Dreams shared. The individual parts of the collective psyche breakdown. People need a shower, a private toilet, a wholesome meal. Six days is a long time in the desert. Water supplies are low. Serotonin levels depleted. The carnivorous inheritance kicks in, and the need to return to comfort and familiar locations override the adventurous spirits. Massive SUVs and kitted Landies make their way slowly across the desolate landscape. What was a thriving hive of colourful activity is now a scene reminiscent of post-apocalyptic dreamscapes. Carl and I have to collapse our tents and pack up, the twinkle in the watery eyes still recognisable. No sunglasses in this baron celebration of existence. Wear it on your sleeve; call it a spade; leave analysis alone. Let it be what it was.
What was it? A white jol, indeed. But the sentiments admirable. The execution, electric. The experience, human.
*All images © Timothy Gabb.