186 robes, 17 global rituals, 1 poem
Jon Morris was invited back to create a 3rd pinnacle experience for the Kinnernet Europe Conference in Avallon, France. Inspired by the work of Vincent Moon, Morris created the following ritual experience…
We approach St. Lazare Church just before sunset. Inside, you can hear the sound of a harp echoing within the church. Organized in a grid at the church entrance are 186 white cloth squares with words scrawled across them. As you navigate the cloth matrix, you turn back to discover that the squares are united in a poem written by Leah Siegel, “Somedays, my faith seems a flightless bird…”
Wendy Tehara strums the harp next to a rock sculpture at the center of the cathedral. The song invites us to awaken our spirit in a new ritual. We select a word which brings us inspiration and we stand behind it — 186 people from various walks of life, from all over the world stand behind their word. This creates an ominous focus as everyone their white cloth on, becoming a robe. The words of the poem are now scrawled across our chests — united in white, in poetry, dwarfed by 12th century architecture.
Several people circle the stone sculpture. Light emits from their hands, becoming projected images on the floor in front of them. Next, they peel away from the center to encircle the outside of the Cathedral, projecting images of rituals into the hazy air. People spread throughout the space smiling, floating, some even giggling at the words selected by others. Soon, people create phrases from their words, linking arm in arm to string together new sentences.
The game continues: we discover the projected rituals as the spirits illuminate our white robes. We become screens for each other, gifting these beautiful images to one another. We raise our arms in Christ like poses to host these spirits — a Cao Dai ritual from Vietnam; Belogorsky Monastery celebration in Russia; Orlando Vera ritual in Peru; an Easter ritual in Ethiopia; Mappalili in Sulawesi, Indonesia; Ayahuasca Ceremony in the Amazon…
Jurgis Didžiulis shifts the music to begin a processional, leading the projectionists, who shine their films on the backs of the person in front of them. The procession snakes through the church, encircling the central sculpture. Suddenly, the bass drone interrupts and the imagery flickers to life on the front of the church dome. Vincent Moon mixes ritual video and audio live, weaving Islam with Christianity, Hinduism with Sufism. The cathedral dome becomes a melting pot of ritual practice, showcasing humanity’s quest for connection, for meaning, for truth? As the images morph, we watch in awe, unified in poetry, in a trance-like prayer. Our prayer builds as the image of hundreds of men kneeling, rocking forwards and backwards in worship, surely headed for ecclesiastical climax. But as quickly as the energy builds, it mellows, and suddenly a voice is heard from the back of the church…
Mira Awad sings out in Arabic, a haunting solo which blends into a beautiful duet with Hadas Kleinman playing the cello. This pulls us back to the center of the cathedral and as the song fades, one by one, we light candles. Soon, all is silent. One could easily hear a pin drop as 186 people light their candles. Everyone glows anew, our robes making new poems. Our extroverted crowd is quiet. It is still.
After a rich stillness Leah Siegel breaks the silence, softly strumming a guitar to sing a final hopeful prayer, “Death is Not the End.” In this moment, humanity feels eternal, as if death must not be the end…
St. Lazare Church, Avallon, France
Spirits of Light, 2019
200’ x 80’ x 90′ Performance Ritual
Custom White Robes, Pico Projectors, Haze, LEDs, Candles…
Concept/Direction: Jon Morris
Production: Jon Morris & Muriel Sergent
Video Artist: Vincent Moon
Projectionists: Andrew Shearer, Andrus Aaslaid, Cedric Madrid, Colin Payne, Diana Saarva, Vishal Nangalia, Guido Van Nispen, Roderick, Tali Orad
Harp: Wendy Tahara
AM Box, Uke, Voice: Jurgis Didžiulis
Voice: Mira Awad
Cello & Voice: Hadas Kleinman
Guitar and Voice: Leah Siegel
RIF6 Projectors: Provided by Mohawk
ProPhotos by: Maaike Engels, Benoit Bergeret, Fabrice Cavarretta, and Jerome Wittamer
Special Thanks: Mark Goldberg, Saint-Lazare Church, Yaniv Sarig, Amir Orad, Erin McPhereson, Rae Richman, Kim Huynh-Kieu, Sten-Kristian Saluveer, Marius Veltman, Pablo Lobo, Pia Poppenreiter, Helen Lohmus, Muriel Sergent, and everyone else who helped make it possible.