ulysses black

ulysses black

word. image. action

The Conservation of Angular Momentum as a Theoretical structure within the Practice of Ritual

Sallis Benny Theatre
Brighton Dec 2012

 

Performance lecture under house lights at the Sallis Benny Theatre

Performance lecture under house lights at the Sallis Benny Theatre

A presentation delivered at the Under Construction performance showcase for the Performance & Visual Practices MA at Brighton University. The aim of the presentation had been to convey a specific theory of ritual practice under development by the artist, concerning the rotation and the structure of a vortex as a means of describing the affect of acceleration of ritual, and the slowing down of time that accompanies competence.
   The presentation also offered the chance to test means of delivering information. In this case, all of the tables were covered in paper tablecloths, allowing the artist to linger at different table at different periods, and draw specific diagrams to illustrate the different points being made. Doing this granted different tables degrees of 'privilege' with a hope of bringing them further into the performance.

Ulysses Black described the theory (very loosely) to an enquirer:

The subject of my presentation was a summary of a developing hypothesis as part of my ongoing research into ritual. The specific hypothesis I presented concerns mapping angular momentum onto ritual repetition. Angular momentum us most frequently described with reference to an ice skater spinning on the spot. When they project their limbs out the speed of the rotation is comparably slower than when they tuck into a ball.
I literally had my eureka moment when sat in the bath feeling the weight of the air around me as the water drained from the tub. I stared mesmerised at the tiny whirlpool vortex and considered how the role of torsion - the acceleration or shifting in speed - caused by the either the broad open top of the whirlpool compared with the tighter or narrower and seemingly faster part of the vortex nearer the plughole.
I had been considering how attention works within rituals and the repetitions of the same ritual over and over. Is there an accrued ‘weight’ to each ritual based on the presence of the previous cycles of the ritual? Might a form of acceleration be taking place, not in the literal speed of the ritual, but in its tightening? The same could be true of any learning derived through repetition. As we get increasingly familiar with the subject matter with each repetition, we may either become increasingly unconscious of the activity until we can ‘do it in our sleep’ - which while certainly effective leaves us in danger with ritual of the ritual becoming a dead or hollow cycling. Alternatively, and the position I would promote is that as we learn the ritual through repetition, we constantly find new nuances to engage with, bringing us deeper into the ritual, or increasing our intimacy with the actions, while also finessing the ritual itself. Part of the power of repeated ritual is their ability to ensnare the attention of the ritualist - I contend that more deeply the ritualist can become ensnared by the ritual, to the exclusion of all else, the closer the ritualist comes to identifying with the ritual itself. And as a consequence, the ritualist may also become increasingly susceptible to the transformative power of the ritual. So that is kind how I might explain this part of the theory. I should probably pause for breath and maybe tell you this from notes not off the top of my head...