Banner image: Underneath Infinity (2020), Alicia Radage

Read the next blog in Alicia's series

Since late last year, we have been supporting artist Alicia Radage in the development of their Arts Council-funded project which has since evolved into an online group exhibition of Neurodiverse artists, Encountering A New Normal, in addition to individual works emerging from their own practice. Through research and creative experimentation, Alicia is currently exploring the potential relationship between Shamanism and Neurodiversity.

It is said that Shamanism is the practice of Animism, which is the belief that everything is alive. Shamanic journeying is a practice that enables us to travel to Shamanic realms where we can commune with other lifeforms. Journeys are accompanied by Shamanic drumming, which induces Theta brainwaves within which we can enter altered states of consciousness. During journeys, we receive healings and knowledges and can shapeshift into other lifeforms.

We experience this happening with our ‘Shamanic’ selves (our spiritual selves), not with the physical bodies we inhabit every day. This happens in the realms of Mythos: thus, we interpret metaphors that we experience in the journeys for their meanings. An example could be having a Jaguar suck out black sludge from your solar plexus and replacing it with a healing plant.

I am an artist working through performance, video, text, digital collage, and audio. For years I have been privately practicing Shamanic journeying. This came about as I stumbled across a series of books on ‘Therapeutic Shamanism’ by Paul Francis. I had previously had numerous experiences akin to what was described in the books, induced by various processes aimed at bringing about altered states of consciousness, yet the books described a process through which to enter these states in an accessible and methodical fashion. 

...sensory overload can feel like an all-consuming blinding, itchy, tangled web underneath my skin

The experience felt like a ‘coming home,’ both in terms of my personal life and my art practice. I began to realise that my creative process, always lead by intuition and strong visions, shared common ground with Shamanic journeying and thus journeying became a way of honing skills in both my art practice and personal spiritual awareness.

The practice of Shamanic journeying is a path towards reconnecting with the vividness of our senses in their entirety and, it is said, reconnecting to what it is to be human, if ‘human’ is living in balanced relationship with the rest of the ecological system. I have begun to frame this as a process of ‘Remembering.’

As part of my current Arts Council England funded project, I have been training with The Three Ravens College of Therapeutic Shamanism. Bringing Shamanism and psychotherapy together, the college was founded as a way to bring the relevance of Shamanism to the contemporary world, making it applicable to the Humans we are now.

Why am I looking into Shamanism?

Primarily, I feel a longing to connect to the more than human. In Shamanism, the term ‘Power Loss’ is used to describe a loss of connection to the more-than-human. This is understood to have been brought about through the myth of human supremacy, which has led to the perception that we deserve dominion over the planet’s resources and that ‘our environment’ is something separate to us as opposed to humans being embedded in ecological systems. When we lose this power, we start seeing the other than human as resources for our Anthropocentric world, as opposed to our kin.

It seems we have forgotten that we are contingent beings. The current climate crisis, a result of this culture of human supremacy, has destroyed an enormous amount of biodiversity and threatens to destroy life of Earth; maybe we are not as self-sufficient and self-actualising as once thought. Regaining this Power heals us, both individually and collectively, and is a way towards sustaining life on this planet. I found there to be convergence between this reconnection to the ecology, the exploration of senses this activates, and the experience of heightened senses and sensory overload as a Neurodivergent person. I was compelled to research this relationship further.

How has it affected my practice?

As a Neurodivergent artist who frequently experiences sensory overload in day-to-day life, I have found Shamanism to be a path to channel my senses. Shamanic journeying focusses on exploring and developing our senses for the purpose of self-actualisation and healing this ‘Power Loss.’ When I journey regularly, I feel more in tune with my senses, and feel sensorially overloaded less often day-to-day. To me, sensory overload can feel like an all-consuming blinding, itchy, tangled web underneath my skin and I feel Shamanic journeying makes space for this web to unweave. 

I often work with my body as material and Shamanic work has led me to become more aware of my body in terms of placing it in a contingent relationship with other life forms. Journeys can include embodying other beings, such as animals, plants and rocks: a process known as ‘shapeshifting.’ From this has arisen a profound respect and understanding for the more than human. Now, when working artistically with them, I see them as co-creators of the work.

Caught (2021), Alicia Radage

Audio description

I have found ways of both listening to and convening with them and through this a type of conversation arises, of which the work is a manifestation. Examples of this are my work with the dried heads of dogfish, found washed up on a beach, and live worms from my garden. Through journeying with and as them and doing extensive research on them outside of Shamanic journeys, I have learnt about their natures and this has driven the work in particular directions. My next blog will look further into this through the lens of the performance and video work I’ve been making over lockdown.

Overall, my work in Shamanic practices has opened doors to many more worlds, which in turn has shone a light on parts of myself that were cast in shadow. More than change my art practice, it has helped me to articulate it more clearly.

Alicia Radage is a London based artist working primarily through performance, video, text and sound. They are currently undertaking a creative research project into the relationship between Shamanism, creativity and Neurodiversity, explored through their art practice. Their work is focussed on exploring the connection to the more than Human through a queer lens. This is the first in a series of blogs titled 'Beyond Human' that Alicia has written for Shape.

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