Banner image: Worm Feet, Alicia Radage (2021)

Read Alicia's first blog: Shamanism and neurodivergence

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. This is the second in a series of blogs titled 'Beyond human.' 

My journey to Shamanism began with my journey to performance. But I didn’t realise that my journey to performance itself started with my Shamanic journeying. When I found Shamanism, it felt like a coming home; a remembering of where I came from and the knowledges that I’ve always had but forgotten. 

The process of Shamanically exploring realms that are beyond the shared reality we dwell in felt very similar to the process of making performance art; the intuitive channelling of the senses in ways that aren’t considered acceptable, normal, or commonplace in everyday life. Through both performance art and Shamanic journeying, you place your trust in your intuition, listening to your senses and body beyond empirical knowledge and verified rationality.

For years before I stumbled across the intentional practice of Shamanic journeying, I was working with the word ‘wild.’ I would chant and write it in my performances. I was obsessed with making work in ‘wild’ spaces in rural areas away from other humans so I could tune into the frequencies of the more than Human. I would wander around London to find spaces that felt like the wild was fighting and creeping back into unattended spaces.

Through this animist belief I see other materials, whether ‘alive’ or not, as collaborators.

So, when I started intentionally practicing Shamanic journeying, it found a loving home in my work and my practice blossomed. I have always made both live performances and performances for camera. Being in lockdown, performance for camera became the only outlet. Travelling to wilder spaces became impossible. I found them within my locality, within my local London parks, within my garden, and within myself.

My journeys have led me to connect with the more than human in the Shamanic realm, different species of life, be them animal, plant, or mineral. And through this process I have found a deeper connection to those things that are immediately around me. Within my own body I’ve felt the shedding and blossoming of the tree in my garden over the past few months. I’ve spent time with the worms in my garden and felt my own muscles contract and release whilst watching them arise from and burrow into the ground. 

This has expanded how I work through my own body in performance and how I embody it in relation to other ‘materials.’ Through this animist belief I see other materials, whether ‘alive’ or not, as collaborators. Within animism everything is alive and embodies energy, even your phone and your shoes.

When lockdown began, I was commissioned by ]performance s p a c e [ to show a performance digitally for their platform ]PS[ Screens. I decided to bring the worms from my garden into my studio. I’ve long been obsessed with worms; how they move, communicate, and think. I wanted to find a way of connecting with them further and so I filmed them placed on various parts of my body: legs, stomach, tongue. With the intention of exploring interspecies communication, I found a way of merging Human modes and Worm modes of communication. Thus, I wrote on the wall with soil on my tongue after meditating on worms and their environments - the fact that they eat, process, defecate, and move through soil.

After bringing them into my studio I decided I should go to them. I spent a lot of time journeying with and as worm, viscerally feeling the movements through soil and being amongst the vast subterranean mycorrhizal network. During other journeys with Humans in the Shamanic realm I was taught a dance, a part of which was almost like running on the spot. These journeys began to inform my work. When performing this dance, I found it provokes worms to come to the surface as it simulates rainfall, which is why birds tap the ground to hunt for worms.

This birthed the video ‘Worm Dance,’ where I perform this dance and then work with the worms that have come above ground. Last Summer, my friend spent the day on Hastings beach and brought me back four dried Dogfish heads to work with in my performances. At first, I was at a loss as to how to work with these smelly, alien dead carcasses. So, I spent a lot of time journeying with them, having them eat me, digest me entirely, and birth me anew; shapeshifting into them, swimming through the sea and hunting in packs.

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This deepened my understanding and connection to the animal, and I began to make work with them more easily, feeling more of an affinity to them and not using them as a material. ‘Caught’ is a video piece (watch it in last week's blog here) which is centred around a photograph of a Dogfish head attached to my head with metal wire. 

Remembering through Shamanic journeying has been a process of remembering how to interact and reconnecting to the wild beyond the domestication of the everyday. My performances for camera and the video art pieces I’ve created have been an embodiment of this remembering. Can the camera capture this process of rewilding myself? I think so, yes. It helps me to process what I experience in my journeys and bring it to my physical life and work, as well as offering means for others to experience and feel this rewilding within themselves.