Iron Forming Ritual: Performance

The Midsummer celebration is on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. Held annually on June 23/24 it is the largest national celebration in Latvia. Originally Līgo or literally Swaying, the festival celebrates the importance of the sun, Saule, and ritual bonfires burn through the night across Latvia. The Open-Air Art Museum at Pedvale regularly organizes large and expansive fire performances and pyrotechnic events for Midsummer’s night, creating a festival where contemporary aesthetic rituals overlay the celebration of an ancient cultural ritual.

Contemporary cast iron art emphasize performance as an exploration of the theatrical and conceptual dimensions of the medium.The act of iron casting itself has a very performative quality. The event of the pour is choreographed, with specifically timed actions and performances of task. This ritual of iron production, coupled with the dramatic presence of the pourers, the furnace and molten metal, sets the stage for some fascinating explorations of the aesthetics of movement and fire.

Ancient Ritual: Iron has a long heritage of ritual and mysticism that far predates its current reputation as čuguns, a practical material for industrial production. The ability to melt iron was so significant to traditional societies that the process became heavily ritualized and was accompanied with the honoring of significant deities to guarantee the success of the pour. It was also considered a mystical transformation of material, a spiritual gift originally cast down from the heavens in the form of meteorites. These alchemical methods and their narratives afforded the material a rich tone that has only been regained through the contemporary cast iron art movement.

Contemporary Performance: Contemporary iron performances explore the aesthetic possibilities and the versatility of the medium of iron. They reconnect the material to its relevance in our lives and reflect on the rich heritage of iron casting traditions while creating contemporary aesthetic forms. For iron performers the molten iron itself is considered a material of creative expression and the iron pour used as an aesthetic process, similar to the action art of the 1960s. Through interacting with the medium in a variety of ways, contemporary iron performance re-contextualizes iron and iron casting as aesthetic ritual rather than industrial process, and reminds us of the connectivity between art, ritual, landscape and ourselves.

This dual focus on ancient and contemporary ritual during Jāņi – St. John’s Day, as the celebration of the summer solstice is now called in Latvia – will have an incredibly powerful and provocative effect on all of the participants.

Stephen Coles – Performance Projects
Coles Castings, UK – stephen_coles/at/btinternet/dot/com
Andy Griffiths – Performance Projects
Head of Sculpture, Coleg Sir Gâr, Walesm – agriffgriffiths/at/aol/dot/com

Kinship: A Tribute of Iron from Matt Toole on Vimeo.

Matt Toole and Eden Jolly