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@btinternet.com
Andy Griffiths – Performance Projects
Head of Sculpture, Coleg Sir Gâr, Walesm – agriffgriffiths@aol.com

Jāņi Performances
Latvia is a country with strong traditions and a rich heritage around the festival of the Summer Solstice. Performance events will be scheduled to coincide with the national Latvian festival of Jāņi on June 23-24, 2014. The Summer Solstice is the shortest night of the year and as such is highly celebrated in Northern European cultures as a feast in honor of the sun and its role in sustaining life and contributing to a successful harvest. Bonfires and fire events are an integral part of Jāņi celebrations, and the Open-Air Art Museum at Pedvale regularly hosts Midsummer’s pyrotechnic performances. The location of the conference at Pedvale will encourage performance explorations of iron in terms of a material removed from industry and reconsidered as a process relevant to myth and landscape.

Performance events during the 7th ICCCIA will focus on iron and fire performances, performance-based furnaces and contemporary interpretations of ancient traditions. Twelve performance events will be interlinked throughout the night. The first night of the conference a bonfire will be ceremonially lit using stone (flint). Flame from this fire will be used to light all fire events during the conference and during the performance events on Jaņi, will be passed from each performance event to the next, lighting them throughout the night.

Ojārs Feldbergs – Director, Open-Air Museum at Pedvale, LV
Stephen Coles – Director, Coles Castings, UK
Tamsie Ringler – Associate Professor of Sculpture, St. Catherine University, MN, US

Karlis Alainis (LV)
George Beasley (US/Scotland) and Matt Toole (US)
Carl Billingsley (US) and Sarah Clover (US)
Jim Brenner (US)
Stephen Coles (UK)
Ojārs Feldbergs (LV)
Joint Stock Company – Uldis Balga and Agris Dzilna (LV)
Coral Lambert (US/UK)
Denise Snaer-Gauder (US)
Zigmunds Vilnis (LV)

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

Matt Toole and Eden Jolly