Wheel of Life

Wheel of Life
Sarah Clover


The first time I experimented with cast iron sculpture was on a foreign studies trip to the Baltic Region in the summer of 1997, with Carl Billingsley and Ken Payne. I am fascinated at the opportunity to perform as a way to return to the Pedvale Open-Air Art Museum, especially so given the theme of Midsummer’s Eve and the conference theme Coal.Essence: Iron forming Art, Ritual and Landscape. This performance proposal is all the more relevant and represents coming full circle, which I have chosen as the theme of my performance.

In my continued work as an artist, I enjoy navigating between performative context as a musician and as a sculptural fabricator. I continue to make sculpture and cast iron art. I am also a performance musician. I would like to combine the two for something special as a departure from my usual work. The ideas for this performance are heading in a new direction and a return to my iron casting roots. Circle as a symbol of the never-ending cycles of life; cyclical imagery and ritual is translated into a performance piece.

The Wheel of Life will be the central focus of my performance space, or you could say Mid Summer’s alter. The wheel will be made of old bike parts and its movement will create sound, that will have contact microphones attached. In the ground in front of the wheel will be three spirals dug from the earth in a circle labyrinth lined with stones. It is a symbol of the soul on its way to salvation and a way to meditate on beliefs and our cyclic existence.

There are many meaningful aspects to this performance. The natural elements will be represented with wooden tree form pyres created from branches, twine and wood, sun and fire-lamps, earth-rocks and metal coins, wind and water. Symbols and midsummer rituals will be used in this performance, such as, tree branches, the wheel, bowls, Gold sun and coins, costumes, and colorful flowers. Tree worship myth and magic symbols, Pagan rituals, chants, and the Milky Way, sun and tarot cards inspire many parts in this performance.

Cultural commonalities are vast, with this conference highlighting a very important celebration through ritualistic festival. They are essential for our spirit and sense of community, the collective unconscious, happiness and well-being. It is a way to set our souls free and have some fun.

Music will be created by percussions and chanting. Instruments will be made of metal, cast iron and bicycle parts, during a pre-conference workshop. Some elements will be interactive with audience participation. I would want some poured iron to be used to start the main fires of the ceremony. If possible, molten iron being poured by a performance furnace can to be delivered to the site. I will be composing music and chants representing the sun, the earth, the air and the fire.

Fire and water are equally important in midsummer’s festivals. These will be performed intermittently during ritual acts of lighting fires to help the sun shine. There will be lamps, the wheel, burning of the pyres and sun energizing water in a metal bowl. People may anoint themselves in midsummer’s dew and dance around the rings in the ground. In combination with the summer solstice, a powerful occurrence on its own, my proposed performance seeks to ameliorate the power of this ritual.