"A Moveable Priest"
David Egan with Claudia Lemke
Opening: Wednesday 17 January, 6–8pm
Dates: 17 January — 10 February 2018
I’ve been recalling a memory from my time as an altar boy in church (I was raised in a Pentecostal Catholic cult group, with all that holy spiritual magic and guilt). My main responsibility is to ring the sacramental bells at the right times, namely when the priest, standing behind the altar a few meters away says the spell and presents the cup of wine to the crowd. The sound of the ringing bells signify that something is happening that can’t be expressed in language, a gesture made somehow comprehensible through dumb sound. It’s the moment when attention takes a leap of faith. So I’m ringing the bells and the priest gulps wine from the chalice. I’m ringing the bells and concentrating so hard on the action that I can hear him gulp, see the wine moving down through the inside of his throat. My attention zooms so far out from my own body that my hand lets go of the bells, which thud abruptly on the carpet. The priest, putting down the cup, turns to look at me and I can see droplets of red wine clinging to his white moustache. Holding eye contact with me, he envelopes his moustache with his bottom lip (in like, very slow motion) and sucks in loudly on the moist hairs chhhhhllluuuurrrrrrrrrpp and for the rest of the service a pinkish stain lingers there on his white moustache, a little pink halo, accenting the breath the leaves his mouth.
As a believer-child I really believed. Children are more adept than adults at unconditional faith. I had faith in the magic rites of the church, believing in them wholeheartedly. I knew that something beyond my perception was happening when I rang the bells. Spirits abounded. On one hand this gave me agency - could the wineblood event even take place without my quivering hand bell sound? - but it also made me aware of the possibility for magical slips. The dropped bells and the stained beard mean that magic can go wrong when it relies on bodied performance. In this way, attunement to the spiritual can lead to an acute awareness of the physical body.
This project forms part of Bus Projects’ ongoing ‘With Compliments’ series of exhibitions, exploring the way Australian artists locate their work within international dialogues. Previous iterations include ‘SILVER SHADOW’, Lydia Wegner (AUS) and Barbara Kasten (USA), ‘Country Home Ideas’, Sean Peoples (AUS) and Jacky Connolly (USA), ‘Your work in my dreams’, Noriko Nakamura (AUS) and Gilad Ratman (IL), and ‘Coffee in the morgue’, Saskia Doherty (AUS) with Stanya Kahn (USA) and Louise Bourgeois (FRA/USA). Curated by Madé Spencer-Castle.
David Egan, born 1989 in Perth on the unceded sovereign land of the Whadjuk people. Currently lives and works in Melbourne on the unceded sovereign land of the Wurundjeri people. http://david-egan.net/
Claudia Lemke, born 1989 in Cottbus, lives and works in Frankfurt am Main.
Photography by Christo Crocker.