Wednesday, April 9, 2014

"You are in a witch gang. Together you are witches." The case of Kithkin & the Upturned Moon.

This coming Friday (April 11th) Kithkin will be giving away 100 copies of their handmade Upturned Moon zine at their show at Nuemos in Seattle. The zine explains the background and conceptual basis for their "Altered Beast" video, which is yet to be released, and available for exclusive premiere.

In their own words:

W (Upturned Moon):
It was surprisingly easy to gather what ended up being one metric ton of useless shit.
In the span of a week, we managed to collect a treadmill, five Apple computers, twenty or so phones, three television sets, two microwaves, an array of tables, chairs and dresser sets, a toilet, a Duck Dynasty Chia Pet, a portrait of Jimmy Carter and innumerable other pieces of broken, useless garbage.
It ended up weighing one metric ton at the scales.

One person who gave us an old futon mattress also offered up their car for free. “It still runs, but I hate it,” she told us.

Rarely do people approach you and ask “what can I take from you that you don’t need anymore? Do you have any shit you don’t need that we can smash into tiny pieces?”

The offer was tempting for the woman who extended her car to us—a chance at immediate, dramatic, violent liberation from her stuff. We couldn’t logistically haul the car away for her, but her gesture was striking.

In many ways, what we did was a massive waste—a textbook case of gaudy American excess.

We gathered a pile of mostly free garbage from friends and strangers off the internet and hauled it to a remote property in Ollala, WA. We recruited 25 women to come out to the property with us and handed them an array of sledgehammers, crowbars, scythes, swords and baseball bats.

We told them “you are in a witch gang. Together you are witches, and all we want you to do is destroy this pile of shit however you want.”
Then we let them go, and we filmed it.

We are very interested in the idea of the witch. Not in an aesthetic sense, but as an archetype. As Pamela J. Grossman explains in her piece “Year of the Witch”:

The archetype of the witch is long overdue for celebration. Daughters, mothers, queens, virgins, wives, et al. derive meaning from their relation to another person. Witches, on the other hand, have power on their own terms. They have agency. They create. They praise. They commune with nature/Spirit/God/dess/Choose-your-own-semantics, freely, and free of any mediator. But most importantly: they make things happen. The best definition of magic I’ve been able to come up with is “symbolic action with intent" — “action" being the operative word. Witches are midwives to metamorphosis. They are magical women, and they, quite literally, change the world.

The inspiration for W (Upturned Moon), which we fondly refer to not as a music video, but a social experiment documented on film, came from an interview with Julia Gfrörer, a comic artist living in Portland who graduated from Cornish. Gfrörer’s comics frequently depict witches and other strong, supernatural women who toy with fragile men using their nature-bound magickal powers. The comics are a wonderfully refreshing read.

“I try to give my female characters opportunities to be selfish, dishonest, demanding, and guarded, without facing negative consequences for being so,” Gfrörer said.
We thought there was something to this.
We thought—what would happen if a group of witches, “midwives to metamorphosis,” were given the opportunity to violently transform a symbolic pile of junk?  How would these women, given the rare opportunity to unleash their magick, metamorphosize one metric ton of useless shit the world didn’t need?

“I want to be just like Mulan,” one woman said in response to our invitation to participate in the destruction, “we can cut my pony tail off.”
Women happily handed us their jackets so we could sew witch patches on them.

They asked if they could use the sticks from their old hockey team to smash things. They raced to be the first to grab the sledgehammer and the sword. When they bled from the shards of glass that flew into them during the destruction, they resisted letting us bandage them, because it would hold them up from further demolition. When they fell down, they got up and immediately heaved the piece of rubble nearest to them with all of their might.

By nightfall, when we had destroyed everything in sight, we turned the wood we scavenged from the wreckage into a bonfire and gathered around in a circle.

“What did we just do?” we asked each other as we rode the celebratory wave of ecstatic feelings that washed over us.

We drank and cheered and hugged each other as we stood in a smoldering pile of wood, glass, plastic, and the disemboweled innards of computers and teddy bears.

We still don’t know exactly happened that day, but many of the witches told us it was an opportunity they never thought they would have in their lives. They told us they got “a lot of work done” that day—emotionally, spiritually and physically.

Yes, this pile of shit we collected and destroyed embodied American excess.
It was a waste.

But when we let 25 women transform that waste with their uninhibited powers, what grew out of the ashes was collective joy, empowerment, and the sense that we had strangely, counterintuitively created something together.

These women took one metric ton of shit that had been bearing down on the humans who handed it over to us, and in seizing the moment and destroying it, created something beautiful and new.

The apocalypse may be imminent, but that doesn’t mean we can’t dance on
 the ruins.

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