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7 Dec 2012

Creator of “no man’s land”, John McKiernan ruminates on life as a series of interconnected contrived rituals

2-minute silence at Embankment, videographer Patrick Hoelscher*

Play disrupts ritual. Whether internalised or on a field, play develops ways of understanding that cannot always be structured in the everyday. Play allows thoughts, methods and processes to be conducted through the relative safety of game or make-believe. When excited by a particular outcome or scenario achieved during play, ways of incorporating the positive facet into everyday life are sought, by seeking methods to ritualise the discovered result. Using ritualisation as a coping mechanism, the ritualised act becomes the default routine to manage daily existence.

As a mode of production, the act of ritualising has become the tool of choice for the ‘free market’ to create a web of riches. Beautifully finessed over centuries, art and performance rituals are as enmeshed in the snare as basic food and drink. The ability to step from the ritualistic path is difficult, as the walls that enthrone choice are built high.

“no man’s land” attempted to tap at the wall of ritualised thought. ‘Terrifying’ and ‘fear’ are words that littered the emails of those involved. The not knowing what was expected of them, what the event was attempting to achieve, what is Platform-7, an organisation they did not know, created confusion for the artists. The need to have an end goal, a product or an outcome is so great that when the clarity of any ‘aim’ is removed, many people became immobilized or disorientated. Paul Nadal notes Heidegger on his blog “By action or activity one simply means the power to cause an effect—i.e., a causality. As such, the value we attach to any being or activity is construed only in terms of utility, that is to say, what an act does or can do for a particular end or purpose.”[1] The masquerade of preordained result often destroys the ability to examine the self. Yet intrigue overwhelmed the feeling of perplexity for those who became part of “no man’s land”, like eyeing a puzzle in the newspaper, a person chooses whether to attempt what is presented.

The 2-minute silence is the first tangible ‘outcome’ from an audience perspective of why “no man’s land” took place. The act of travel, so beautifully packaged by modernity, has now become an act of ritual only disrupted by circumstance. The conceived rituals that society attempts to construct, like Remembrance, are thwarted by the very mechanisms it requires to function in its present form. The 2-minute silence films’ exposes the myth of composed public ritual: the performers participated in the silence virtually alone before entering a period of serious play.

Michael Heidegger stated, ‘We attempt to think the play, which means to think it according to its mode of representation, we take this play as something that is. […] Thus the nature of play is determined as it is everywhere determined, namely as the dialectic of freedom ’[2].

*Embankment performers, Musician Nathan Robin Mann and poet David Lee Morgan with accompanying sculpture by Lenka Horakova assisted by John McKiernan. Film Patrick Hoelscher

[1] Nadel, Paul, 18th November 2010, ‘Thinking Being Human: Notes on Heidegger’s “Letter on Humanism”’, [click]

[2] Heidegger, Martin, 1991, The Principle of Reason, Translated by Reginald Lilly, pp 102-113, Indianapolis, Indiana University Press

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