Berlin Hoodening

25 December 2009
Volkspark Friedrichshain, Berlin

On 25 December 2009, a.a.s performed the Nagual performance Berlin Hoodening. Hooded figures, wearing Fleischmasken, processed in a spiral up the hill at the centre of Volkspark Friedrichshain in Berlin, disembowelled the treehorse, and made its organs circulate on its surface. We celebrated the depraved, deviant, tramp-spirit with the silver skull, calling forth disarticulation, experimentation and nomadism for the new decade.

This performance was part of the joint Parfyme, Reactor, & a.a.s, Berlin residency 2009, and incorporated elements drawn from discussions with members of the other groups, the guided walk developed by Reactor during their time in the city. Working with materials the other groups left behind we explored ways of summoning the future.

Hoodening is a British folk theatre tradition featuring a Hooden Horse – a wooden horse’s head mounted on a pole, with sackcloth attached to hide the bearer. The head would normally have a hinged jaw, which could snap shut with a mighty crack. Groups would tour around before Christmas, engaging in tomfoolery (horseplay) at local landowners’ houses and requesting funds to tide them over. There are also links to traditional Robin Hood Games and the Pantomime horse. Among the pagan Scandinavians the horse was often the sacrifice made at the winter solstice to Odin for success in battle.

A Nagual in Mesoamerican folk tradition is a “transforming trickster” or “shape shifter” – someone who has the power to magically turn into an animal form. This relates to the belief of tonalism, that all humans have an animal counterpart, to which their life-force is linked.

The Berlin Hoodening re-performs aspects of The Nagual (2007), which was originally featured at Crowd6 in Birmingham. The pulling out of tinsel, representing intestines, and spiraling it around the tree refers to the mythological origins of tinsel as a shamanistic, solstice ritual involving the draping of animal guts on trees in the forest in order to bring about the return of spring.

The Bjørn Nørgaard referred to in the title of the piece is artist to the Danish royal household, and his 1970 performance, Hesteofringen, involved sacrificing a horse.

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