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Curator Joseph Morgan Schofield introduces FUTURERITUAL, launching this May at the ICA

Image: 'devotion - seduction', work by Joseph Morgan Schofield, 2020. Photo by Fenia Kotsopoulou

FUTURERITUAL is an artist-led curatorial project which explores the connections between ritual, queer culture, and performance art. Since the emergence of performance art as an artistic medium, the practice has been entangled with ritual.

Ritual is essential to the human experience. As social beings, ritual builds community. As mortal creatures it allows us to situate ourselves in time and deal with life and death. In places like the UK, our cultural relationship with ritual has been diminished through historical developments such as the Reformation and the Industrial Revolution, as well as through the evolution of our political and economic structures. This has altered our understanding of the sacred, changing our relationship with each other and the land. These changes have not done us well.

Performance art can be one way of (re)engaging with the spiritual. As a trans* person and an artist, I find it a particularly potent and compelling of engaging, because of the creative autonomy it provides me. I’m not bound to a tradition or history which excludes me, or shames me, or invalidates my needs and experiences - rather I am creating my own deeply personal cosmology and relationship with the spiritual. This is an inherently future-focussed practice for me - it’s about fostering relationships and desires which will shape the way I move through the world.

Conscious of the many entanglements between ritual and performance art, I started organising FUTURERITUAL in 2017 because I wanted to create a space where artists who explored these ideas could gather and share their approaches and practices, and because I believed there was an appetite from audiences to experience these kinds of works. FUTURERITUAL acknowledges the importance of ritual, while at the same time asking how artists are remaking it in order to think about the future.

This month, FUTURERITUAL will inhabit the ICA (London) for two weeks, presenting four newly commissioned performance works, along with a workshop and podcast offering. The ICA season is spiritual, but it is also political, and features performances by Soojin Chang, Rubiane Maia, Benjamin Sebastian, and myself. Each of us contributing artists draws on different spiritual traditions as we create our own unique practice, so the works are each very different, while remaining thematically linked. Exploring ecology, sex, memory, loss and desire, the season is an opportunity to process some of our grief and anxiety, whilst also celebrating many of the other facets of our human experience.

The performances will happen in physical space, unmediated by the screen but accompanying the live season is Divinatory Strategies, a three-part podcast which expands on the performances and research through conversations. In the podcast I am joined by Soojin and Rubiane, along with Teo Ala-Ruona, Es Morgan, Daniella Valz Gen and Charlie Ashwell. The podcast is available online from the ICA website.


ICA and online
18 – 29 May

Image: Work by Joseph Morgan Schofield at PSX, 2021. Photo by Fenia Kotsopoulou.

Image: 'with bare feet touching the sky I yearn', Work by Joseph Morgan Schofield,  2019. Photo by Manuel Vason.

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