The Gatekeepers
17 December 2015

Multi-channel video installation with sound and still photographs

Performers (in order of appearance): Violeta Luna embodied in her two goddess personas she created in collaboration with Rakini Devi. Yunuen Rhi, martial artist and Walker Fisher, dancer/performance artist

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The Gatekeepers is an ongoing collaborative project with performance artists who identify as queer, gender-fluid or as border crossers. The first phase of the project began in 2016 with three performers. These individuals self-created performance personas and costumes based on the intersection of their own personal, political, cultural, and ancestral identities. The resulting footage was edited and installed as a five video channel, immersive video installation with sound. In each video, the performers are seen enacting rituals that merge body and land. In other moments, the performers directly confront the viewer, staring towards the fourth wall. Viewers in turn have the opportunity to make their own edits, in real time based on which screen they are watching. The photographic qualities of the video footage are further mediated through layering of atmospheric images and shapes.

In many ways, this project is an attempt to create a self-mythology wherein these personas, or gates, are seen as symbolic figures at the threshold between the human and non-human worlds that our bodies inhabit. The goal is to generate an experience in the viewer that initiates a remembrance that Nature is not something outside the Self but is inherently linked to persona.


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The concept of the Gatekeepers was first introduced to me by Malidoma Somé; an elder-shaman from the Dagara tribe of Burkina Faso. He initially described them as queer shamans who were seen as gifted healers and medicine people specifically because of their fluidity between worlds. At the same time, they are sometimes ostracized from the village because of their queerness. Malidoma also describes the concept of Gatekeepers in more open terms:

“Everyone comes into this world to hold onto some gate, with some role to make [their] position sacred. Without it, there’s no relevance. And with it, life takes on a new meaning. An energetic existence encompassing other realities is crucial to the spiritual health of the individual and the community. Entrance to these worlds is facilitated by the Gatekeeper, who is born with the ability to participate in a wider web of consciousness. They are not of this world. They come from the Otherworld, and they were sent here to keep the gates open to the Otherworld…”

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Conceptually, I am interested in the tension that resides between worlds; not only the human versus non-corporeal realms but the space in between imposed binary structures and the possibilities for a third space to emerge.

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Installation images from the Building Imagination Center in Turlock, CA. 2016