Meet [M] Dudeck, the performance artist who wants to provoke conversation about art and religion.
After winning a Fellowship to attend the British Association for the Study of Religion’s annual conference in Leeds in 2019, performance artist and PhD student Michael, whose performance name is [M] Dudeck, identified a growing appetite for conversation, thought and debate around the relationship between contemporary art and religion, one that in the past had often been antagonistic. This insight led to them curating a collection of on-demand art-based videos.
They tells us more:
“I’ve always been fascinated by myth and religion because they are the oldest ways in which people make sense of the world. We can survive for weeks without food and days without water, but I don’t think we can survive for one hour or even one day without meaning or purpose.
“RUINS was originally intended to be a multimedia art festival combining performance and time-based art as part of the British Association for the Study of Religion major conference in September 2021. I was being asked to look at the emerging phenomenon of performance art and its relation to religion, ritual and myth.
“But then, like everything, we had to adjust this to the digital realm. I am not a fan of live, zoom-based performance. Personally, I don’t think it’s worth it to perform without presence. It was more interesting for me to gather together a series of video-based artworks and think of them as “digital ruins.” So we designed a website, modelled after Netflix, where 10 videos are available on demand for conference delegates, students at the University of Edinburgh, as well as members of the public for 3 months (from September to November 2021).
We can survive for weeks without food and days without water, but I don’t think we can survive for one hour or even one day without meaning or purpose.
“I see this as an opportunity to engage students, faculty, and members of the general public into a broader conversation about art, media, religion, entertainment and the quest to make new rituals out of old myths with new technology.
“The relationship between performance art and religion is one that is only beginning to emerge in international discourses, and the broader questions about the relationship between contemporary art and religion are also very new. As such, artists are making works that speak to a global yearning to bind ourselves in a myth, or a system of meaning, as a shelter from the torrential storm of the dangerous and unpredictable times we are living in.
“As well – many spiritual systems and religions once colonised by the west are decolonising themselves and using art as a means to reactivate traditions once criminalised by the church and make them relevant in the postcolonial context. As a queer artist, I make work that sacralises gender variance and homosexuality and I also include artists who are queering religion in this program. It is a racially, ethnically, geographically and artistically diverse group of artists whose work is renowned available for free viewing for a limited time.
I realised that part of my role may be to help bridge worlds that don't normally access one another.
Bridging different worlds
“This was the first project in over thirteen years of cultural production where I curated, or programmed work by other artists. So this was the first opportunity I had to gather together works by other artists, from other spaces in time, and direct them not only to a new generation of scholars/artists (students) and veteran scholars, but also the general public.
“I learned that I can function as a bridge between the worlds of art and other worlds that might not normally be able to access contemporary art. We gathered together a range of artists from eight different geographical regions and I think what we produced is very compelling, and engaging. I realised that part of my role may be to help bridge worlds that don't normally access one another.
Radical, artistic queer youth. Artists like Brian Catling, Grayson Perry, Lu Yang and Hayao Miyazaki. Allen Ginsberg, Bjork, Matthew Barney, Genesis Breyer P Orridge (Thee Temple of Psychik Youth), Ursula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler, JRR Tolkien, Marina Abramovic and AA Bronson (to name but a few.)
[M] Dudeck is a performance artist and a PhD student in Studio Art/Visual Culture and Religious Studies at the University of Edinburgh. They have performed, exhibited, screened lectured and published internationally.
How Ruins was funded
Ruins received £3,500 which contributed to virtual exhibition web design, artist fees and exhibition promotion.
Ruins is available for viewing at www.ruins.media until 30 November 2021. It is free to all, but simple registration is required, and sharing reflections in the comments section is strongly encouraged.