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DMG’s Outdoor School invited us to a pagan ceremony and to walk with a coyote

Artist Jamie Ross held a series of workshops called The Lashing as part of an exhibit called Outdoor School hosted by the Doris McCarthy Gallery. (Photo by Ken Jones)

Two separate performance pieces were seamlessly merged together to form one Pagan ceremony as part of the Doris McCarthy Gallery’s exhibit Outdoor School.    

Pagan priest and performance artist Jamie Ross held a series of workshops titled The Lashing to prepare an effigy that was used in a follow-up performance called The Pyre.

Ross invited members of the U of T Scarborough community to his workshops to assist in the creation of a Cornholio grain effigy, a figure made by Radical Faeries, which would later be burned.

“The idea is that everyone can create using their hands works to free up the mind, and it brings people mentally to work. I quite enjoy the conversations that are formed over work,” said Ross.

After keeping the effigy alive for a few days, Ross and his team of priestesses performed The Pyre, which resembled the Samhain ceremony.

“Samhain marks the end of the harvest season, it’s the feast of the dead and welcomes the beginning of the cold year,” said Ross.

The Pyre performance required participants to take turns carrying the effigy while wearing masks and walking through the Valley to a fire pit, where the effigy would meet its end.

“I like how he was working with ideas of queerness and ritual, embracing both sexuality and spirituality as ways of expanding how we experience the natural world. People don't often think about sex and nature together,” said Amish Morrell, Outdoor School curator.

A self declared “religious Zealot,” Ross explores the ideas of the sacred and the holy insisting that “I am just practicing what my predecessors taught me, I am not reinventing anything.”

Next Ross is headed to Paris for a performance that explores the radical essence of deep listening, and then he will be in Argentina to work on a film about queer ghosts.  

“My goal is to help people live a life of meaning,” said Ross. “There are powerful places where people can connect with magic and I just want them to realize that.”

Coyote Walk

On the windy evening of Wednesday October 20, performance artists Jay White headed into the ravines around UTSC with his camping gear and a GPS tracker. This was the beginning of Coyote Walk, a four-day performance that was also part of the Outdoor School exhibit.

White’s GPS would send out his location in thirty minute intervals, and participants were encouraged to track his walk through photos and videos, without hindering the performance.

“His work, which brings together performance art and hiking/camping in a really interesting way, is about the human as animal. It demands a lot of the artist, and he really embodies the role he takes on during his coyote walks,” said Morrell.

The next few days would prove to challenge White physically and emotionally as he mirrored the actions of coyotes. He planned his movements to take place after sunset to explore the ravines and search for a suitable daytime hideout.

“I just love being out like that, it’s an honour being able to play hide and seek,” said White.

Upon White’s return to the gallery he was holding on very tightly to two sticks while he explained, “this walk isn’t about going far or being impressive, it’s about listening and being sensitive.”

Walking about one evening, White encountered a beaver that was chewing up sticks and throwing them aside. Going back to find the stick he realized the importance of waiting and watching, reaching a new sense of attentiveness.

For White, the sticks represented a new way to think about knowledge, “How does knowledge happen? Can knowledge come from beings other than humans? Can knowledge come from actions? Animal actions?” he questioned.

Exploring the themes of trespassing, knowledge sources and more importantly eliciting audience participation Outdoor School has proven to be one of Doris McCarthy Gallery’s most dynamic exhibits.

“I wanted people to get outside of the windowless room of the gallery, where they typically engage art as passive spectators, and instead engage the artwork as alive and in process,” added Morrell.


© University of Toronto Scarborough