project image
Sheilah Wilson

first performed on June 28, 2014
Ortega Y Gasset Projects, New York City, NY
performed three times in 2014


Daniel Houdin


“The Messiah Complex 1.0” is the first of a series of performances that explore the construction of the Messianic figure in both ancient religion and pop culture as a ritualized transition of an individual from subject to object. For the past seven years my work has explored the invention of a queer religion and prehistory, and disseminated that fiction through a range of media, including: ritual performance, museological installation, authoritative publications, fictive documentaries, the construction of artifacts and the drafting of sacred texts. For this new series, I wanted to undergo a ritual wherein the body of a fictional prophet is performatively mummified and transformed into physical materiality, exposing and exploring the narrative and mediatic procedures that construct icons out of pulsing, bleeding flesh.

Central to my religious prehistory was a Messianic figure who was characteristically bald, painted white, with an orange marking below his lips. For years I worked with the same performer, in a series of images and publications that explored his placement directly within my invented cosmogony. For this performance, I collaborated with a new performer: one who fit the visual description and had a similarity to the earlier ‘version.’ I was interested in how messianic figures, particularly Christ, have maintained characteristic and recognizable features over centuries of image-making, and yet utilize entirely different ‘models’ to produce.

It was the closing performance of “The Body as Omen,” curated by Sheilah Wilson at Ortega Y Gasset Projects, one of the last performances to take place in the mythic 1717 Troutman Street which housed a plurality of galleries in Queens, New York. It was alarmingly fitting that I was mummifying and in effect, performing a death ritual for such a meaningful place in the New York artworld.

The performance began with the fictional prophet, painted white, sprawled naked on the concrete floor. Over the course of approximately one hour, I coated the prophets’ body with black heated wax, hockey tape, rope and thick plaster bandages, while moving in and out of ritual trance. I had intended to use the wax and plaster to make molds afterwards, to produce the prophet as commodity, however the mold refused to stay. In the end I released the prophet from its mummification shortly after it had been encased, revealing, in the way that only performance can, the persistence of the temporal despite the yearning to make it material.