Screen Bandita presents Ritualised Frequencies - Church of the Sacred Heart, Edinburgh Sat 21 Jul
Includes Ariadne Xenou, Cut Hands, Daniel Padden and Howie Reeve
Madonna may have been getting sacred and profane with what was by all accounts a limp 'Like A Prayer' routine over at Murrayfield, but it took Saturday night in a Jesuit chapel hall to really come together. The occasion was 16mm film divas Screen Bandita's latest cross-art 'adventure in real film', as they put it for this exposition of rituals both ancient and modern by way of live soundtracks to crucial ethnographic anthropological archive footage.
Artist Ariadne Xenou sets a striking tone with a brief introduction that puts the stress on ritual as a liminal experience, in which social orders and conventions are upended, but most people are sitting on the floor by this time anyway, only standing during the interval to form an orderly queue to witness Xenou's striking installation in a tiny ante-room.
Before that, the depiction of native New Zealanders in 'Maori Days' is underscored by a duo of the The One Ensemble/Volcano the Bear auteur Daniel Padden and Howie Reeve of Tattie Toes. As onscreen rubbing noses moves into twitching, gyrating rites, the duo's shuffly, twang-laden rhythms emulate and echo the hand-clapping abandonment captured on camera.
Xenou's vintage back-lit photographs provide a rare moment of stillness, tucked away as they are in the ante-room's shrine-like cocoon, where death, transfiguration and any other altered state required can take a well-earned breather.
For Maya Deren's 'Divine Horsemen: the Living Gods of Haiti', filmed between 1947 and 1954, and not pieced together until after Deren's death by her third husband Teiji Ito in the early 1980s, former Whitehouse provocateur William Bennett in his Cut Hands guise offers a more martial, full-on clatter. Deren's insider-take on voodoo, slo-mo animal sacrifices and the dervish-like palpitations of those on-screen may have been filmed in Haiti, but, led by Bennett's increasingly frenetic electronic pounding, it all starts to resemble congregations a little closer to home.
Part 'Live and Let Die', part rave generation wig-out in the woods, part Lothian Road at chucking out time, if such sounds and visions were beamed before a pop-eyed club-land crowd in search of salvation in a late-night, lights-down context, the trip would be even more intoxicating.