Echoing Rituals

Echoing Rituals, 2012

Video, sound, HD, 11 min.

In a staged reading from a nursing home, a male employee and a resident perform a scene from my script. My verbal instructions from behind the camera become a part of the film’s construction. They act out their daily schedule – medicine, breakfast, making the bed, cleaning, washing and preparing the day’s lunch – those regular routines that we all follow with a certain amount of variety, and which make up our daily rituals. Actions that are repeated at certain times and in a certain way. Rituals can act as a process, as a transition from one thing to another. The window blind that is pulled up in the morning, or down in the evening. Our everyday actions or rituals can thus be seen as a moral act, a way of organising society.

In Discipline and Punish, Michel Foucault writes about the creation of the disciplines, a series of techniques by which the body’s operations could be controlled. He writes about how the discipline of the body was not solely directed at increasing the skills and ability of the body or the intensification of its subjection, but instead at creating a mechanism through which the body makes itself more obedient as it becomes more useful, and vice versa. In this way, the human body is part of a power structure, discipline increases the body’s forces which can

lead to certain economic benefits, while simultaneously decreasing political power due to an enforced conformity. Foucault states that ‘discipline is a political anatomy of detail’. This idea follows a long tradition of the importance of details in a Christian upbringing, school education and military training. In these institutions there are no insignificant details, not only for what the details conceal, but also for the disciplinary power that they exert over the individual. Discipline sometimes requires a closed environment, a place that differs from other places and is often self-contained. The room can be adapted in an even more flexible and subtle way: through a simple framework. For each individual there is a place, for each place an individual.

In addition to room allocation, discipline also requires a timetable that originates from the strict conventions of the monastery and which quickly found its way into schools, workhouses and hospitals. What lay behind the timetable was essentially negative, and was aimed at combating idleness, ‘it was forbidden to waste time, which was counted by God and paid for by men’. But discipline established a positive effect, the constant search for new productive periods and the increase in the amount of usable power out of every moment. It was about dividing up the time into its smallest details, a state of maximum productivity coincided with the greater division of time.