by Claudia Gambino
"Sensual pilgrimage" is a site-specific promenade performance project, a solitary path lasting between 30 and 45 minutes where the spectator is led, in a rural and abandoned environment or in a garden or a park, through a voice that will accompany him all the way to the sanctuary where he can leave his ex-voto so that his wishes or his prayer will be granted.
Intention of the project
The intention of "Sensual Pilgrimage" is to allow the public to detach themselves from their ordinary fabric, their place, their relationships and their needs for production and income in order to make a journey, through the senses, of healing, experimentation and connection with their desires, freeing themselves from their anxieties and tensions.
The pilgrim is the stranger, the one who goes to another country. He becomes a stranger, taking efforts and risks in view of spiritual benefits.
Body of the work
At the beginning of the journey, which starts from a secret place, the audience is given a small notebook in which they are invited to draw on the first page a portrait of themselves as they feel at that moment and on the second page a portrait of how they would like to feel.
Then, one by one, the spectators will set off on their sensual pilgrimage, led by an audio guide.
In the first stage the spectator will be led on a sensory walk and through the voice will be invited to be in what he feels on a tactile, auditory, visual and olfactory level so that he can calm his body and thoughts by reordering his attention.
In the second part the spectator can freely explore and experience the protected place, noticing what attracts him and looking for the signals of nature that can help him achieve the desired image. What is discovered or revealed can be written or drawn in the notebook given to them at the beginning of the walk, which will become a kind of prayer book or travel diary, or if they prefer they can take photos.
In the third part, the rite of passage from the past image of oneself to the new one will take place.
In the fourth part, the funeral of the portrait one wishes to abandon will take place.
Finally the participants will arrive at the sanctuary where they can place the portrait of their new self, if they wish, as a kind of ex-voto, to be entrusted to the house and then retrace their steps backwards, meeting the people who started the pilgrimage afterwards.
Birth of the project and inspiration
The project was born in the 2021 from a residence in Cuenca, in Spain in the province of Castilla La Mancha.
It is a city with strong ties to religion, inquisition
The old part of this city is full of monasteries, and this is where
The nuns have always fascinated me. I find something sensual and lascivious in them.
Probably because I found out that it was they who invented the breast-shaped pastries in Sicily, "Le minne di Sant'agata", or simply because of the mystery that surrounds them, hidden behind those bars, protected from the gaze of others, who knows what they will do.
Cuenca, its monasteries and nuns gave rise to the idea of a pilgrimage.
I imagined the public passing under the windows of the monasteries listening to the songs of the cloistered nuns, then tasting the pastries in the shape of tits and sending vows and prayers through the holes in the walls or the gratings of their windows.
I arrive in Cuenca and they tell me that the nuns have not been there for a long time.
Santi, my guide, and I go towards the top of the mountain, passing the cathedral, monasteries converted into hotels and barbecued meat restaurants.
At the top, an amphitheatre of green mountains appears before us, with strange rounded peaks and sheer rock faces that fall in a way reminiscent of a quarry.
As I walk along the crest of the mountain, I am drawn to a somewhat hidden staircase that deviates from the path.
It has a sinusoidal shape and descends along a cavity, so it is protected from the gaze of the people walking on the Belvedere.
It is reminiscent of the circles of hell or the shape of an intestine.
At the end you can see a large wrought iron door.
I immediately understand that this is the right place.
I explore this hole: I go down the stairs, look at, touch and taste the myriad of different plants that I find on my way, I go down other stairs that I find on a wall that lead me to a well, I climb over the walls, I put my hands inside the holes, I hug the trees, I listen to the birds and I write, draw, take pictures.
In that gut I feel like I'm inside a territory where I can do anything, protected from the gaze of others, a bit like I imagine the nuns living behind the walls of the monasteries.
We continue our descent and go through the large wrought-iron door.
On the right we come to a cypress corridor; I have the feeling that this path is leading us to a cemetery or a tomb.
Then there are more stairs that go around a large boulder and finally we arrive in front of the ruins of a beautiful, abandoned house.
It was the house of the poet Federico Muelas, Santi tells me. The roof has collapsed, as have almost all the floors, and there are remains of sanitary ware and a few tiles.
The walls are full of graffiti, some of which are love phrases and others a little more gloomy, such as two angels with the head of a skull.
I decide to spend the whole day here, which by now feels like home. Santi lies down on a wall and I go back and forth across the mountain, creating the path that I would like the public to take to reach the state of well-being that I feel at that moment.
(this is a non-iconic practice, which transforms the place and gives it a past)
In my practice I like to force myself to live out in the street learning from what I see that knowledge is related to something I see and meet)
A pair of headphones and an mp3 player for each spectator.
An unfrequented natural place with an important variety of plants where there are possibly ruins.