NSFW: From Myth to Flesh, a Lilith Story

Lilith is a well-known mythological figure that exists in several forms and through various cultures: Mesopotamian, Christian or Jewish for example. The most common view of her persona is as a powerful demonic entity, while some prefer seeing her as the first wife of Adam. While being an interesting subject on its own, I’m not here to talk about her mythos – not per se.

If the name Gretchen Heinel rings a bell, congratulations – you have extremely good taste in photography. This New York artist has already appeared twice on CVLT Nation, once regarding her photo essay Seven Stories, and once when she directed the music video for Lord Mantis’s song “Possession Prayer.” I’m a huge fan of her work, and it’s my pleasure to present you today her current project revolving around – you guessed it – the myth of Lilith that she will present at an event called “Myth to Flesh” in New York on October 24th.

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That being said, Gretchen Heinel is not the only artist hosting this event (she was just the only one I knew), she is joined by Luna Duran (also known as Luz de Luna Duran) and Annihilvs Power Electronix, a music label. This project and the event itself will revolve around a collaborative photo project, but will be so much more. Before going deeper into the ideological concept of the evening, I want to show you some of the works of Gretchen and Luna. Not too much, just a few pictures that I like, and just so you know the kind of stuff you are getting into (the pictures of Luna were taken from the 2013 Shootbare and Gretchen’s from the “Give/Take” photo shoot).

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If you looked at the flyer for more than half a second you surely noticed the names of three bands. That’s right New Yorkers, if you’re not interested in photography you can still enjoy your evening with three doom/sludge/black metal bands: Evoken, Sire and Muscle and Marrow. Although, one of them is not going to be your regular musical show. With the help of White Flag (an organism that facilitates such activities) Gretchen and Luna will perform hook suspensions during Evoken’s set. The suspension is a real art on its own, and I’m personally both fascinated and terrified by it; I gladly recognize its incredible beauty and the almost mystical flesh/spirit relation aura around it, but I emphasize too much with the possibility of it reducing the performer’s body into a field of raw flesh. The only suspension performance that I saw during a show was from Colin H van Eeckhout, the singer of Amenra (and it was a video). If you don’t know what the suspension is, I suggest you watch the video below, it’s extremely graceful and elegant but it’s not for everybody, so be careful.

Muscle and Marrow

The Maid of Desolation

I could write a thousand words about the different myths of Lilith, my view on them, why she is a symbol of women’s empowerment, and how the take Gretchen and Luna have on it is not just a bunch of pretty pictures of naked ladies. But I won’t do that. I would never be able to explain it better than the performers themselves, and I don’t want to steal words that are not mine, so I’m not going to tell you why this project is important and interesting to me, I’m going to let Gretchen Heinel do it the way she did with me:

“Lilith was created of the same earth as Adam, and by right should have been considered his equal. It was decided (by God) for both Lilith and Adam that Lilith should be diminished, and Adam’s dominion over nature and Lilith was established. Adam attempted to assert his dominance by forcing himself upon her. Indignant, Lilith chose to flee the Garden of Eden rather than be stripped of her own determination. She flees to a cave in the desert and rages in suffering. This suffering is a creative and transformative power, and she emerges from her pain, no longer human, but as a goddess.

Luna and I believe that times of suffering, of entering into the unknown, are creative and powerful times, so we’ve chosen to document Lilith’s narrative arc by undergoing trials of the flesh in order to literally open our body to Lilith’s story. We’ve used hook suspension, rope suspension, and we’ve temporarily inserted glass sculptures of snakes under Luna’s skin in order to tell this story.”

If you want to read more about the project I highly suggest you check their tumblr out.

In some way, Gretchen and Luna, by performing trials of self-inflicted pain, are going to elevate themselves to the status of goddesses. Every accomplishment is gained through some sort of pain, and if we have to submit ourselves to the same calvary as gods to become closer to them, so be it. It reminds me of the movie Martyrs, where people were tortured to reach a point where they can go to the afterlife and come back to tell the living what they saw. Gretchen and Luna are going to see what it’s like to be a goddess during those ordeals, and come back to the land of the humans to tell us what it’s like.

There are a lot of things to be taught – with caution – from the Lilith’s tale. It’s by denying a life of submission forced upon her by the mighty creator that she revealed herself as a divine (or demonic, depends on your take of the story) creature. As if defying the established authority and refusing to submit to what’s been planned for you was the only way to unleash your true potential, despite the awful consequences (being banished from heaven, for example). I believe your true self will only be revealed to you in the worst times of your life, not in comfort and security: as we say, “It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything,” and in this case, to become anything.

So if you live in New York or nearby, you’ll have the chance to look at awesome photos, see cool bands, and witness two women become goddesses for a few moments – what more do you want? Before I leave you to the contemplation of some of the pictures from the project, I have to present you a last video. This video is one of the most powerful things I’ve ever seen, it shows Luna Duran performing the subdermal implant ordeal with the snake glass sculptures (garden of eden, wink). Why is it so powerful to me ? It’s fairly simple – when I watch this video, I am witnessing a woman willingly putting herself through hell in the name of art. The pain must be unbearable, we see it on her face, she’s trembling, shivering, but yet I find her beautiful. Her spasms give me chills and her face distorted from the agony makes my heart beat faster. Like I said, it’s one of the most intense things I’ve seen, and a touching sacrifice, but just like the hook suspension you must be careful who you show it to.

The Screech Owl

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Much thanks to Gretchen Heinel

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The Author

Tom

Tom

Passion driven french redactor ready to talk about anything regarding music, cinema, literature, esotericism or any type of worthy subjects. Also part of the TCPC organization in France.