Trees creak and wild animals bay as a disembodied voice speaks in metred rhyme. Three horned figures appear from the back of the performance space. One is carrying a platter with a heart on it. The others hold baskets filled with apples.
They feed the fruit to the audience as they weave through the crowd toward the front of the room.
One of these figures is Pan — the god of sexuality and nature who served as inspiration for the image of the Christian devil. The others are fauns. Together, the three move closer and closer to the stage, where they will return the heart to its rightful place: the tree of life.
This is the opening sequence of The Corruption of Flesh — a live multidisciplinary performance made up of spoken word poetry, performance art, electro-pop music, a cappella song and piano numbers that was written and conceived by Ottawa artist Danniel Oickle. With the help of guest artists CC Trubiak and Olexandra Pruchnicky, Oickle has created a piece where sexuality and religion collide to electric effect.
"The themes of love and sex and religion seem to be the basis for a lot of my work," says Oickle.
“The themes of love and sex and religion seem to be the basis for a lot of my work. I was raised in a Bible-thumping Baptist family, and my first experience singing was in church,” Oickle says. “It was really claustrophobic when I was young. I was ostracized for the confusions I had toward religion, and I wanted some clarification. No one ever offered that, so I delved into it on my own. I studied multiple different religions and realized that there were so many similarities between mythologies and modern religions. They’re symbiotic.”
Symbiotic because the gods of old are still alive in the creation stories of modern religions. But many, like Pan, were maligned, renamed or relegated to folk tales in order to make room for newer systems of belief over the last several centuries. With that came many social and cultural consequences.
Oickle’s approach to The Corruption of Flesh was inspired by lyric-driven, religion-tinged music like Sinead O’Connor’s The Lion and the Cobra.
“All the artists I’ve ever emulated have had a stage presence that’s a little avant-garde — like Annie Lennox, David Bowie, Sinead O’Connor. As a musician, it’s nice to present your work with a little bit of flair,” Oickle says. “When people go to a concert, they want to hear the music, but they also want to have an experience.”
Beyond putting on a visually stunning, entertaining show, Oickle wants this project to stimulate conversation about love, sex, the body and the spirit — and how we define and characterize them in society.
“We’re ready for a new birth of consciousness for humanity. We have a much more educated population and more access to information. People are starting to question the basis of things. I think we’re tired of the old dogmas and looking for the truths that started all of this.”
The Corruption of Flesh
Fri, March 16, 8–10pm
The Mercury Lounge
56 Byward Market Sq
$10 at the door