The Logics of Sacrifice at Visionary Arts Festivals

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St John, Graham
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In Andy Bennett, Jodie Taylor and Ian Woodward
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Amid concerns of rapacious change and rampant consumption, the first statement in the epigraph is about the purpose of the Liminal Village (subsequently the Liminal Zone) at the 2006 Boom Festival in Portugal, while the second was inspired by an experience at Boom’s Dance Temple in 2002, with its mind-altered author having ingested ‘2 grams of Hawaiian mushrooms’. Described as a ‘temple for a planetary culture’, the Liminal Zone is a centre for an ‘interactive curriculum spotlighting emergent mythologies, integrative philosophies, and techniques for sustainable and holistic living’,1 instrumentalized via a range of media, including workshops, panels, presentations, art galleries, cinema and theatre. In 2002, the Dance Temple was a gigantic geodesic dome, an arena evolving in the subsequent decade to become one of the world’s largest outdoor dancefloors, host to multiple genres of psychedelic trance music. The Liminal Zone and the Dance Temple stand in relation to each other like the head to the body of the world’s premiere visionary arts dance festival, which in 2010 attracted nearly 25,000 people holding passports from some 75 countries.2 From the contemplative audiences of the Liminal Zone to the ecstatic massive of the Dance Temple, these event-hubs at this biennial festival represent diverse and yet integral aspects of visionary arts culture and the psychedelic movement in which it is rooted. Boom and other events like the Burning Man in Nevada harbour experiments in intentional ritualization, as the active embrace of the concept of the ‘liminal’ conveys. Featuring sometimes contested and other times complementary ritualizations, these and related festivals are dynamic expressions of their diverse counter-cultural roots and the integral dimensions of the visionary experience to which its participants aspire. This chapter examines the liminal noise (hyperliminality) of such events by way of an investigation of what I identify as logics of sacrifice motivating participants. The elucidation of these logics will assist clarification of the cultural heterogeneity of contemporary arts festivals.

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The Festivalization of Culture
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Social and Cultural Anthropology
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