My video, Cienfuegos, is the third and final project for the course, on the themes of healing and self. The goal of this series is to address experiences or events in my life where a scar has been left (etheric body, subtle body).

In Cienfuegos, fire takes the form of a visual mantra through a performative sequence of lighting one hundred wooden matchsticks, each match lit from the previous. Elemental in alchemy and shamanism, fire here represents infinite energy. Unlike the previous two works in the project series, which operate partially in retrospect, Cienfuegos speaks to the present and the future. As a meditation on the continuum of spirit, the title is literal (one hundred fires) and also functions as an homage to Santiago-based artist and educator, Rodrigo Cienfuegos, a collaborator and friend.

Increasingly my interest is turning to questions surrounding gay men’s inclinations towards healing and the role of sex and sexual energy in this context. In his groundbreaking 2001 bookwork, Negative Thoughts, AA Bronson identifies Joseph Kramer’s work, through the Body Electric School, as key to his own healing practice (butt massage). “In 1992 I attended the Body Electric’s ‘Sacred Intimate’ workshop, invented and led by […] Kramer as one of his experiential, residential workshops […] radical, gay, neo-tantric, pseudo-psychological, sex-positive retreats that were to spawn an international community of men seeking to be healers to their people, and seeking to be healed” (Bronson 2001:54). What attracts gay men to the role of healer? Researcher Peter Savastano suggests that it is “by virtue of their exclusion from most of the world’s religious traditions [that] queer men find themselves in a kind of spiritual ‘Diaspora’” (Savastano 2007:9). He associates gay neo-shamanism and healing as forms of bricolage, composites of ideologies and references culled from many spiritual frameworks. “It is their outsider or liminal status that makes it possible and necessary for queer men to think about the spiritual life in new and inventive ways” (13), and that “sex is one of the central axes around which [gay men’s] spiritual practices and spiritual experiences are organized” (9).

“How do people, who have not traditionally had the option of making children, pass knowledge from generation to generation?  The idea is that queer people use culture as a resource.  We pass things on culturally.  For me, your piece of the matches lighting the matches, is a beautiful image of this.” —Luis Jacob (in email conversation)

For the purpose of this presentation the video itself is silent. I will provide live audio accompaniment, playing a Tibetan singing bowl. The sustained tones and sonorous strikes of the bowl are combined with the succession of flame bursts to invoke a meditative state.

Duration: 12 minutes 44 seconds

Materials: 100 matchsticks, small bowl of salt, video, singing bowl (performance), amber incense (performance)

The essential gesture in this series of projects is that in order to heal, one must begin with self-healing.



Bronson, AA. 2001. Negative Thoughts. Museum of Contemporary Art. Chicago.

Savastano, Peter. 2007. Gay Men as Virtuosi of the Holy Art of Bricolage and as Tricksters of the Sacred. Theology & Sexuality, Vol. 14 No. 1: 9-28

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