Empresses, Warriors and Elders

By Claire

Starting around age sixteen, I would occasionally find myself staring in the mirror for so long that my face would melt away. Have you ever tried this? It would take twenty minutes or so before the ordinary visual perceptions of myself would fall away. I would keep staring through my disappearing face and eventually something uncanny would happen. Sometimes visions would emerge: empresses, warriors and elders. The visions of this solipsistic exercise deepened my curiosity about temporality and the body. These themes are still playing out.

messy lined face. a drawing from one of my old sketchbooks 

messy lined face. a drawing from one of my old sketchbooks 

Years later, I met a friend who was in the same MA program in Performance Studies at NYU.  Somehow I discovered that she liked to do the same thing; she told me it was called “scrying.” For her, it was one of the ways she worked on character development for her performances. This friend, who now lives in Berlin, recently visited me in Berkeley. Her visit reminded me of scrying, and I thought I would try it again. It had been a long time, maybe ten or fifteen years since I had last done it.

I tried it last night. I was a bit tired, but I enjoyed it. I sat through the severe face of low light, noticed I am getting older with new lines and habits of tension. Trying to relax my eyes and to not anchor to ideas, I felt, once again, that rush as my face disappeared and for a moment there was something unfamiliar. This time it was only subtle characters that emerged. It was nice to revisit this practice. If anything, it is an interesting way to source material. I think I will try it again soon.