Turtle Mountain, 2012
Digital video, HD 1920 × 1080 16:9
19:22 min (excerpt 04:17 min)
Filmed in South Alberta, Canada
Performed by Marcus Coates, Camera and sound by Marcus Coates
Produced by SAAG – Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Canada
Filmed near the summit of this mountain on the fringes of the Rocky Mountain range in Southern Alberta, Canada with The Rockies in the distance and overlooking Oldman River a naked man enacts a ritual with the setting sun whilst another films him; both are played by Marcus Coates. Seemingly concerned with a ‘spiritual alignment’ the performer of the ritual is autocratic and impatient, fixated on the correct way to conjure this elusive experience. The clichéd procedures and terminologies of this spiritual ritual reveal a narcissistic human tendency to commodify the most basic experience.
[A naked man and a camera operator are on a ridge near the summit of Turtle Mountain, Southern Alberta, Canada, overlooking the Rocky Mountains and the setting sun.]
Spiritual Alignment Seeker: Um…
Camera Operator: Where do you want the camera, what about here?
Seeker: Um, OK, I’m going to stand there, OK, and then, just try and get the Shakra alignment, OK? With me and the sun, as the sun goes down.
[Seeker walks out onto edge of mountain, he is naked.]
OK, I’m in position, OK, now! OK?
[Seeker walks back.]
Seeker: This is just a test, OK?
[Seeker walks round the back of the camera to see the footage.]
Seeker: OK, let’s play that back. [Pause while the video footage is replayed.] OK, that’s not, you haven’t got that in line.
Camera: What do you mean, not in line?
Seeker: The Shakra in line with the sun, my pubic bone and my belly button, in between that, that’s the sacred Shrakra.
Seeker: And that should be in line with the sun, that’s how I’m going to get harmony.
Camera: All right.
Seeker: Can you get it right this time?
[Seeker walks back out to the edge of the mountain.]
Seeker: OK? To my right?
Camera: Yeah, a bit to the right!
Seeker: It would be easier if you moved rather than me.
camera: Bit more!
[Seeker nears edge.]
Seeker: For fuck’s sake, all right?
Camera: That’s about it.
[Seeker raises arms in a worshipping type pose.]
Camera: You’re a bit high.
Seeker: Move the camera down then, move it lower.
Camera: I don’t think it will go any lower, what do you want me to do?
Seeker: Just change the angle.
Camera: Then it will cut you off.
Seeker: Take it off the tripod then.
Camera: Then it will be all shaky.
[Seeker scrambles back from the edge towards the camera.]
Seeker: For fuck’s sake, do I have to do everything myself? Just let me do it!
[Seeker tries to re-position the camera.]
Seeker: Just put it down here or something, oh god, um, just put it on the floor, this is rubbish, the sun’s not there now is it? Um, oh shit, the sun’s just about to go, um…
Camera: Where exactly do you want the sun?
Seeker: I told you where the Shrakra is. It’s got to be all lined up, otherwise it doesn’t mean anything.
[Seeker still adjusting the camera.]
It’s too dark [the image in the viewfinder], lighten it up, give it more tone, that’s better. There you go.
[Seeker walks back out to edge.]
Seeker: Probably have got a few seconds, well maybe a minute left [before sun sets].
[Seeker ventures nearer the edge.]
Seeker: I want you to get my whole body, because my whole body is part of the universe.
Camera: You’ve got to go to your right.
Seeker: There, is that all right?
Camera: You’ve got to get lower.
Seeker: What, crouch down?
Camera: Just a bit more?
[The setting sun is now visible between the Seeker’s legs.]
Seeker: That’s going to look a bit weird.
Camera: Bit more!
Seeker: I can’t find alignment by crouching down, I’ve got to be like that. [Demonstrates by standing erect with arms aloft and outstretched.] I’ve got to embrace the sun. I’ve got to be in line haven’t I. The suns gotta go through me, into my sacred shakta, [corrects himself] Shakra and down into the earth, I’ve got to find a connection. I can’t be doing this [crouches down as if doing a shit]. It’s going to look stupid.
[Seeker walks to the edge and over a little.]
Seeker: I’ll go further down.
[Sun now has appearance of shining through Seeker’s arse.]
Camera: That’s better!
Seeker: How’s that?
Camera: That’s good, a bit lower.
Camera: Yeah, that’s good.
[Seeker adopts his outstretched posture.]
Seeker: Like that?
Camera: That’s good.
Seeker: I can’t hold this for long, no I can’t hold that, you try it, you couldn’t do it, um, well this is just shit, isn’t it.
[Seeker walks back to the camera.]
Seeker: You’ve fucked it up, put the camera further back.
[Seeker moves camera further back himself.]
Seeker: Put it straight like this. Are you doing audio?
Seeker: I don’t really want the noise of all those cars [audible distant traffic].
Camera: There’s not much we can do about it.
Seeker: They’re not really, you know, they are going to ruin it. I can hardly be at one when I’ve got all that car noise. We’ll put the audio on afterwards. We’ll get some mountain sounds and put that on afterwards.
[Seeker walks back out to edge.]
Seeker: OK, here we go, wooooah, waaaaa!
[Seeker nearly falls over edge, recovers and repositions himself.]
Seeker: Is that all right?
Camera: Bit higher
Seeker: Bit higher? About there?
Camera: That’s all right.
Seeker: Is that all right? Are you sure?
Camera: Yeah, that’s good.
Camera: Yup! [impatiently].
Seeker: Can I straighten my leg, it feels a bit weird? One leg’s straight and one leg’s bent, I’ve got to find symmetry.
Camera: So that I’m equal. Harmony, that’s what this is all about, straight legs, yeah?
Seeker: Up?! OK, here we go.
[After a while.]
Seeker: Is that working?
Camera: I think it’s all right.
[After a while.]
Seeker: I think there might be some people coming, I think I heard someone.
[Seeker starts slapping mosquitos that are biting him.]
Seeker: Fucking mozzies everywhere. I want to hold it for about 5 minutes [the pose]. I think that’s how long it will take for the alignment to happen, for me to feel the energy, the sun has got to be at its lowest point, go through me and into the earth, and that’s the connection of the energies, and that’s, um, everything in alignment, everything finding harmony, that’s how it should be.
[Seeker kills more mosquitoes.]
Seeker: Am I symmetrical?
Camera: You are slightly down on the right.
Seeker: I want it to come out more, like a halo. It’s supposed to be like the sun is part of me and I’m part of the earth and we are all in alignment, and we have unity and harmony, and the trees and the birds and the animals, we all live here as one. And there’s nothing between me and the sun and the whole universe.
[Seeker slaps a mosquito.]
Camera: That’s fine.
Seeker: That’s alignment, OK! That’s alignment! I can feel the energy, the earth coming through me, the sun’s rays, all the way to the sun and back again, everything’s in alignment, I can feel the power of the earth and the power of the universe, everything is in alignment. I can’t hold this for long, that’ll do.
[Seeker moves back to camera.]
Seeker: Oww! [hurts foot.]
Camera: Are you alright?
Seeker: Yes, I’ve got to get some clothes on, these mozzies are killing me. Well, did you get it?
Camera: I think so.
Seeker: I could feel it going through me, it was very, very powerful, very powerful.
[Seeker starts getting dressed.]
Seeker: One of the most powerful things I’ve ever done. It’s very rare you find that alignment, that unity with the universe. That was one time I can say I found that unity. I’ve got that now. No-one can take that away from me. Have you seen my sock?
Camera: It’s just there [grumpily].
Seeker: You’re not very spiritual are you?
[Screen goes black, but continue to hear the sounds of the mountain, there’s no conversation.]
The Spiritual Alignment Seeker is played by Marcus Coates
The Camera Operator is played by Marcus Coates