Arts & Culture, Went There

Vela Phelan: Obscurus Conventus @ ICA Boston 4/28/15


Vela Phelan is a local performance artist and one of the four 2015 James & Audrey Foster Prize recipients at the ICA this year. His Obscurus Fidem performance was an exploration of spirituality, dedication, trash, and technology—an ode to the narco-saint Jesús Malverde, or “the generous bandit,” a man elevated to sainthood by Mexican narco-traffickers. Vela’s performance raised questions such as Who and what do we worship? Can the House of God exist on the Internet? Can drugs, trash, and crime be encompassed in spirituality?

The room was dark and filled with smooth pebbles. There was a statue of Malverde in front of a flickering black-and-white video altar. A long headdress of black feathers obscured Vela. There were black trash bags hanging from the far wall. Hypnotic beats made my heart beat in time. Spectators slowly gravitated, with some people finding themselves disoriented on the ground. People were swaying in the trance without knowing it and everyone seemed turned on.

Vela Phelan will give eight more performances throughout the summer. On May 14, catch Vela carrying Malverde through the streets of Boston, or check out Vela and Malverde sitting atop 14 days’ worth of the ICA’s trash on June 28.

On view now–8/9

May 14 Obscurus Tutor
May 23 Obscurus Gravitas
May 31 Obscurus Adeo
June 11 Obscurus Ipsum
June 20 Obscurus Loginquitas
June 28 Obscurus Purgamentum
July 19 Obscurus Commoneo
July 31 Obscurus Exitus

*All images by Sarah Siblinger

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