How do shared rituals create a sense of belonging in order to produce action?

The philosopher Isabelle Stengers claims that capitalists are sorcerers, who are not able to control the power dynamics of the creature they ‘called up by their spells’. Merkel’s research examines experience marketing as designed ritual. By using performance she detects loopholes for reclaiming personal agency. Her piece ‘we are not the only kind of we’ is a series of site-specific choreographies with 12 performers, who instantaneously invade and react to the environment of art spaces.

The group invades various venues of her graduation show without being asked or allowed to do so. Wearing cooperate outfits and interlinked with radio units, they come unsolicited and observing everyone, whispering detailed descriptions in their radios. The group seems to receive a script silently through earplugs, acting and moving as a collective body through illegible codes and readable signs in order to embody and perform power and control. From time to time an individual tries to revolt against a hidden higher supervision to reclaim personal agency, to eventually get pulled back into what seem to be a corporate ritual. As silently as the performers have come, they disappear again only to appear at another place. The presence of the group transforms exhibition spaces temporarily in corporate areas, turning the art audience into a crowd of costume-wearers, seeming to control their pace, time and actions.

This work is based on Merkel’s own observations and fieldwork taken while working for a car company in Germany in 2019, there she witnesses the mechanics and magic forces of experience marketing implied in selling vehicles. Taking these into consideration while investigating and researching voice recognition and its implications in humans’ manipulation, she proposes a series of modern magical events which aim to re-characterized our relationship to products and our everyday living. By doing so, Merkel is hoping for resistance and reaction to capitalist means through modern magic. She considers designed experiences as the “art of changing consciousness at will” – a notion which she borrows from the magician and philosopher Dion Fortune.