Venus Jasper is a queer visual artist, storyteller, world builder, performative priestess, researcher, educator, writer, and curator, currently based in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

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Pilgrimage to the Soul

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Photos taken on the journey in Peru, Bolivia and Brazil, early 2014.

In 2013, after graduating from the Piet Zwart Institute with Laya Papaya Public Bath, I wanted to get out of Europe as soon as possible. I had ended the prescribed Western European ideal of attaining a master's degree, and I needed to feel what was beyond the gated fortress of the West. I set out on a long journey, first towards Indonesia, and after that to Brazil and the Andes. It was the high biodiversity and the still alive inter-cultural spiritual traditions in these places that called to me.

How did this project start?

At the time, my visual work centered on Queer Shamanism, the body, healing, and the lack of spiritual figures such as shamans in Western Europe. I was been critical of how the Church has seemed to hijack spirit and "direct revelation", turning our connection with spirit into a medicated and co-opted state-religious business model over time. I analyzed the work of AA Bronson, Genesis P-Oridge, and Alejandro Jodorowsky, which became the base of my graduation thesis, which also looked at my own wounds, and the notion that perhaps artists could be the shamans of the West. It does seem that these ideas often lack a thorough of both the erasure of pre-roman and pre-Christian practices in Europe and also exclude the way shamans and the community are directly and innately interwoven, whereas visual artists nowadays are moreover a professional business, then a spiritual vocation.

The graduation project Laya Papaya Public Bath, and the written thesis, sprouted two main notions: namely that a lot of shamans are and might have been queer, two-spirited(1), Berdache, or perhaps in modern terms, non-binary. It was often the queer spiritual leaders and queer common folk that were murdered first by colonial invaders. Secondly, I addressed the notion of the Wounded Healer, an idea that suggests that only through the healing of one's own wounds, one can become a guide for others to find and heal theirs.

With these two notions strapped to my back, I set out to investigate the larger world. For someone who never had left the Western bubble before, this 4.5-month journey became a mind-blowing experience that changed my thinking forever. Some direct results were the novel My Wavy Sarong set in Java and Bali, and a second, never-published novel on medicinal plant substances and the impossibility of being sober in a porous world, set between Rio de Janeiro and the Sacred Valley of the Inca, Peru. I worked on these novels and some visual projects at the ALTO Residency in Alto Paraíso de Goiás in the spring of 2014, before returning to the Netherlands, where, at Kunsthuis SYB, I created the Geodesic Sauna Dome that became the multi-year project SWEAT (2014 - 2015), an attempt to get bodies together in the nude; warm, vulnerable and in community, engaged in conversation, ritual bathing and spell casting.

On a more private level, I set out towards Latin America to work with Ayahuasca. At the time, I felt that the level of unprocessed trauma in my body was so unaddressed, that something needed to shift - and it did. In several notebooks, the experiences with the madre are described, but it took until 2016 when I began a two-year training as a Somatic Psychotherapist to truly process and "heal" some of the wounding in my life and my family's life. More on this will be processed into art projects and written work on the way.

I realize this is a very short text on a project that changed a lot for me. Perhaps this brevity is due to the personal nature of the revelations that I received during this project. Perhaps it is the fact that I am still today unpacking this research, and my role and position as a white person with "shamanic" sensitivities in a post-colonial (read: colonial) world, which is increasingly void of elders, living lineages and/or teachers, while the challenges are becoming ever more loud.


Project results:

  • Here you can find the thesis on queer shamanism I wrote in 2013, and here is the novel My Wavy Sarong from 2016.
  • SWEAT (2014 - 2015) took place at Kunsthuis SYB, Roodkapje Rotterdam and 1646.
  • In this period, I also performed several times for live works of Melanie Bonajo, and so became part of their video-works Matrix Botanica (2013), and Night Soil - Fake Paradise (2015).
  • At the moment, I am working on a publication looking at the healing of trauma and how it relates to neuro-divergence, queerness, and the"shamanic" sensitivities in my own childhood and art practice have stemmed from that.


(1) Two-spirit (also known as two spirit or occasionally twospirited) is a modern, pan-Indianumbrella term used by some Indigenous North Americans to describe Native people in their communities who fulfill a traditional third-gender (or other gender-variant) ceremonial and social role in their cultures. source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two-spirit

My notebooks:

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Pilgrimage to the Soul was made possible by the CBK Rotterdam and the Piet Zwart Institute Promotie Prijs.