Angel Water - Pascale Cumming-Benson
The terrifyingly bodily becomes the clarity of electronic slickness. A tangle of wires is at the front of the auditorium, forming a mass of connections. During the service, structures behind the service semi-appear, like the network of ushers and the film crew filming what is broadcast live (the ministry has a global presence). What is it like to be an observer to this, to be completely removed? The recording is projected onto a screen at the front, as if to make you hyper-aware of an encompassing reality, and of your own part within it. Flashing up on the screen over the top of these images are the hymn lyrics: another totalising effect. Screens exact the sense of being watched, of being subject to the visual and to evidence. I was being filmed too. Everything is mediated in such a way that it is impossible to tell its opposite; it surpasses fakeness. All this is to prove that ‘distance is no barrier’ – things may be transmitted through the screen, as if ready-made, to be absorbed.
By the time you prayed and laid hands on the screen, it was like you were there with us and you joined our midst. As you laid your hands on the screen, you laid your hands on our face. That was when confusion came between us; everybody scattered. Any time I lie down, I will be seeing you in my dream. You keep praying for me and laying hands on me. I want to sleep well. I cannot close my eyes without seeing you.
All attention is on the screens except for the occasional comment, or laughter, that momentarily breaks this order. In the lead-up to the deliverance, voices from the auditorium intensify. Words are exchanged – appeals to the holy – the ministers pace up and down, stamping and flinging their arms down, and shaking their heads that are lowered inwardly in a discordant conversation. Voices are multiple and concurrent with the electronic voices via the screen. As this recorded video gets louder and louder with shouts and commands from their prophet, his voice distorts, being unable to reach out of the flatness of the screen. The air twists with prayers and shouts, but sticks – plateaus – as it reaches the limits of its fervour.
After several minutes, attention is turned to the back of the auditorium, where a man is jumping so quickly he is shaking. Awareness shifts from inwards to outwards, towards the spectacle that is occurring, and back again. A woman runs to the front and casts herself down on the floor. She vomits and spits into tissues placed in front of her. Another runs forward. Stretched out on the floor, they are surrounded by the ministers and the cameramen. Voices drive out and expel, whilst assistants restrain the body: arms pulled back behind her, pinned under the armpit and pressure applied to the lower arms and wrists – out you unclean spirit, you have no place in that body, what have you done to this body? The interviewer narrates the events – watch the screens as the anointing water is poured all over her. And she falls back. You can see the evil substances coming out of her. Deliverance is taking place all over the auditorium.
The highly constructed service seems to break down into chaotic ruptures of bodily disorder, whilst still retaining its deliberate, managed qualities. The heat of the auditorium is affirmed by the words Holy Ghost Fire as the anointing water is sprayed on the face. It brings flinches, screams and convulsions. The water that is clear cool purity burns the evil spirit and the affliction is lifted.
Dissipating over the skin, she is enraptured and removed as if transported elsewhere.
© ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, DOMINIC HAWGOOD, 2016