Last weekend, artist, activist and Satanic firebrand Jex Blackmore led a ritual of resistance that drew hundreds to a neon-lit warehouse in Detroit. Inspired by the recent implementation of a biblical “sexual identity” workshop by a metro-Detroit church and the hiring of religious activists in key positions in the Department of Health and Human Services, Blackmore’s piece of powerful political theatre — entitled “Subversive Autonomous” — took aim at oppressive power structures of all kinds.
A tireless crusader for bodily autonomy (she is currently the reproductive rights spokesperson for The Satanic Temple), Blackmore has created an “aesthetics of resistance” that seeks to inspire agency outside the confines of political institutions. “Ritual has been an enduring means of transformation,” Blackmore said in the official press release, “and we are using this mode of expression to forge our own traditions, dismantle the gender paradigm, and inspire progressive action.”
To explore her latest public offering, we asked Blackmore more about her politics and process.
What was your aesthetic inspiration for this gathering?
We used neon lights to move away from the traditional, clichéd Satanic aesthetic, and create a visual homage to the concept of Satan as the “lightbringer.” The installation was inspired by artists such as James Turrell and Hermann Nitsch. Neon lights are often used in the underbelly of American cities and embody a sense of eroticism – a point that we wanted to tease out in a ritual context.
What does the “Jex Hex” symbol utilized in the performance represent?
The “Jex Hex,” is a ritual symbol inspired by sacred vulva votive offerings found in the ancient near east, and an inverted cross. Here, the eroticization of the crucifixion is reversed, giving power to feminine sexuality which wields itself onto the cross – an emblematic sex act, both blasphemous and empowering. The Jex Hex is a symbol of our resistance, and I welcome all to yield its power.
How can folks who aren’t part of any larger political organizations find community and organize themselves?
We’ve been taught that we are powerless without institutions who know the best way to get things done. This is far from the truth. While large, well-resourced organizations fulfill important roles, there’s so much that they aren’t capable of getting done. Find like-minded friends or family members, develop an obtainable goal such as getting the press to write about some specific injustice, forcing a politician to respond publicly to an oppressive bill they sponsored, unseating a corrupt person in power, etc. and identify the best method of achieving this goal. Small groups often work best. Start with the goal, do your research, plan, be smart about the ways in which you communicate, assess your risks, be prepared to get uncomfortable, and take calculated risks. Imagine an America where small autonomous groups are disrupting grotesque displays of injustice and holding people in power accountable. We have the power, we just have to use it.
How does this fit into your reproductive rights advocacy to end forced motherhood?
All of us are impacted by oppressive reproductive mandates, and we have the power to strip away some of the anti-choice movement’s power through small, viral actions. I strongly believe that we do not need power and resources to inspire and guide national conversations about healthcare, poverty, racism, and sexism. It requires innovation.