Embodied Astrology

The Art of Astrology

Renee Sills, founder of Embodied Astrology, talks about developing a creative life with help from the cosmos

For many, the time-honored tradition of astrology is a staple of contemporary life in confusing times. With the psychic upheaval this tumultuous year has brought us, it seems fitting to turn to the cosmos for guidance. As it so happens, it has a lot to say!

Renee Sills (she/her & they/them), a local artist and founder of Embodied Astrology, offered me some insight into the signs of the times. Sills’ astrology practice draws on artistic interests—which include dance and social practice. In a recent conversation, we discussed how her work with the cosmos interweaves with her creative life.

In popular culture, astrology is associated with horoscopes. Take, for example, Puerto Rican astrologer Walter Mercado, whose beloved horoscopes are chronicled on the recent Netflix documentary Mucho Mucho Amor. Usually horoscopes offer advice for each sun sign in the zodiac, and the reader can apply that advice to such personal affairs as relationships, careers, and finances.

Photo by Salty Xi Jie Ng for the #EABodiesProject creative exchange

Embodied Astrology, however, differentiates itself from that general approach through its focus on “embodiment”—a term that can encompass one’s personal and ancestral history, identity, movement and physical sensations, among other meanings. This relationship of astrology to embodiment is not new. In the ancient practice of medical astrology, each sign in the zodiac also “rules” or connects to various body parts. Sills sometimes works with medical astrology methods in her practice with clients. She has suggested that, “If you can speak from your body, oftentimes, you can speak to the truth of something.”

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An academic conference for Schemers, Scammers, and Subverters

Artists Ralph Pugay and Roz Crews have designed a conference for our times

“I think a lot has changed for the project since we talked last,” says Ralph Pugay (he/him) as I caught up with him and Roz Crews (she/her) over coffee two weeks ago. I have been following these two artists as they have collaborated on the Schemers, Scammers, and Subverters Symposium , aka SSSS, since early last year.

“We’re not going to have Tonya Harding,” continued Pugay.

“Sadly,” added Crews.

Originally slated to take place in December 2018, SSSS was envisioned as an academic conference that would feature presentations by schemers, scammers, and subverters from a wide array of backgrounds. The aforementioned Olympian was high on the list of desirable presenters. However, Crews and Pugay have since shifted their timeline and programmatic vision, instead reaching out to locally-based artists, creatives, and cultural workers through their networks. The event will now take place February 23, from 10am-6pm at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Portland.

Living School of Art poster for the SSSS’s TOTALLY HONEST BARTER BAZAAR

The conceptual framework of the symposium carries layers of nuance underneath that sensationalist title. “The title of the project is a big part of the project…It’s totally critical, as is true with lots of conceptual art projects,” said Crews of its multiple meanings. “I think those words [scheme, scam, subvert] have negative connotations,” reflected Pugay, “but then I can also imagine, coming from my background, my experience of being a Filipino immigrant, those are also tools for survival for people.”

On the one hand, SSSS has been shaped by a dialogue between Crews and Pugay about this fraught historical moment. They began asking themselves what it would be like, in Crews words, “to make a project that’s about scheming and scamming and subverting systems, when we have a President who is just straight up scamming us all.”

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