In March 1997 thirty-nine people were found dead in a mansion in Rancho Santa Fe, California, an upscale suburb of San Diego. Between the night of the twenty-second and twenty-third, they took their lives in shifts, each group tidying up after the previous. First they drank a poisonous cocktail of barbiturates, vodka and applesauce; then they proceeded to tie plastic bags over their heads. The bodies were found lying on their backs with purple shrouds covering their faces, dressed in all-black uniforms and brand new Nike trainers. The uniform-like clothing made it impossible to distinguish between male and female bodies. In fact, it indicated that the body’s physical traits were perhaps irrelevant or undesirable. Five dollar bills and change were found in the shirt pockets, alongside identification. Next to them were rucksacks and bags with a change of clothes. The careful planning suggested that the act was of ritual nature; a farewell videotape confirmed that the bodies belonged to members of a millennial religious cult known as Heaven’s Gate.
Fog is a visual spectacle brought about by natural and man-made forces alike, bridging the gap between dream and reality. Appearing through incense in religious rituals, from Ancient Egyptian culture to Judaism and Christianity, there are inherent healing and transformative qualities in the vision of fog, offering a cleansing space through its rejuvenating properties.
In the realm of spectacle, fashion and image reign. Agents of illusion and artifice, they play a role within the system and game of hierarchy. With Italian filmmaker and provocateur Frederico Fellini’s unbridled theatricality, the Catholic Church comes under such consideration and mockery.