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o r i g i n s was a fully immersive, multisensory installation and performance piece.
The show spanned four hours, during which I—in clothes I myself made—wrote in my own alphabet the same sentence again and again on the walls of my studio, slowly making my way around the room. I wrote with a solution of liquid rust, which grew thinner and thinner, loosing opacity over time until, at the end of the performance, the writing was nearly invisible.
The door remained closed during the entire show with the exception of those entering and exiting the room. This created an atmosphere of being removed from not only the gallery space, but also from time itself.
The space was lit by a single bulb—dipped in rice glue and salt which slowly warmed and emanated a subtly sweet smell and slight crackle as it crystalized—and was hung above the ground, with just enough space for my body to lay beneath it.
The walls were “drawn” over the course of a few months with turmeric, tea, rust, and the dirt from my studio floor. By the end, I lost track of the number of layers, but the result was a room that seemed to breathe and extend beyond itself.
The space was filled with the scent of my materials and a blend of oils. Many compared the scent to that of linseed oil and ginger or lemongrass and ylang ylang.
Viewers were asked not to speak, but were free to touch anything in the room. The walls were textured with etchings and dried salt, which acted as a low relief only experienced through touch.
There was a hidden speaker playing a low, almost inaudible tone of the vibration of my own breath. I recorded myself breathing—by lying entirely still for 1 hour—with a lavalier microphone taped over my throat, which picked up not only my breath, but my heartbeat as well. This sound became one that was both internal and external and when played in the room, echoed throughout as a shadow. Only those who stayed for more than a few minutes picked up on the sound.
The performance was not preconceived but came to me in the moment. I had my materials in the room and as people started to enter the space, I began writing. I kneeled on the ground working my way around the room in complete silence, never acknowledging those around me. I wrote in my own alphabet, a code that no one but myself can read.
Many people stayed for long periods of time or returned multiple times though the performance had not changed. One figure stayed for over 2 hours, slipping into a deep meditative trance much like my own.
The title of the show,o r i g i n s was intentional but for reasons that may not have come through in the piece. It was named for the processes through which it was conceived. My greatest fear when revealing the piece was that the viewers might read it as a kind of appropriation, though of what I cannot say. This was not the case. Though, in the end, the space resembled that of ruins, and the performance embodied a sort of monastic, ritualistic ceremony, the piece was not inspired by anything other than my materials and process. o r i g i n s was an act of translation, a paring down—or synthesis of—time, body, and material to their essential forms. What remains at the end of its completion is the imprint of a year of private performances though which I reshaped the way I see and the way I touch. It is my hope that this work created a space which allowed viewer and artist to share the experience of making, something I find far more rewarding that any completed work.
In addition to the main show, I had a separate space exhibiting my large-scale drawings. These were process-based works, which rely on the dimensions of my body in a critical but not immediately visible way. The two drawings shown were my exploration of material—such as sugar and roofing paper—but were included not for this reason, but for the fact that they were the first performative pieces I created. These represent the private performance, which was the inspiration for what became my public performance.
Just as the viewer enters or exits the gallery, they are met with another space, which until the eyes adjust, appears to be a black wall. Many people missed this room but if you step into the darkness, a slender 13’ vertical wall of my code begins to come into focus, glowing and wavering in the darkness. The writing cannot be read nor translated by anyone but myself but it reads as a poem.
I live with material—be it physical, spatial, or conceptual— until it completes itself.
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Anderson Frankel, Zofia E., "o r i g i n s" (2018). Senior Projects Spring 2018. 77.
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