Sunday, November 20, 2016

Songs of Memory and Forgetting

RAIR (Recycled Artist in Residency)
Philadelphia, PA
June 25, 2016

Music in collaboration with Billy Dufala

Songs of Memory and Forgetting was a site-specific performance at Revolution Recovery, a construction-waste recycling facility in Northeast Philadelphia. As artist in residence, I spent six months sifting through the mountains of rubble to collect personal items that arrived from house clean outs, often after an elderly person died or moved into a care home. The performance took audiences on an intimate song tour of the site, navigating the sorting piles to explore the fragile nature of memory. I collaborated with RAIR co-founder Billy Dufala on the music, which we performed on instruments found in the dump. Inspired by the collecting and sorting done on a massive scale by excavators and front-end loaders, I activated objects made from thousands of photos and garments rescued from the dump.

The project was supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.

Photos by Ryan Collerd
Video by Greenhouse Media

Friday, January 8, 2016

Hospital Hymn: Elegy for Lost Soldiers

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery
Washington, DC
October 17, 2015  

with Craig Woodward on fiddle and concertina
Hospital Hymn
was a site-specific installation and performance that conjured the National Portrait Gallery’s history as a temporary hospital for soldiers during the American Civil War, where Walt Whitman worked as a nurse. Inspired by Whitman’s notebooks from the period, the piece memorialized the war’s quarter million unknown dead. Whitman suggests that their bodies became the compost of the nation—their spirits imbued in every stalk of wheat, blade of grass and flower that sprung from the dark fields of battle. I enacted a ritual releasing thousands of handmade felt flowers, referencing Whitman's compost imagery and drawing on the language of Victorian mourning handcrafts to suggest the enormity of loss. Accompanied by Craig Woodward on fiddle and concertina, I sang 19th-century hymns that Whitman recalled hearing nurses sing to dying soldiers.  

Hospital Hymn: Elegy for Lost Soldiers was a companion piece to the exhibition Dark Fields of the Republic: Alexander Gardner Photographs, 1859-1872. It was commissioned by the National Portrait Gallery as part of its Identify: Performance Art as Portraiture series.

Thank you to Byer of Maine for in-kind support.

The names I embroidered on the sheets were taken from Whitman's notebooks. Most of these soldiers died in his care.  

Photos by Ryan Collerd 
Video by Greenhouse Media