Holding Fast and Letting Go: Endings Feb 2, 2018
by Elissa Favero
Photo: Heidrun Lohr
“…[A] technology is a systematic practice or knowledge of an art, and though we almost always apply the term to the scientific and mechanical, there is no reason not to apply it to other human-made techniques for producing desired results. Maybe the best definition would be: A technology is a practice, a technique, or a device for altering the world or the experience of the world.”
—Rebecca Solnit, River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West
Tamara Saulwick’s show Endings (Feb 1-4, 2018) is filled with technologies of recording and remembrance. There are the actual strips of tape and the vinyl records that appear on stage and offer us voiced recollections, remixed and layered in real time, of dying and death. (I admit I couldn’t always catch all the words — the slippages of any communication, any transfer of information — though the closeness of “Dad” and “dead” caused ache from the very start of the performance.) There is, in one of these audio recordings, mention of a photograph taken of a dear parent who’s just died. And there are bodies themselves as sites of, technologies for, memory: the psychic medium who feels and conveys the loving, protective presence of parents now absent; the memory of a dream we hear about, where a deceased loved one appeared in the light of a telephone booth; the words of a live storyteller; and the music from hands strumming guitars and from voices singing out. None is infallible, a one-to-one delivery of extinguished human life into the living present. But each is a technology for holding fast, for trying to make sense of.
Endings is also a story about light, as performers on stage lower and raise and pull along overheard lights on tracks. They illuminate as in a confessional; they throw into the obscurity of shadow. Toward the end, light and sound pulse with the color red and loud distortion: the anger, the disorientation of grief, I thought I recognized. And then these diminish and the performance builds to one of the most moving endings I’ve seen at On the Boards. Meadow grass, we hear, grows atop a freshly dug grave. Saulwick tells us about her absence at her own father’s death, and we feel the pain of the double loss: her missed presence right at the end, the loss of him forever. And then the performance swells into song and a river of blue lights dancing like a current across the stage. “We’re with you right here,” Saulwick had said over and over again, in consolation, at the start of the show. We were with her right there. And then the blue lights flickered out and the house lights came on. We were remembering. We were trying to hold fast and make sense of. We were learning, too, how to let go.
Elissa Favero teaches critical and contextual studies at Cornish College of the Arts and writes essays about art, architecture, and landscape.
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