Comments along the way…
Looking back to a year ago, I still have such a strong image of sitting in the dim dark light of the Shunt Vaults in London, a group silently gathered around Richard who is sitting on a chair and flicking the light on his mobile in morse code reference. I remember him saying that he has a bunch of songs on his mobile that he listens to and one of these is a favourite. He then announces he is going to share this with us as he listens to it for the very last time. I remember my intake of breath in reaction to this. I remember thinking “oh my God how incredibly tragically beautiful and sad”.
Reading my notes from that day I say –
“This profound act moved me on a deep level. I was immediately sobbing throughout the duration of the piece”
I felt like Richard had really stepped up to the mark in his response to our task, I felt like he had risked something and framed it within such a simple action.
What struck me even more was the act of consciously deciding that this is a last time, consciously removing something from ones life that holds some importance, that gives one joy. From my notes again –
“Richards piece affected me immediately as it was symbolic of the many last times, the many little endings, little deaths along the way in our life’s journey. It taps into this profound letting go and the sadness associated.”
It was my strong response to this act that prompted me to present a proposition. The act of carrying this ending for a year. The symbolic seasons of grief and letting go.
My next strong memory is when we transferred the song from Richards mobile to mine. It was like I had something precious, now, that I was responsible for. I remember again, taking a deep breath in, just before we deleted the song from Richards mobile. It was final.
I didn’t really know what to expect for the next year, it was very much the idea of it at that time. I had no clue what I might do each month besides listen to the track. I had no plan as to how I would proceed or frame the response on the blog site.
I remember the first month in May, I felt very excited about re-visiting this moment. I remember also thinking how interesting it would be to hear the song as I really had no idea what the song was about, the lyrics, or really how it went at all. The song itself had been shadowed by the gesture in my original witnessing. I had had some idea of downloading the lyrics and reading them the first time I listened, but travelling and sporadic internet access did not support this and I found myself on the day not even knowing when I would choose to listen.
It was then, quite ironic, to listen to it sitting in the afternoon sun next to the river Vltava in Prague after just coming out of the Pinkus Synagogue. I could not separate the context in which I was and the action of listening to the song. It was a sombre beginning to the process of ending.
I know now, that the first few months was about the song, about paying attention to the song, about evoking memories and being present at the same time. The song became familiar and almost comforting. It was a joy to be greeted by it, once a month. It became like a rock. The one sure thing I knew I would do. Each month I would hear or read into the song some new innuendo, some revelatory message. It was amazing how the song took on this life within my life. This song I was holding had a preciousness to it by the mere context of what had started this project. I would look forward to hearing from Richard but I really had no concept of where he was placed how he felt in relation to the metaphorical empty space he now had. My focus was on this duty, this obligation this contract I had to uphold.
As the months went on, I started to write less. In the beginning, the words reflected what was going on in my head at the time, often inspired by the place where I was at that moment. Then this shifted, it became more about the listening and the marking.
Then came our half way mark, which amazingly coincided with us both being in the same city again. It was exciting to be able to visit this event, 6 months on, together. We conspired to be in the same room at the same time.
This also coincided with another shift for me. I realised I was starting to feel the weight of this commitment. I was questioning my original motives. Whether, the opportunity had presented itself to allow me to investigate my own grieving my own letting go. On the morning of the 16th, the day we staged our 3.37 minutes, simultaneously, I wrote -
“I said I would carry this for you but now I am not sure if it is for you or me. This is no minor thing. You are empty – you have space. I am full – with responsibility. I am waiting to empty. I am waiting to release your fullness. I am heavy. You are getting lighter.”
I realised something had to shift after this month. I didn’t know where to go, I wanted to let the song go, I didn’t really want to listen to it anymore. Richard and I talked about the form for the next half, we agreed that maybe it would be good to explore using more lines, diagrams, images rather than words. Mapping the trajectories the places without words.
Again from my notes –
“3.37 is for Richard a part of a process of letting go … of emptying out, part of an ongoing investigation of self-annihilation. For me, I realise a lot of the direction my work is going in is about body as vessel, an“emptying out” so I can be a vessel for others. The temporary dis-placement of myself."
So is there an intersection here between our explorations? This emptying and various concepts of annhilation, temporary or permanent. What is the next step or possibility?”
The last three months I embarked on the photo series “Minor Rituals in Emptying”. Again, each month I didn’t know what I would do, it just happened on the day. I was enthusiastic about this new shift and in hindsight I can see that I was indeed emptying to allow something else to flow through. My attachment to the song had shifted, I had held it and carried it, now it had to start to leave. I could invoke it but it was more the essence of it that remained. This was beautifully manifested on the event of the second last post. I was so engrossed in the ritual of creating and documenting the event that is wasn’t till the next morning that I realised I hadn’t actually listened to the song. I had a brief moment when I thought ‘Oh my God! I have failed!’ Then I laughed at the significance of it. I was emptying, I was coming to the end of the cycle, the weight was no longer there, I could release this gracefully and with ease.
The last post was tricky, I struggled with the significance of it. I had all sorts of clever ideas but in the end it just became about a simple gesture and a disappearance. A removal. Conceptually and perceptually.
After the last strains of the song had died, I felt a sudden wish that I had had someone to witness this ending for me and perhaps to carry it for me… and so it would continue.
It was with a mixture of serenity, a strange relief , a happy smile, a sense of accomplishment and a confounding hesitation that I quietly deleted the song from my mobile phone.
I think there is more to write and there will be more to say but I think this is a perfect end to this entry today.