Solo performance piece in the form of a nighttime campus tour featuring chalk art, pas de deux, and a cappella group.
Chalk Artist: Solomon Kim
Dancers: Jeremy Perlman, Deena Kanopkin
A cappella: Proscenium performing "Being Alive" from Company, as arranged by Robert Benton Orzalli
An interview with The Justice in which they incorrectly identify me as being in the class of '13 and then never fixed it even though I asked them very nicely to please do so.
In September, two days before Yom Kippur, I created a participatory installation centered around a fictitious museum, “The Book Museum of Books.” The museum space was designated using a tarp--which was also there to keep objects off of the wet ground--and front-facing wall made of the vast majority of the books I own. Once inside the space, visitors were invited to interact with a wooden desk on which lay a sign-in book (in which visitors were to write down their name, the time, and their favorite book), a lit candle, a glass of water, pens, blank index cards, and index cards with the instructions, “Write down something you’ve done in the past year for which you are sorry/not sorry. When you are done writing, find a book. Hide your card in it.” I was attired in a kippah and tallit and remained in the space from 2pm until sundown. In addition to published volumes, included in the wall of books were old diaries of mine, a poetry chapbook from my 8th grade English class, and an envelope full of letters to a friend that I never sent. A siddur also sat atop the book wall. Approximately twenty four people actively engaged in the full activity; others recognized my religious garb and wished me “Shanah tovah” or “G’mar chatimah tovah”: still others asked about what the project was before wishing me well and walking away.
This project reinforced the importance of the book as a tactile, physical object. Culturally specific ways of interacting with books also reflect the performative act of engaging with such objects. For example, one participant placed a graphic novel on top of the siddur. Shortly afterwards, a Jewish visitor noticed that the graphic novel was covering the siddur, then hurriedly moved the graphic novel aside before picking up and kissing the siddur. This enacted a religious narrative at the intersection of body and book! I learned, too, the value of being actively present in the performance space. Initially, I attempted to remain quiet while seated in the corner of the museum, writing in a notebook, hoping that passersby would enter of their own volition. This was not the case. I found I needed to act as a barker of sorts, enthusiastically inviting outsiders to engage. It was a performance approach I would adopt (though in a quieter fashion) with my next participatory installation.
Sitting Seven Shivas
1. Shiva for My Sanity 2. Shiva for Voices Silenced 3. Shiva for Dreaming 4. Shiva for Lost Loves 5. Shiva for Stories Unspoken 6. Shiva for Bodies I Have Inhabited 7. Shiva for Selves I Have Been
While typically shivas take place over seven days, this durational performance modeled after a shiva lasted seven hours, with each hour centered on grieving for a specific concept. This was indicated by changing a chalkboard easel sign at the top of each hour to reflect the shiva subjects listed above. I dressed in all black. Midway through the performance, I engaged in the rending of garments by using a knife to cut a gash in my shirt over my heart. As part of the performance, I created living room space on Norlin Quad; here I served food and also received gifts of food from both friends and passersby. I remained on the rug I placed in front of the coffee table for the vast majority of the seven hours, conversing with visitors while I had them and pacing its length or rocking on the ground when left to myself.
While I had intended to have each hour’s subject serve as the foundation for conversation, I found that visitors were more interested in discussing other matters. Additionally, while I originally intended to remain silent except for exclamations of grief or prayer, I found myself falling into the role of a host, encouraging my visitors to eat (like a true Jewish parent) as well as answering the questions of my visitors with regards both to Jewish mourning practices in general and my own experiences with the death of a family member. For example, my first visitor was a member of the Jewish Studies Advisory Board who was observing the 7th yahrzeit of her father’s passing. When she learned that I, too, had lost my father, she became more interested in asking me questions about that experience than in discussing her own loss. Other conversations that arose included a fellow who initially came by to tell me about how he had had both his identity and a significant amount of money stolen, but then became engrossed in a theological discussion with an enthusiastic Christian who practically rode his bike into the setup. A student in a class on engaged Buddhism also joined in the philosophical conversation. Intercultural exchange also occurred during my time on the quad--one woman wished to mourn for Turkey, telling me of its dire political status. While a father and his daughter passed through and grabbed snacks, he remarked that he was reminded of a mourning practice from his own culture: Dia de los Muertos. At the end of the night, I was largely left to my own devices. During this time I found myself lying down and looking up at the stars, silently conversing with the spirit of my father.
What I learned in producing this event was the appeal of my own vulnerability to those participating. Visitors were much more inclined to engage in a dialogue than to talk at length themselves. Engaging in this shiva also reinforced the notion of performance as a set of actions actually occurring in time and space that are themselves a re-creation/representation of actions; for me this was further complicated by the fact that I was estranged from both my father and my religious practice at the time of his death, so while this was a performance event, for me it also held the weight of functioning as an actual shiva of sorts for him. I believe that the blurring of the boundaries between the real and the imaginary also contributed to the effectiveness of this work. Which also applies to my next project!
Using sounds found on freesound.org (from their website: “a huge collaborative database of audio snippets, samples, recordings, bleeps…); recordings of myself/my voice as passed through various filters available on GarageBand; media recordings; and recordings of devices in use at the media archaeology lab, I created a soundscape aimed at taking participants from the front door of the MAL through to its back room, interacting with each of the spaces encountered along the way. The audioscape also called on participants to engage in a number of experiments in which I asked listeners to complete specific actions. These exercises entailed a mixture of imagining and concrete, corporeal tasks. For example, one track on the soundscape calls for participants to select a (non-functional) cell phone from the back room, then retrace their steps into the study room and hold a pretend conversation. I endeavored to inject a sense of play into the process of completing the audioscape. Other components of the audioscape include remembrances from my childhood that occurred at the intersections of family and media. I was interested in seeing how much I could tap into the realm of nostalgia without becoming saccharine.
This was my first time creating an audio project that required using multiple tracks; in a practical sense, that was something I learned how to do for this project! In a more critical sense, composing the script required me to be very conscious of the verbs I used, as I was calling upon listeners to complete hands-on activities that requires a tactile engagement with objects they don’t often encounter in this day and age. Originally when conceiving of this project, I wanted to figure out a work that sidestepped conventions of audio walks like those of Janet Cardiff and Matthea Harvey. Specifically, I wished to center forms of movement other than walking and to avoid a linear structure to the experience, such that listeners could freely float from object to object as they pleased. I succeeded more in the former. While one does need to move through the MAL to complete the piece, manual interactions are the foregrounded physical activity. Regarding the latter matter, I discovered that because the textual/verbal elements of the project were fairly stream-of-consciousness/tangential in nature, I needed to impose a linear structure to contain the chaos.
Member of Ketiv: Emerging Jewish Writers at Limmud Boston 2014 and Massachusetts Poetry Festival 2015.
Featured Reader at Mass Poetry's U35 Reading Series. Nov 2015.
Opening Act for Hiromi Goto at Spring 2017 CU Boulder Creative Writing Reading Series. March 2017.
…and more! To be updated eventually. Probably.
Elana Friedland, U35
CWRS Presents: Hiromi Goto (Part 1 of 2)
Works on Stage
Once Bitten, Twice Shy. Original 5-minute play written for Shotz Boston, fringe theatre company in residence at Charlestown Working Theatre, MA. Dec 2014. Photos by Matthew Marra. Directed by Jonathan Kinney. Featuring Alex Araya and Harsh Gagoomal