One of the best decisions I made for the semester was to go with the flow. After last semester, I realized that I need to let things occur naturally and see where things take me. This critique will be about figuring out how things fit. It started with video, inspired a new photo series (Bedscapes), and will ultimately involve 2 30×44″ photo weavings.
Unlike the beginning of the semester where I was more interesting in seeing what I could do and where I could go with video, I have a set concept I’m working around.
Back at the beginning of February, I realized that it’s been seven years since my father’s passing. Every seven years, your body is completely different (allergies, liver, skin, etc), and for whatever reason I’ve had this idea in my head that after this year the bodies of my father and myself have never had physical contact. No tangible part of myself will have memory of a tangible part of my father.
It was in the back of my head knocking around until Neil Goldberg’s visiting artist talk. One of the videos he showed was of a tiny little old man (his father) breathing through his nose onto a mirror. The mirror caught the light and the steam produced from his breath shot these beautiful beams out on the surface. It was perfect, it was moving. Then I fucking lost it. As in, I went home numb after the talk and fell apart to make animal noises on the floor of my apartment (that’s been a while).
One of the biggest thing to effect me in my life was the death of my father. Not because I wasn’t ready or prepared or because I felt like I never atoned for my teenage mistakes, but because of everyone in the room the evening that he passed, I was the one to witness his last breath. I stared at his body for what felt like forever but was probably only 3 minutes until someone else noticed where I was staring and realized it was done.
I kept waiting for that next breath, for one more breath, for his sleep apnea to kick in and motion to show in his chest. I thought that I would hear a death rattle, some dramatic exhale that showed the room he left for the next adventure. In the same way that human ashes are grittier than you expect, someone’s last breath is often quieter than you imagine.
I decided I wanted to see if I could recreate those three minutes I stared at him, trying to hold my breath as long as possible because I needed to know.
After talking things over with Julie and Carmen the last few weeks, I am going to be working with this piece moving forward for the next few weeks, trying to make peace with the fact that for whatever reason my father chose me to bear witness to his final moment, not just be in the room when it happened. I feel weirdly compelled to do this thing, to maybe not carry this weight around or maybe to just carry it properly.
From the breath came the Bedscapes. You’re born in a bed and my father died in a bed. His body left a landscape beneath him in the folds and pinches of fabric. As I stared at my bed, I started seeing the mountains and valleys where I grew up. It was this beautiful topography and I started getting homesick for a home I’ve never really known.
The weavings have always been this side project I’ve do (I have a lot of unofficial side projects), something physical to do with my hands and calm my mind. I get into a zone while doing them and have honestly been fighting against making them an actual “thing” in my work. Of all my current work, the weavings are the ones I secretly love the most simply because they are the only thing I can do while streaming movies. Everything else involves me being on a computer so I use the weavings as an excuse to catch up on Riverdale or binge Wayward Pines (thats the show of the moment at least for another week) and not feel guilty about not writing a paper or editing or x, y, z.
It’ll be interesting tomorrow to see what comes about but I feel weirdly good moving forward with this project and I’m sure the strange logistics will get figured out along the way.
The first breathing video (taken two days before what would have been my father’s 91st birthday) is here