This is a Recording (2009) and its companion works OPENED (2007) and 13 Buildings (2005) reflect on the combinative and evaporative nature of memory, spaces forgotten and relations distant but close. In these works friends and strangers converse, histories are fictionalized, and imagined and real accounts are cited. This form of authoring allows for a cyclical union in this series, a present/past that is informed by history, consumed by my memory and later expressed as a creative response. A set of mnemonic conditions resides in the past for the characters and as latent content for you, the viewer of this time-based work.
This is a Recording
This is a Recording is a video created as a response after interviewing survivors of the Holocaust for the Shoah Visual History Project. As a member of a national team who videotaped long-form interviews with survivors, I began to reflect on what it was to enter someone’s home and listen to narratives of horror, separation and loss. The interviews I videotaped were collected in central Texas, from people I knew I would never see again. After completing an interview, I would box up the case of videotapes and ship them to Los Angeles. Initially, this act felt fulfilling, to securely contain memories that were so important. Thus began a rhythm of videotaping and then mailing the tapes. On the long drives back to Austin, across desert scrub and sun-burnt sandstone, I would consider what I witnessed. We were still learning about the war, I began to think, still sorting out this atrocity so many years later. I could not listen to music or the radio on those return journeys. After absorbing that much personal history, the drone of the tires on pavement was all I could process.
In the summer of 2012, I visited Riga, Latvia, where I presented a lecture on memory, war and the Shoah during A Virtual Memorial 2012 - Commemorative Interventions. I screened This is a Recording, and it formed part of the framework for the talk. Curator and friend Wilfried Cologne put a great deal of energy into the event, and I was honored to be a part of the program. My talk and visit were sponsored with generous support from the U.S. embassy and were organized by Culture & Arts Projects NOASS Riga in partnership with the Riga Ghetto & Latvian Holocaust Museum (www.rgm.lv), association SHAMIR and artvideoKOELN, from Cologne, Germany. The events all took place around the International Conference of Holocaust Museums, 4 & 5 June, 2012.
Letters, salvaged airmail and stamp collections from Europe during the Second World War intertwine with answering machine messages from 2006 in this meditation on European migration, memory and personal relations. In the piece, sounds from fall rainstorms in rural Illinois mix with scenes of Riga, Amsterdam and Galway.
I wrote what I consider to be the masculine voice in 13 Buildings as an homage to and dirge for the wandering male, a mix of the rogue hero Jack Wilton from Nashe’s The Unfortunate Traveler and “Sully” from Sturges‘s Sullivan's Travels. The antihero’s journey, picaresque novels, cinematic satires all aroused my interest in how narratives of migration and of memory interrelate. In 13 Buildings, the memories of once-inhabited spaces are fading into the recollection of a single building. The feminine voice is a counterpoint to the perspective of her friend. The voices in the narrative were influenced by phone conversations I had with friends over several years and also by a lost script I had written and would now rewrite into this story. Creating a work about erasure and loss while also writing a fictional conversation between two characters provided an interesting framework for reflecting on memory.