DISCLOSED #9 – 27th September 2009

Start time: 11:44
Duration: 18 mins
Witness: Margaret Merten
Documentation: text
Other remains:a performance text

It’s Sunday morning, late winter. The sky is crystalline. I’m navigating down the quiet laneways of Chippendale to the XX Gallery. There’s a lovely sense of stillness, of the city still slumbering. Julie greets me and explains she needs to prepare for her performance. I’m happy to sit in the sunlight and wait.

She ushers me into the darkened gallery. A sea of tiny paper boats bob on invisible fishing lines, the slightest eddy of air moving them gently in unison. They are so beautiful, with their delicate shapes and fragility. You can walk amongst them, and inside the boats Julie has written words and stories. They are responses to her question “Show me your scar, what does it harbour?” These answers are personal, a shared secret between Julie and the participant, and now, myself. Some are sad. Some are funny.

Now she beckons me to sit down under the gently moving boats and some music starts. She carefully places tiny coloured lights on the floor at different angles so that it really feels as if we are under the water, with the play of light and shadow mimicking the ripples of the ocean. She starts to read people’s responses to her question. These are a selection of the many responses and are really stories. One tells of the trauma of childbirth, a devastating story of a woman who was not supported when she needed it most. Another tells of a daughter abandoned by her mother and the inchoate anger she feels about this absence in her life. Another story, and one I only realise I’m connected to as it unfolds, (the realisation dawning on me slowly like an out-of-focus memory), is of a young man we once knew who died too young. It’s her rendition of his accident and discovery that, in a way, his death represented the loss of innocence in our lives.

As she reads these deeply personal stories and the boats bob above our heads there is a sense of something sacred taking place. It’s a space of trust and it almost feels as if the people whose stories she is reading are with us in the room. As the words float up above our heads, the very act of speaking them transforms them from secrets into a shared experience. It’s deeply moving.

And then, it’s over. Julie finishes, folds up her paper and leaves. I sit for a while longer, absorbing the stories and enjoying the sheer delicacy of her installation. The stories now exist in the world and the boats and I are the witnesses.

~ by jvulcan on November 23, 2009.

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