The Kindest Thing
What is the kindest thing that anyone has ever done for you?

Over the past several months I have asked this question to people on the street in Rennes, France (as part of an exhibition entitled Protocols en situations curated by the Master's students in the MST métiers de l'exposition at the Université Rennes 2 Haute Bretagne), at the Book Fair in Rouyn Noranda, Québec (as part of the 2002 performance festival sponsored by Ecart), and as a posting on the Performance Studies International list serve.

Selected sound documentation is available on compact disc.

Special thanks to Wende Bartley, Virginie and all the individuals who opened their hearts and shared a moment of their vulnerabilty in this meditation on kindness.

June 2, 2002
Good morning Céline,

I am finishing up the sound work with Wende today and will burn the CD's to send to you via express post tomorrow. I am pleased with the work and realized with a great clarity this morning in my writing meditations just how much I have shifted from the person I was when I did the work on Iris and how much of what form my work takes is resonant with the person I am, what my capacity is and where (in retrospect), I have been and might be going. When I first thought of the sound that I wanted for the Kindest recording, I had assumed that I would use the model of the Iris sound scape. As I have been working with the voices and stories and the memories of my experiences in Rennes over the past days and through my time also in Abitibi with the people I met and talked to at the regional book fair, I realized how much I am now capable of and interested in leaving space for each person to tell their story without having to layer them one atop another and therefore (inadvertently and with a great conviction at the time that I made the work, that it made for a good sound piece), forcing them to compete to be heard. With Iris, each person's voice was only distinct for ever so short bits, mainly having set it up so that the voices and the stories merged into the chorus of others' stories and voices. It is a very tender realization that brings me back to the pain of where I was when I did the Iris piece (in the attempts of acting as if I thought choice mattered and that my own voice would be heard and listened to (even to and by myself). With this kindest work and the way in which the sound is coming together in sequential tellings, rather that overlapping super-impositions, I am aware of a growth that has led me to doing this kindest intervention, and that in the doing of it will lead me further along the path of opening my heart and connecting with myself and others.

I will send the material to the gallery address. Please send me a confirmation email when the package arrives. I look forward to your comments and only wish that you could have been a more direct participant in the editing process which is in and of itself quite a challenge and very full of emotion. I am encouraged by the humanity and vulnerability that was shared with me in Rennes and hope that the work I am doing on the sound will do justice and honor to the individuals who took part. I hope too that the work will inspire others to meditate and make space in their lives for deliberate gestures of kindness and compassion.

Take good care and until soon,
With thanks and best wishes