September 27, 2019


Port Townsend, WA

Drawing: Kindred Gottlieb-Gutierrez

With the participation of: Kindred Gottlieb-Gutierrez, JuPong Lin, David McCauley Jr. and Haley White
Musical inspiration: Imani Uzuri

In 2003, at the Salle Multi de Méduse in Quebec City (during the live art performance event called Prescription), I held strangers for as long as they wanted in whatever position they wanted to be held. That particular performance, which I titled Holding Ground emerged as an idea while I was on the acupuncturist table and experiencing an immense amount of fear: I asked myself what the antidote of that fear could be and came up with the idea of being held. At the time, I hadn't the capacity to set up the performance with me as the recipient of that holding, so instead, I offered to hold others. As the late Leonard Cohen wrote (in Hallelujah): "I did my best, it wasn't much. I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch."

Sixteen years later, when I was finally able to ask others to hold me, I sent out an invitation to four individuals with whom I felt a close kinship inquiring whether they would agree to participate in a short live art performance during which they would hold me. The choice of holding/mothering gesture was theirs: David chose to sing, Haley to hold and rock me in her lap, Kindred to lay alongside me with her arms wrapped around me from behind, and JuPong to pull the covers up and kiss me on my forehead, after having her back turned away from me for most of the performance. These gestures were performed as if in a dream, just after I typed up a letter (projected live as I was typing) to my mother acknowledging the pain of her absence/silence and after I lay down, as if to sleep.

While I never actually sent the letter, just writing it so publicly and allowing myself to be held was powerfully transformative, and not just for me. One audience member reached out and wrote: “That performance was so intensely moving and brought us to an extremely intimate place. I appreciate the nuances of meaning that the different components (video screen writing, physical interaction with furniture, interaction with 'ghost' Moms, David's spiritual invocation in song) conveyed.” Another emailed to say: “I will long think of how you created a beautiful you-could-hear-a-pin drop rapt attention and silence in your audience as you performed; and what an emotional, intimate and powerful performance it was.”