Gilding Fissures: Variations on Existence
(A collaborative installation/poetry reading)
Dawn Kramlich, Yvonne Love, and Laura Bernstein created this art installation as a fully collaborative effort and presented the work at "The Neighborhood House" in Old City Philadelphia in September 2015. Complete with a poetry performance by Bernstein, the art and the poems together contemplate loss, the grieving process, and the potential for beauty to emerge as a new presence out of the absence created by loss. See below for the full conceptual statement.
This collaborative installation is conceptually about language, loss, and, perhaps most importantly, about creating a new presence out of an absence or lack. This piece is quite literally a cycle of the verbal becoming the visual and then evolving into new vernacular as a result. However, functioning on multiple levels, this installation resonates with Roland Barthes's essay "The Death of the Author" while the aforementioned cycle becomes a metaphor for the fracturing of, the evolution of, and the creation of new components of the Self as one processes loss of some kind. It is an expression of the idea of finding beauty out of sadness or the devastation of loss.
In the process of being burned, these books bloom to become something akin to delicate and fragile, albeit chaotic, art objects which are disparate from each one's original intent of transmitting its specific information. Regardless of original content, all of these books are now in one sense stripped bare to their necessities of "bookhood" and "objecthood," while, in another sense, made even more chaotic and convoluted than the inaccessible context of the text that once occupied them. Each book maintains a quiet uniqueness within a chaotic aesthetic shared by all of them; the playing field is both leveled and unpredictably chaotic within loss.
It is this new presence of beauty, not a mere transformation but something closer to the creation of a by-product, which serves our metaphor for the process one goes through (whether being forced or self-propelled to cope) whenever digesting loss. Regardless of the narrative of loss, it always carries with it both a lightness and a weight. The burnt books signify the act of desperately attempting to fully digest or even eradicate the immense grief that comes with loss, only to face the futile nature of loss and realize that its weight will never completely go away. Consequently, the books’ unique and precarious beauty also comes to represent the lightness that comes with making the latter realization. One can be whole despite loss; the absence will always be there – it is very much present, but one is made anew through it. It is within this simultaneous lightness and weight that one can find the necessary evolution of human experience. It is how we find the beauty to move on.