AN EMAIL EXCHANGE BETWEEN LINDA MARY MONTANO AND MOIRA ROTH, November 2014
Linda Mary Montano, October 31, 2014, San Francisco Art Institute, Graduate Lecture Series: “You Look Marvelous!!! The Performance of Aging and Death.”
*MR, November 1, 2014
The performance-films event at the SF Art Institute yesterday was truly magnificent, deeply moving and deeply interesting.
I have a suggestion -- before its details fade in memory -- would you like to do an email exchange about it. Then perhaps I could edit this a little, and you might like to put it up on your webpage?
*LM, November 2, 2014, 6:57 A.M.
Abbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbsolutely Let’s do it. Sooooooooooooooo gld u came.
Means soooooooo much to me
*MR, November 2, 2014, 7:03 A.M.
Let's begin now!
*LM, November 2, 2014, 7:15 A.M.:
Got to go off to CHURCHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
WILL GET TO IT ASAP!
*MR, November 2, 2014, 7:34 A.M.
#1: Can you sketch out, please, how you planned the event (what shall we call it--the performance?) at the SF Art Institute on Friday.
#2: How much was planned, and how much improvised?
#3: Have you done such presentations before? And if so:
*LM, November 2, 2014, 1:09 P.M.
I was invited to come to the San Francisco Art Institute and present my work.
They choose it to happen on Halloween and that really set the stage for performatively presenting of my two latest videos on aging and death. It was a win-win. Could not have been clearer. So I planned it for months and months, spending inordinate hours with my editor, Tobe Carey, continuing to prepare the video so it would be ready by October 31.
And then something cosmically dangerous happened to everyone's mind! EBOLA!
And as a result, my entire self-absorbed look at death as it relates to my work got deflated and I felt as if my narcissistic focus on death/aging was totally irrelevant and outdated. That is, what is MY AGING/MY DEATH in the face of a catastrophic epidemic?
To amend and confess that I was an insignificant "one" among many and that my fears and neurosis were nothing in the face of what is happening now, I made a list of THINGS THAT ARE HORRIFYING HORRORS and chanted that list of horrors as the Bob Dylan tape and Nurse Nurse films were showing. You see, the text for the Living Art/Dying Art film was written in the 1990's and I collaged into the mix, current disastrous phenomena so that my information would be about now and we could collectively clear out the trauma receptacles of our prehensile brains. Now the performance was no longer about me but about a group's aesthetic colonoscopy and subsequent release!
I had envisioned most of it before the San Francisco Art Institute (SFAI) event, but the movements of the angel-figure around the stage were energy driven and not choreographed.
A few weeks before this performance, I was in Austin at Bonnie Cullum's Vortex Theatre, performing Singing the Psalms as Mother Theresa, a 3-day, and 7-hour-a-day performance. And because I am still resonating in the flow of sound, it was only natural that I would continue chanting at the SFAI. Chanting was also used as the sound-foundation for one of my earliest films, Mitchell's Death.
Chanting then was about mourning and coloring the mourning with a deep beauty.
Chanting now is about lifting current collective pain into another realm, real silence. And I never ever make viewers feel glued to their seats when I show videos. I offer ART/LIFE COUNSELING or food or something so they feel at home and free to come and go and be themselves.
Probably the most well designed collaged event which uses time-sound-space-movement-dissociative actions is the performance I do for my father titled Dad Art.
Dad Art films our video collaboration and then his sickness, the caregiving and his death/funeral. It is so intense that it demands many stages or loci or distractions from the pain of it. I sing seven of my Dad's favorite songs from the 1930's in this performance but now, I think I will not speak again if I am to lecture about my work.... I will chant instead (as I did at SFAI) because the ferocity of violence in the air deserves the abrasive cutting off right brain-sounded chanting, just like the intensity of my Dad's death caused me to sing!
*MR, NOVEMBER 2, 2014, 1:56 P.M.
#4: Could you tell me more about Singing the Psalms as Mother Theresa, and generally about your use of singing and chanting in your performances.
#5: About Dad Art. Is there a video of you singing your Dad's favorite songs?
#6: Is there any chance I could see the videos you showed on Friday, beginning with the one with angels?
*LM, NOVEMBER 4, 2014:
On the day that John Lennon was killed, I performed my first scissors lift event at Banff in Canada. The Performance artist Angelica Festa stood in the lift and John's song, “Imagine,” played. It felt like a memorial service. I don't remember what I was doing. I only remember the lift, song, and Angelica and John.
In Austin in the 1990's, I emerged from a 3-day art-jail time, having been locked in a gallery bathroom and, as I left this "performance space", I went outside the gallery, ascended into a 14-foot lift and sang. What? I don't remember.
A 2013 retrospective of my 14 Years Of Living Art at SITE Santa Fe included two lift performances outside the building, at the front entrance. At the opening of the show, I sang along with Linda Ronstadt CD's for seven hours. Each hour I "descended" a bit until I was at ground level on the seventh hour. And at the closing, I sang for seven hours, along with my Indian music teacher, Raka Mukerjee's CD. I "descended" every hour.
It was a way for me to honor my mentors and teachers, borrowing their brilliance, the way I have been dopplegangering/borrowing from Mother Teresa, Bob Dylan and Paul McMahon's presences in my performances as them.
I see these song-presence performances as rehearsals for me to practice being MYSELF, as ways to "rehearse" being both theologically not me in the spiritual world and yes-me in the world as it is. That is, it is so fabulous "being" Bob Dylan and singing like Raka Mukerje. Hey, maybe I don't ever have to be me.
In 2014, I performed a three-day, seven-hour-a-day lift performance at the Vortex Theatre in Austin, dressed as Mother Theresa, chanting from the Book of Psalms and also ranting-singing about current hysteria, trauma, politics and the climate of the chaos of now.
If you go to Facebook and scan my private page, you can see images of this performance and if that doesn't work, go to YouTube where eventually the documentation will be there for free!!!!
Free because after Occupy Wall Street's insistence on compassion being the “best currency,” and after I decided that I didn't want to be edited/turned down by distributors of my work, I made almost allllllllllllll of my videos FREE on FACEBOOK, all of my writings FREE on my website and blog and all of my ARCHIVE is FREE where it lives, RIP, resting at Fales Library, NYU, open for all to pursue. And by the way, if you look closely at the papers in the archive, you might find some back-stories!
What abut the lift, I ask?
My training as a Catholic prepared me to "look up." That is, the mystery of THE ASCENSION, the mystery of Jesus appearing on Mt. Tabor, the placement of the statues in niches above eye level were all part of my Church-culture, so I borrowed the way, borrowed the practice of looking up which is actually a nerobiologically important way to play with consciousness -- that is, when we look up, our eyes activate the neurology of both the pineal and pituitary glands.
Also, I am not adverse to being above the crowd for performative and ambitious/personal/social anxiety reasons!
When I left the University of Texas, Austin, I came to upstate New York and began a collaboration with my father who was in his late 1980’s. We videotaped our lunches and TV-watching and after a tragic mistake-accident caused by a very, very careless therapist at his physical therapy, he developed a debilitating stroke, which left him partially paralyzed, and in need of 24-7 care.
I hid behind my video camera as his caregiver plus "manager" and on site 24-7 daughter because the intensity of his illness was too much for me to view. But my Dad became this incredibly silent and divine presence...maybe he was in an altered yogic state of right brain bliss (see Jill Bolte Taylor) because he emanated a literal "light" on all who saw him/witnessed him.
I truly feel he was in a life-death state of PRESENCE because friends would visit and shudder or cry when they were with him. The atmosphere was quite "performance-like" in the house because of his vibrational frequency but also because his Catholic TV station played/messaged all day and the house became a Church!
One day, a caregiver brought paints (thank you, Maggie) and after that, he sat in a painting trance for over an hour every day and, in total slow motion, made incredibly moving watercolors. Nothing I have ever experienced has touched the power or the beauty or the depth of this experience of being with my friend, my father.
Soon after his death, I made the video Dad Art as a way to mourn. Then I showed it to a small group of friends, but I've only twice shown it publically since then because it is NOT ART BUT LIFE and it is very delicate and fragile and needs certain atmospheres and intentions in order to be shared properly.
I now have been working for three years with a pianist, David Arner. We meet very often and I sing the seven Dad-Mom songs. It is an incredibly beautiful experience. My Mom sang in Dad's band and I'm sure she sang all of the 1930's songs that I sing now.
I keep telling David, "I don't want to ever perform what we are doing. It is too beautiful." Recently he said," It will be even more beautiful when we perform it." So David's encouragement has given me permission to Sing My Parents Songs, a seven- song event, only if I can be dressed as Paul McMahon. So I am being me, as Paul but singing as me. Singing is love.
As I mentioned already, almost all of my videos are now free, on you tube. In the near future Living Art/Dying Art -- my thoughts on death --will be there as well. Art has been generous to me. The least I can do is to give it back free.