Friday, April 26, 2013

Study in Polka Dots

Wednesdays at Opossum House have recently turned into Sound Experiment Wednesdays (S.E.W.) with lovely artist Sarah Morejohn. This Wednesday we were discussing inappropriate laughter--the kind of laughter that cannot be stifled even though it is at the wrong place and time. The kind of hysterical laughter that bubbles out of me when my mother and sister and I are in a quiet public place and see something quirky. Or the kind of crazed laughter that clamors at the edges of a tragedy or a high stress situation. Spring reminds me of this kind of laughter... not only because I think I get a bit twitterpated.

In early spring of 2008 my grandmother died after having a massive stroke. My aunt and mother and I stayed with her during her last days of life at home with hospice care. Those few days of confronting the loss of a person who had played such an enormous and important role in my life stretched out into a small eternity. We administered her palliative medications, and she drifted away. Her mind was elsewhere almost immediately; I hope that she was in some sort of beautiful dreamland. And her body drifted away more slowly. Over the course of this experience, we three caretakers would vacillate wildly between moaning sobs and strange, explosive laughter. We would begin to laugh at the same time, about something that was indescribably, inexplicably funny... and sometimes about nothing at all. It seemed to me that our laughter was bursting out of a situation of such high pressure that it was a sort of valve release. In a way it was kind of terrifying.

Sarah and I talked about this odd phenomenon with sadness, but we also had a day of wild laughter of the joyous kind that two silly friends can have. A very special sort of painful, gut-busting laughter. Fueled by joyous laughing, we made a video/sound work in which we attempted to keep our laughter at bay: such a difficult challenge. We were laughing so hard that nearly all of the stills we took from the video make us look as if we are crying. (Well, and we are! But the kind of crying that goes along with laughing and not the sobbing sort.) After our exercise, Sarah told me she was worried about me; that I wasn't breathing correctly.  It's true that laughing and distress have some serious overlaps. Here is our video.

And here are a few stills taken from Study in Polka Dots, in which we noticed we were frequently mirroring each other exactly:

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