Full interview with Erin Elyse Burns:
FKP: Let’s start with the background of Gather – how it came to be, what you were thinking as were developing it, the backstory to it.
EEB: Distance, walking, endurance, and performative gesture – often for the camera as witness – have been a part of my practice for a long time, so I’m compelled to think about physical activity – and in particular, toil – as a mindset from which to make art. Site-specificity, landscape, and location-based content are also frequent aspects of my work. Performative intervention in public space is something I’ve been working with since I moved to Seattle 10 years ago. Discovery Park as a site holds a lot of meaning for me personally, and has a rich and complex history. Marrying my different interests with the desire to create a single stretch of black satin ribbon, five miles long, that would run the course of a my favorite walking path is also an extension of work I was making back in graduate school at UW’s School of Art Photomedia program. This project was a leap in terms of its scope – it was a big piece.
Gather came in response to my mother’s illness and her eventual death. Around that time – a year ago – I was walking in the park daily as a way to process loss and grief. Regardless of what’s going on in my life, I walk in the park weekly – I live nearby. And the walking path I used is meaningful to me because of its rigor, its variability, its beauty, and that it is a loop. I have a hard time doing there and back walks. The loop enlivens me. I was really interested in activating that route, sharing it with others – releasing it as “mine.” Particularly during bereavement, I began thinking about using that loop as a way to connect to ideas of the lifeline, family lineage, the circle of life, the cyclic nature of everything. Tapping into those interests of distance, physicality and then choosing to use the ribbon as a way to demarcate these ideas is how the work began. I also thought about the piece for about eight months before the actual making began… marinating on ideas is a big part of my process.
FKP: Endurance and physical activity have been a part of your work and life for a while. You run marathons, you hiked the PCT – it seems like a big part of who you are both personally and in your art. I was wondering if you could talk about what that means to you? Does this come from your life and then find its way into your artwork? What does it mean to your work?
EEB: I think regardless of what the activity is, I have a tendency to jump into something headfirst. When I get into something I’m willing to go pretty deep and immerse myself in new experiences. I’m attracted to that steep learning curve and dramatic change. While running or long distance walking is one way to think about this, that trait applies to a lot of aspects of who I am.
In 2010 I did a piece called Commute. I was living with my mom in Nevada at that time, right after she had been diagnosed with cancer. That semester I was also teaching at the university there. She lived in a little town called Fernley which is about 45 miles east of Reno, Nevada, where I grew up. I commuted that distance daily on the highway at around 80 miles an hour. It’s an incredible desert mountain landscape and I love the drive. As a way to mark the end of my time in Nevada, I decided to walk my commute. That was probably the first time where I really looked at endurance and the idea of the physical body and the mindset that you can enter into when you’re pushing yourself into that unknown territory. So I walked the 45 miles in 17 consecutive hours and did my commute that I took for granted daily by car. I had the intention of not walking on the highway, so just the simple act of getting from point A to point B becomes subversive when you’re trying to walk somewhere. That led to all kinds of interesting things like trespassing on private and federal land. My friend Alwyn who was part of Gather did that walk with me. We had to negotiate a dam, showed up unexpectedly in a brothel parking lot – all kinds of crazy things happened. The headspace is difficult to describe, sort of an automatic mind, or a kind of consciousness that is really freed up by the moving body, by walking. I do my clearest thinking when I’m walking and so that is a really attractive proposition for making art because I can’t enter that headspace sitting at my desk on a computer or even in a notebook writing by hand.
Then in 2014 I hiked part of the PCT with Nat. I thought Commute was the longest walk I would ever do, and then I walked 800 miles over 10 weeks. That’s a whole different proposition because you’re living in the backcountry, carrying “your apartment” on your back – it’s more extreme. To do that day in and day out takes a toll on the body that’s really different from a one-day thing. Walking the PCT led me to think about how to emphasize toil in my work from a closer perspective. Previous works engaged the landscape (and the body in it) from a distanced view. On the PCT I could also maintain that endurance mindset and have a more nuanced understanding of what it is when it’s not a special occasion, but is a consciousness I was confronted with for a while. It’s never been constant for me, but entering into that automatic place where your thoughts are in line with your body, and to do that day in and day out, was revelatory, and is something that changes you.
FKP: I was wondering about what kind of headspaces you came to during Gather, because it was a pretty insane endurance piece. You got to the park at six in the morning and were laying the ribbon out for five hours then turned around and started picking the ribbon up, and this is all after you spent many weeks making the ribbon one piece on a spool, and all on the anniversary of your mother’s death. Each of those layers is a lot to process. Could talk about what you were thinking and feeling during Gather?
EEB: Alwyn stayed over after Gather and we were talking about this and she said “Yeah, you know most people on the one year anniversary of their parent’s death might just go to the spa or whatever, so you’re definitely crazy.” [Laughter.] I get that side of it, where it seems really extreme and you could see that as a part of the grief process, which I am aware of. I also think that as artists doing experimental projects – one day site-specific works – we go to extremes. I think of Vignettes where they installed museum-quality shows beautifully for just one night. That’s a remarkable thing and it doesn’t follow a traditional model, but it’s an invigorated and invigorating form. I think some endurance aspects of Gather are wrapped up in being a huge project for just one day, and the captivating ephemeral aspects of that.
I think the idea that the “runner’s mind” is meditative is interesting, but it’s also a little slippery in the sense that this might call to mind certain types of images. You must be relaxed, or having visions, or have a heightened consciousness – which certainly can be a part of it – but what you’re also facing is being confronted with your thoughts, which can get very loud. For me, and I imagine for a lot of people, meditation is conflicted, because life is conflicted. Looking at the habit patterns of your mind and becoming objective or neutral towards them when our tendency may be to try to control or judge our thoughts, is an incredible type of work.
Presenting Gather in one day meant that my mind wandered a wild spectrum, from anxiety to gratitude, euphoria and epiphany, to getting angry and frustrated. And a lot of that tension was during the setup, and that was very difficult. Because the turnaround time was so tight and things didn’t go as planned – which nothing goes as planned. We should know this fact, but it’s still surprising. To enter into the space that the performance created was a pretty drastic switch. But I think in part because I was physically exhausted, an emptying-out had already happened during the setup, so I felt like I was able to start the performance with a clear mind, which was a little psychedelic. Because of that, during the performance I was able to enter a more neutral experience and be really present in every moment that happened.
FKP: You touched on things not going as planned. I was wondering if you could talk about what was different about the piece in actuality and what you had foreseen for it?
EEBS: I wouldn’t say the piece was different. The logistical side of setting the work up was more time-consuming and challenging than I anticipated. Having a gentler setup, having a proper break between setup and performance – enough time to eat and go to the bathroom, etc – those were the unplanned parts. The work itself and the intention of the work I don’t think changed much. If I’d had a real break, perhaps the beginning of the performance would have felt more polished to me, but again that’s related to minor details.
I expected there would be tangles, because it was five miles of ribbon and anyone who’s handled a ball of yarn would know there are going to be some tangles, but it was really working against the clock that was the hardest thing. It’s valuable learning. It’s interesting though, I was talking with Ruthie (one of the participants) and she said something like “As an artist we’re inventing things, so sometimes when you’re inventing, the amount of planning you can do reaches a limit.” I have never laid a five mile piece of ribbon through an extremely varied terrain while hefting a ~120lb spool of ribbon with two amazing assistants, so there’s a certain amount of logistical planning you can do, but then you’re also confronted with “This is the first time I’ve ever done anything like this, so of course it’s not going to be easier than you expected.” [Laughter.]
FKP: Because it took a lot of effort, during Gather when you were carrying the bulk of like fifty pounds of ribbon on your back by the time you handed it off, you must have been exhausted. Could you talk about the moment when you saw the group of community come around the corner, and when you unloaded that huge bulk, and the rain started pouring down at that exact moment. What was going on inside Erin at that time?
EEB: Relief. Extreme relief to have the meeting occur and physically to take that weight off my body was wild. I had settled into this armature of a nest and I had gotten accustomed to its weight on my figure and I was moving extremely slowly, which for me as a walker is difficult. Getting settled into the weight and pace became the new normal. And then when I met the group, taking that weight off buoyed me instantly.
The meeting was surprisingly emotional. The drama of the weather and the fact that the meeting place was a vista with an incredible view of the Sound, a site I’d hoped we would meet at, ramped up the cinematic feeling of that moment. Getting to make eye contact with people that have supported me in varied ways and having that shared moment with everyone was really beautiful and intense. It was oddly difficult to part with the group, which was something I didn’t expect because the concept was that we would meet, we would pass, and we would continue our loops separately until we reconvened underneath the large leaf maple tree. But then when I met the group I wanted to walk with them, and that was surprising.
FKP: That was a really emotional point in the piece and it made me wonder how the fact that it was a public performance changed the nature of the piece. People must have been coming up to you all the time and trying to talk, you told me it was tricky to pull cards out of your pocket for people with the ribbon on your back. How did Gather being in public, rather than being in a controlled environment, affect the experience?
EEB: I’m interested in the concept of private things happening in public, and to activate both of those spaces simultaneously. We tend to think that public activity leads to a public persona, but then there are these interesting moments where you see something really private happen in public and it shatters social, cultural expectations.
To do this silent performance and to have many people encountering me – expecting me to talk – and to respond in silence, then dig through my ribbon to give them a performance decorum card was really interesting. It taps into a bigger part of the work’s content. How do we communicate without words? Without explanation people are forced to think based on what they’ve observed is happening and come to their own conclusions, and I’m excited by that charge.
A lot of people acted as though they weren’t looking at me, which immediately made me think about what happens when we’re confronted with difference. What happens when we’re confronted with something we don’t understand? What happens when we see something we don’t want to see and can’t process it – how do we deal with that? A lot of times people turn away. There were a lot of sociological observations that you could look at, from people really wanting answers from me, to people being very observant and respectful, to being perplexed, to having dog meetups and not noticing me trying to pass, heavily encumbered…
A lot of the people I encountered had seen the ribbon for some time, walking its length, which seemed to feed their curiosity, and then when they encountered me they had an experience. There were a lot of wonderful observations from kids like “LOOK IT’S WHERE THE RIBBON COMES FROM!” There was a little girl who was just freaking out about the amount of ribbon. Her mom had to sort of talk her down – she was jumping and pointing. “Ok, she’s gonna keep moving,” and then the girl screamed, “BUT LOOK AT HOW MUCH RIBBON IT IS.” That was delightful. Another child said something like “Oh, sometimes people follow string so they won’t get lost,” to her dad. These were really beautiful freed observations that got to the heart of the piece with that childlike whimsy that can be hard for our adult brains to access.
FKP: Especially when people see things that aren’t in the gallery or museum context and don’t immediately think of it as art, so they ask all sorts of different questions and come up with all sorts of different answers because of that.
EEB: Which is the joy of an intervention in public space – confounding or subverting some of the explaining, context, and bias that happens in a gallery/museum where expectations are often defined. But when we encounter art “out of context” things can get very interesting, which is a really great part of Outer Space’s mission, and I’m guessing one of the reasons you host works like mine – to bring attention to the fact that you can have meaningful art experiences anywhere.
FKP: Yeah, and they can be more meaningful or differently meaningful depending on where they are. You also mentioned that you’ve talked to the participants and I haven’t heard any of those interviews. Could you talk about some of the insights or through lines that you’ve heard in those conversations?
EEB: Everyone has been different, and across the twelve participants I have really different relationships with each of them. Some people are supporters of my work that I don’t know that well personally, some are dear friends, and my husband was a huge part of the piece. So there’s a broad range of participants and the conversations reflect that. One of the biggest gifts of the piece has been realizing that it’s a mirror for people in so many ways. It talks about support, community, judgement and understanding, compassion, slack and tension, patience and collaboration, the way we can communicate without words, how we support each other when we don’t speak, and how we sometimes ignore each other, without realizing it. Through conversations, all of these things are coming out of something that on the surface is about my mom’s death and my grieving process, but that is one very small part of the work. I’ve been really excited and grateful by how many points of entry the participants engaged with, and how much the silent collaboration of gathering the ribbon together yielded. I expected this but I’m humbled by the richness of it, and to me that really makes the piece. I have heard similar things from viewers who have talked with me about the work as well.
FKP: There’s the more obvious aspect of silence relating to mourning and it’s often respectful to be silent, but it felt like there was a lot more to the silence than that layer. Could you talk about what the silence in the piece meant to you?
EEB: I practice silent meditation and have done a few silent meditation retreats, so I’m interested in the kind of knowing that can happen with a community when you don’t speak – the kind of learning and intimacy you can develop sitting near someone you’ve never exchanged words with, but say, you know the soles of their feet intimately.
There’s something that’s captivating about knowing through that kind of experience and not through verbal explanation. That was a big influence in asking a large group of people to gather the ribbon together, to be able to figure out how to do it without talking, to be able to figure out what someone needs in front of you or behind you, or what you need without having to say it. How can we be attuned to those impulses responsively, as opposed to having to say, “Tell me what to do, can I help you?”
I see that kind of intuitive support as having a correlation to what a grieving person, to what I experienced and needed during grief. I didn’t feel able to explain to people what I needed, but I needed them to know. A lot of people typically ask “What can I do? How can I help you?” And it can feel like they are saying, “Tell me what to do. Help me help you.” That is a very natural and human response, but it’s also in opposition to being helpful because then, you, bottomed out and at your weakest, are tasked with a role you can’t fulfill, which I found impossible when in profound grief. The idea of intuitive communication and intuitive support came from thinking that we all can benefit from developing better skills to observe what someone needs without having to be told. And, at times, learning that there is no help we can provide that is greater than the help a person can provide themselves. It’s so hard for us to witness weakness, to show up, to be present, to help beyond words…
In having a relationship to silent meditation, when you’re not talking, your thoughts have the potential to get really loud, so you have this opportunity to observe the kind of thoughts you have. Some of the people in the participants group are meditators and most are not. I was really interested in this idea of having a group that through participating in this piece would be confronted with their thoughts in some way. A lot of the participants I’ve talked with have acknowledged that was an important part of their experiences.
FKP: On the group side it sounded like it was about intuitive communication and figuring out how to work as a group, but you were also silent which sounds like it was more related to a meditation practice. How would you describe the silence on your end as you were alone and didn’t have to collaborate with others?
EEB: I think the mindset is similar, but the task is different. Collaborating with a group and figuring out how to do things silently is one experience, but the idea that when you’re not talking you observe your thoughts in ways different from when your mouth is running is similar whether you’re alone or not.The experience of gathering the ribbon was so intimate. It’s a weird private thing and you get into a physical rhythm with it, and even if I wanted to talk, sound would just sully that. There was something about when a cadence would be struck and I would be able to coil and move my body in ways that felt balanced, and that would then impact my mind. Then when there were challenging parts and I would have to reconfigure the ribbon and negotiate how to bundle and carry it. You’re able to observe yourself and your actions in a way that I think has an acuity to it that if I were talking wouldn’t. Things shifted with public engagement, because to not talk to viewers set a different tone and that was interesting.
FKP: I was thinking about the silence of not talking to the public, so you have more of an engagement with your own thoughts.
EEB: Yeah, and I think there are a lot of different types of performance art that deal with that differently and I’ve definitely done pieces, for say NEPO 5K, in Tumbleweed Trundling where I rolled a tumbleweed the course of the 5K route. When people stopped to talk to me I would engage with them, and that was what the experience wanted. For Gather, it was an internal, introspective, commemorative performance, so it just didn’t make sense to stop and chat with people. That wouldn’t have maintained the energy of the work. I think it would have been dispersed by having conversations with people. Whereas with the tumbleweed piece it was a lighthearted and fun work. Although, it also had a lot of physical toil and difficulty wrapped up in it. But it was also an opportunity to dialogue, and was part of a festival that was very social and I had great conversations along the way. That was one aspect of the silence that was a little difficult because I know rich exchange could have come of out those conversations. But that wasn’t what the performance was about, and those conversations can happen elsewhere, which I’ve been grateful to be continually having.
FKP: I was also wondering about the path itself. You have walked that trail in Discovery Park many times before the performance and you’ve been back there since, so I’m curious how this piece may or may not change your relationship to the trail or to the way you look at people walking.
EEB: Nat and I were just talking about that and I think that change will be perceived over time. As my relationship to the park continues, I’ll start to refer back to Gather, and things will shift. In the immediate now, walking the path is one experience. I do it in an hour and a half normally and think of it as exercise and processing time. There were things about Gather – the slowness, the mindset, the public attention while doing something private. Those things are all very different than going for a walk in the park. Those differences resonate with me. I’m excited to see how my thinking on that will evolve. During Gather there were a few moments that really stand out, so I’m sure I’ll think of them when I pass those points on the trail.
FKP: What were those moments? I’m assuming the handoff was one, but were there others that stood out as well?
EEB: Yeah, in the anticipation of seeing the group, I had a strange, dare I say, premonition. But I had been anticipating the encounter for a while, maybe a few hundred yards prior, so there was an interesting energy in sensing that it was going to happen before it happened. That was really striking.
Prior to that I had a series of “I can’t do this anymore” thoughts. “I’m just going to sit down and wait for them to get here, this burden is too heavy, it hurts too much.” I was confronted with the “I can’t” feedback loop and that was interesting too as a moment because spending too much time there doesn’t serve endurance work, doesn’t serve us at all, really. I think from the PCT, the first two weeks of hiking I spent my time in that “I can’t” loop, but when I got through that and was no longer thinking that way, I felt an incredible freedom and realized energetically how bad it was for me. It was interesting to have moments of that thinking, to recalibrate, and choose to move slower. I thought, “Do less more deliberately” and then shortly after that I had the “I think I’m going to see the group” feeling. That whole continuity of “I can’t” then “They’re going to be here soon” was a compelling sequence.
FKP: That was another big question I had about this piece. There was so much endurance involved that anyone would have to go to those “I can’t” headspaces, and I was wondering what helped push you through those moments. It sounds like you just confronted them with logic. Is that how you deal with it, by reasoning, or is there something else that helps push you through?
EEB: I think I have enough experience with that thinking that when things are clear, I can see it, observe it, and move on, not as easily in my personal life, but in my artwork of that nature, especially in the silence/endurance mindset, there’s the opportunity to look at it, see it, and redirect, which also comes out of a couple years now of a regular meditation practice. When I did the PCT I didn’t have that experience, so I think I’ve given myself some training on how to redirect thought patterns which has been very helpful. I also have a certain amount of stubborn tenacity that leads to a “I’m fucking doing this” conviction. [Laughter.] It’s not that aggressive, but there’s just a certain amount of, I don’t know what, “stick-to-it-iveness” or “I’ve made this commitment, I will follow through.” That’s a part of my personality for better or worse. The option to sit down and wait for the group was very attractive but then whatever that drive is kicks in and says “No, you have to keep going.”
FKP: Where do you think that comes from? Has that been with you since you were a kid? Did you go on lots of hikes? Was that a recent thing – that force of nature part of you – or has that been with you since time immemorial?
EEB: No, it’s more related to art-making and adulthood, I think. I definitely don’t think of my childhood personality or teen years that way. It probably started in college… I think that some of that came from the PCT – the PCT was the first major backpacking trip I ever took. I didn’t have a history of backpacking. Nat is an Eagle Scout so he spent a hundred nights outside before he did the PCT. I think I had been on two backpacking trips before the PCT, so I think there’s something about the novice or beginner’s mind paired with throwing oneself into a really extreme experience that is part of that tenacity, the propensity to be really interested in something new and to just jump in. The first time I moved away from home, it was to live in Switzerland, 6,000 miles away from Reno, NV and culturally, a world away. I didn’t speak German… But I made the choice and dove in. Maybe that was the beginning… There’s something about looking at an experience you want to have, owning that, and following through that is a type of learning I’m compelled by.
FKP: That makes a lot of sense. I guess I had just envisioned you having to chop a cord of wood every day as a kid or something.
EEB: Not at all. [Laughs.]
FKP: You talked about how this piece relates to your relationship to walking and the park. I’m also wondering how it has affected your relationship to the grieving process? Has it made you think about that experience or your mom differently?
EEB: It’s so interesting because I think there’s this natural impulse to think if you’re making work about personal topics that the work must feel personal to you. And it is, but I think that because there’s all of the logistical planning, conceptualizing, and logical brain thinking that goes into producing a work, that a lot of my mental energy went towards that. I spent a lot of time thinking about where the work was coming from and its relationship to grief and community, but I don’t have a clear understanding of how it will affect my grieving process right now. I’m looking at it as an art piece, so my questions and evaluations of it are wrapped up in that way of thinking, which is really different than, say, the first month after my mom died.
If you had asked me about what my grieving process was like then, I could give you defined answers, but making a piece about grief is really different than grieving itself. And that’s something that will evolve over time and that I may look back at in ways that are different from how I’m looking at it now. I understand it to be a processing of the experience of losing my mom and to be a part of my creative practice. I think when life and art mirror each other, for me, that’s such a rich and deep way to be making work and I feel the piece did that – that’s really rewarding.
FKP: That makes a lot of sense. I’ve heard people talk about making art in relation to grief and how it’s really difficult to both make something and feel something fully at the same time – you can draw from an experience to make, but you can’t have an experience and make something about it at the same time – they’re different things.
EEB: I talk a lot about that in terms of being my own subject, because I’m often behind the camera and in front of the camera or making something that I am “an actor” in, and there’s a certain amount of necessary distance in order to make that possible for me. When I look at myself as a subject in an artwork I’m not thinking about me in the way I do when I, say, I’m getting ready in the morning. There’s an observation that happens that allows for criticality or a safe space to go places that if I was thinking about my day to day I wouldn’t be able to do it. For this piece there was a healthy and necessary distancing in order for the work to happen, where if I were in a grief stricken state, none of that would have been possible. I wouldn’t have been there, I would have been on the couch.
FKP: This is a lane change, but were there any other artists or pieces that informed Gather specifically, or did it seem to come as a natural evolution of your work?
EEB: The latter. I had been making the project On Borrowed Time, which looks at mourning stationery and text – phrases that people either said to me during grieving, the medical process, or language that got stuck in my head after Mom died. So I had been working on this project that was a direct response to my mom’s death, but abstracted through words and the stationery to create distance there. I’ve spent time researching and reading about Victorian mourning practices, which I’ve been interested in for a while, and looked to the idea of sympathy stationery and that black line, which is harder to find in contemporary stationery now. It used to be a common practice to have dedicated mourning envelopes and stationery as a part of the social etiquette of loss.
That was captivating to me as a way to respond to some of the difficulty of contemporary grieving. A lot of people often said to me, “I don’t know what to say,” “I don’t know what to do.” It’s challenging to come up with an immediate answer for grief-related decorum or etiquette, especially those of us who aren’t a part of a religious faith. I was interested in looking to a time when there was more of a set list. I spent time thinking about those traditions and that was a direct influence to the work.
FKP: That makes a lot of sense and is a nice reference of the black line around the stationery to the black line around the park.
EEB: I wanted to lift the black line off of the stationery and imagine what that black line would look like in space. The black line is also related to the tradition, which is less common now too, of wearing a black band around your arm when someone dies. I believe FDR was the last major American leader to wear one in grief, and there are famous images of him wearing the band while signing the declaration of war against Japan. He was grieving the loss of his mother at the time, but the symbolism surely wasn’t lost. And the stationery that the On Borrowed Time project came out of was from Kennedy White House stationery I inherited from my mom before she died. During my mom’s upbringing, the Kennedys were her generation’s Obamas, and a captivation with the Kennedy legacy was something I shared with my mom at a young age – my first awareness of politics. I was interested in the idea of Kennedy White House etiquette after JFK’s assassination. Jackie receiving condolences and the White House sending out the appropriate response. How does this correlate with our current White House – what would Trump mourning stationery look like? A tweet? Looking at compassion and heart in relationship to a governmental body is complex. There are iconic images of Jackie wearing black at the funeral, her veil, the idea of the public face of grief with poise, versus the private reality of falling apart. The recent biopic Jackie explores this topic… A lot of this research influenced Gather.
There are many walking artist forebears and performance artists that I’m continually inspired by – looking at Richard Long, Francis Alÿs, Janine Antoni, Ernesto Pujol and other interdisciplinary artists that use their body in various ways. Those sources are always influential to me. In making Gather I wasn’t directly looking at Francis Alÿs’ work, but I have his work in the back of my mind any time I set my walking body in motion towards a piece. When I first encountered that work it broke open so much in terms of what art-making can be and it is a lasting influence. I also think that because there are many artists who make work about walking, it’s important as a maker to be aware of that lineage. It’s a topic I teach from too, so it’s interesting to look at it in the classroom and also in my own work.
FKP: Could you talk about that a little bit more about walking in relation to your work?
EEB: For reading recommendations, Rebecca Solnit wrote a book called Wanderlust which is history of walking and looks at early traditions of walking from a wide array of perspectives and was also very influential to me early on. The first section is called The Pace of Thoughts and addresses ideas around what we’ve discussed about the mind/body connection in movement from various angles way more articulately than I can! Solnit’s Field Guide to Getting Lost is another early influential text for me. Pretty much everything I’m interested in she’s written a book about.
FKP: Speaking of movement, where do you see this piece moving to next?
EEB: We’ve talked a little bit about the possibility of this piece being done again, so I’ve been thinking about that – what would that look like if I produced it a second time based on what we learned the first time. What would it feel like to do again? What would greater institutional support for a piece like this look like? Does it make the most sense for it to be DIY the way we did it or does it make sense to have more support that would make the work easier to produce? I’m kicking around those questions.
I’m also thinking about what Gather would look like as an exhibition, and not necessarily as an exhibition of documentation but thinking about the feeling and emotionally tactile content of the work – how could I make something engaging with that? As opposed to displaying photographs from the performance, which I think would be great to display, but I’m not only interested in only sharing the documentation. I’ve been thinking a lot about video and what kind of imagery I could make to tap into some of the ideas that the piece brought up about collaboration, the body, the tactility of sound. The ribbon running through my fingers is something I’m going to record. The sound of twelve people walking really slowly on gravel – I’m very interested in that. Finding a sympathetic gallery that would be support the work is.
FKP: Last question: how’s the recovery process been? That was pretty wild, I know you went to the spa the next day, but how are your mind and body doing after this?
EEB: Physically, my body is healing from the strain of the piece. That’s something I need to be mindful of because I do these endurance works and then if I have injuries afterwards I think, “Oh, you should be gentler. How do you be gentler?” I continually engage with the work of being gentle with myself, and this piece is a helpful step in that process. My mind feels clear and I’m enjoying the spring season so far!
Thank you, Forrest, for the occasion of this interview, and for your support of Gather. It has meant the world.
FKP: Thank you Erin, I loved it!