I knew I wanted to do something with photographs I took in 2000 of the house I lived in as a kid in Pompano Beach, Florida. I also knew I wanted to extend the photograph into a sculpture or a performance piece entitled "baggage." The title fit so well, I spent the week almost in a daydream about how I could communicate the concept. It seemed to work on so many levels and was reinforced by the fact that during the week at The Maine Workshops, Sandi and I would spend our evenings moving the contents of our offices and home from our winter rental to our summer rental (see previous post on Maine and year-round rentals)
And even more baggage - for years I've been carrying around the trauma of an early childhood event. An event traumatic to the point that it feels like it happened to someone else. Like a movie or like one of the stories you tell so often, that you're not really sure anymore that it's true. Needless to say I've worked with therapists for years to let go and transform this emotional baggage and to a point I've had success by managing to understand how my baggage impacts my relationships and the rest of my life. Sandi likes to use the phrase (from rockstar therapist Terry Real) about how the solution involves understanding that some people just have their thermostats set much higher than others. I'm so accustomed to chaos and disfunction that the house can be burning down (literally) before I'll notice that something maybe is not right.
So the morning of Day 5 rolls around and we're supposed to turn in our week's assignment and I'm still not sure what I'm going to do. Somehow this week of dancing and movement and improv has really jarred something loose. The buzzing is growing louder and I really want to smash this assignment out of the park. It's going to be part theater, part photography. I want to go with the idea of improv - no script, an experiment. Let's just see where it takes us. I'm going to start the performance without even telling anyone that it is a performance. I'm going to start by bringing in twenty moving boxes full to the brim with negatives from projects and assignments from the last 19 years and spill a few to the floor - total disregard, total disarray. It will be disruptive and annoying. People in the class will ask to help carry some of my baggage, I'll decline: "No, I'm fine; everything's ok," I'll reply.
I'm going to bring in a bowl of cereal and milk - cereal like Fruit Loops or Capt Crunch - cereal only a child would eat. I'm going to bring in toys and scatter them about the room. Like they were suddenly abandoned. I'm going to bring in my barbecue grill and fill the room with a little wood smoke. I'm going to bring in a pair of woman's shoes - red high-heels like the fireman in my dreams carries out of the house in Pompano Beach - the house in the photographs on the table next to the bowl of cereal - next to the spilled milk - next to the photographs of my mother's gravesite - next to where I stand or sit - a grown man still so very full of sadness and loss forty-one years later.
Next post: why "Baggage" didn't work.
Posted by Russell Kaye at Saturday, June 14, 2008