In Loving Memory of The Carved & The Beautiful

Directed by Alona Weiss

Performers:
Krysta Brayer
Gravity – Queen of Love and Hope
Karina Johnsen
Mor Mendel
Heather Morowitz
Alona Weiss

In Loving Memory Of The Carved & The Beautiful was a site-specific performance that claimed the location of “The Hall of Fame For Great Americans”, an outdoor sculpture gallery located on the grounds of Bronx Community College in the Bronx, as a canvas for creative social engagement and critical reflection.

The performance staged a theatrical funeral procession, lead by a group of performers in costumes and masks who embodied the ghosts of unknown statues. Together they formed a movement of bodies that passed along the stillness of the Hall of Fame portrait busts and colonnades, incorporating a multitude of global burial rituals, spiritual awakening ceremonies, street parades, civil protests, and ancient traditions.

The Hall of Fame and Gould Library landmarks were designed by architect Stanford White and formally dedicated in 1901 to stand as a secular national shrine to great men and women, as well as capture the Roman ideals of fame that were favored by architects and cultural producers at the beginning of the 20th century. The library building was designed as a replica of the Pantheon temple in Rome, Italy, and the Hall of Fame passageway was designed with Neo-Classical Beaux-Arts features.

The procession began at the Gould Memorial Library and marched along the HOF and the surrounding campus buildings. The rituals and gestures performed during the procession centered around questions of representation, diversity and inclusivity that the site evokes: How can we claim our controversial histories and add layers of interpretation to public sculptures? Can the negative space of a statue become a positive location of production and engagement? Can the death of a monument mark the birth of movement?

The performers’ attire, props, language, and choreography drew inspiration from the Neo-Classical features of the site, mixed with mythical and contemporary tropes and symbols. In dialog with critical cultural theories of time, history, death, and trauma, the project reflects the transient nature of belief systems, ideologies, and ideals such as narratives of ‘Greatness’, ‘Fame’, and ‘History’.

The multi-faced masks were created from found cardboard boxes and inspired by Walter Benjamin’s article Theses on the Philosophy of History:

A Paul Klee painting named ‘Angelus Novus’ shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The angel would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing in from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such a violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels him into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.”