TRACT, performance/installation, 2015
TRACT is an installation-performance consisting of an easy chair and a TV. In the chair, sits the artist's recently displaced, 77-year-old mother, Barbara Allin. Barbara's requests for a few additional items – a box of Kleenex, a soduko puzzle, a glass of water, her phone, a newspaper, a steak hoagie from Philadelphia, Stephen King's latest book and to have her hair cut – have been met and the artist's challenge is simple, and impossible. To make art in the midst of all this. To do so, she must navigate the tract of land between herself and her mother, the at-tract/dis-tract of the TV, the con-tract/re-tract of the care being given and requested of her, the sub-tract/ex-tract of their approvals and disappointments in one another and the abs-tract/pro-tract of their mutual destinies.
TRACT is an urgent work made in a time of crisis, in a limbo state. In November, Mimi sold her sailboat, the floating home on which she lived. In February, she gave notice on her studio. She purged her tiny life with the intention of going east to help her mother, then to Mongolia to follow her dream. Troubling news came in March. Her mother's lease was terminated early. She flew to Philadelphia. Eight days later, the two were in a car, driving cross-country.
Despite the artist's full-time efforts, since February, to remodel a friend's basement, the apartment still isn't ready, and so mother and daughter float on. A house-sitting job saw them through April. In May, they stayed with a friend. In June and July, they stayed on with a friend. In September, they'll need to move on. The most difficult challenge, in navigating their new and accidental relationship, is the constant time together. For the first time in 30 years, they two are in daily contact. At times, their relationship is beautiful and loving, at times harmful and regressive.
For the artist, the experience of limbo isn't new. Upon the completion of a work called Tahoma Kora in 2011, she took up residence there. Shaping and addressing limbo has become a major theme in her work, as in Burden of Purpose, 2012, The Woman Who Planted Dreams, 2014 and 108, Performance, 2015. Now her time and energy are being completely squeezed and limbo's even more intense. And her mother is in it. After traveling 3000 miles, Barbara's neither here nor there, and her things are still locked in the trunk of her car. At last, though, Barbara is applying to senior housing, but with wait lists of up to a year, she's in need of immediate, short-term housing, in the $600 range. And is unhappy. And wants to go home. And her daughter is suffering. And wants to be free. And the heat wave. And the time, it drags on.
TRACT is a stretch of time, an area of land or water, a system of organs and tissues that perform a function together. TRACT comes from the Latin tractus for space and trahere to draw or draw out. TRACT is a work is about extended transitions, between homes, passions, roles, about the limits and systems and lapses we find there, about the exhaustions, frustrations and anxieties we make and endure.
Thanks to all our mothers, for their love and time, and to you, my audience, for seeing my pain, and for sharing your stories of caring and being cared for, home and the loss of home, space and the need for space, what it takes to create and how we cope with the inability to create, love and the struggle for love.