By Ruby Que
Here is a puddle is a three-day, site-specific installation exploring trauma and reclamation of one’s voice. The gallery is transformed into an underwater world with mixed media elements: 1) large panels of blue crystal organza hanging from the ceiling; 2) blue studio flats onto which journal entries, quotes and images are pasted; 3) video projection of ripples and waves on the flats; and 4) a soundscape of whale song and deep sea ambience. Small fish bowls containing scraps of paper and discarded film strips are scattered around the room. Two prop doors stand between the entrance and the projection screen, where a short documentary about women of color/queer women and their tattoos play on loop. The viewer is encouraged to engage with the various elements in open-ended ways: to read, add, or tear off the pages, to walk through or close the prop doors, to sit in the corner all day, or to dance around the space. This project attempts to create a liminal space where people can come together to reflect and heal. During the last hours of the show, a woman dressed in a translucent dress performs an improvised dance, in which she gradually destroys the installation by pulling down the pastings, smashing the glass, tearing apart the fabric, and slamming the door. She dances till she is exhausted. After she leaves, the space sits still in the aftermath of her action like an open wound, a muddy puddle.
In an Alexander Kluge film Die Patriotin, a high school teacher takes an interest in the rubble of historical Berlin; through a loose assemblage of photographs, sketches, poems and maps, Kluge’s protagonist renegotiates the linear conception of past and present. Puddle makes a similar intervention in one’s personal history, specifically from a standpoint of trauma studies. Notions of memory, self-representation, identity, and attraction are investigated in forms both digital and tangible. When do the marks on the body become visible to us, and to others?
This sense of loss washed over me as I turned off the last light bulb in the room, and any trace of blue disappeared. I sat down amongst the torn pages and fabric in the dark, and had the best cry of my life. Puddle is me working through my own trauma. Something about water terrifies me; I only passed my swim test this last semester and it wasn’t easy. I am scared of losing my ground, of letting go, and of being submerged in the rimless blue.
But isn’t that just how everything works? Amy Leach writes in Things That Are, “There is no ladder out of any world; each world is rimless.” Perhaps we have to let ourselves drown at some point. And then we can swim.