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“Quiet…” at Epiphany Episcopal Church

In response to Quiet (A Disruptive Fog (Or a Hogshead Full of Vapor Called Memory))

Michael Langhoff

Jens Stolenberg, the Prime Minister of Norway, received a letter from Mark Booth, Karen Christopher and John Sisson this past fall, to which it proposed a meditation of sorts within the precious sanctuary of our beloved seed vault, containing and preserving over 400,000 seeds from around the world.  As a symbol of the universe (on the head of a pin), this vault holds within itself a rich history, while simultaneously maintaining a dreary presence that implicates the demise of the earth in generations to come.

This was the beginning of a dream that inspired Quiet (A Disruptive Fog (Or a Hogshead Full of Vapor Called Memory)) performed at Epiphany Episcopal Church on the southeast corner of Ashland and Adams.

At first, entering a church did not cross my mind to be something of an unfamiliar experience when I set out to attend the ‘collaborative multi-media movement and sound work’ by Mark Booth, Karen Christopher and John Sisson.  But sitting in my pew, I immediately became aware of the quiet tension induced merely by the architecture of the sanctuary which commanded both reverence and silence.  Even the short anticipating whispers that were amplified by the Church’s vaulted ceilings seemed to be an act to break this tension however unsuccessfully by merely pointing to it.  Sitting and waiting became a significant part of the performance.  The pews were arranged in an oblong circular fashion to face inward toward the center of the Sanctuary which drew the audience to observe the architecture of the space rather than the altar toward the front.  The lighting was dim enough to barely make out familiar faces sitting next to and across from me and the only sounds that seemed welcome were the creaking steps and shuffling winter layerings removed from a gradually increasing audience.
The lights flashed and after a brief welcome, John made his way to the center of the stage carrying a suit case.  He opened it and distributed two of the three sacks inside to Mark and Karen and kept one sack for himself.  Each made their way to separate areas of the floor and story began.

With sacks in hand, the three artists began as field workers, hunched over, each pouring out a small pillow of soft flaxseed to rest their tired head.  Then, a reading of the letter to Mr. Stolenberg unfolded the Quiet (A Disruptive Fog (Or a Hogshead Full of Vapor Called Memory)).

Throughout the performance, Mark, Karen and John navigate the severe state of memory as they hold it up to the fixture of history repeating.  Presented to us as pew-members of the story told, was a dream-like concert filled to the brim with song, dance, metaphor and spoken rhythms of our longing hearts.  From mapping hand gestures of political speech, to orchid teleportation devices, these three artists collaborated harmoniously to offer us a light into our own histories that are woven into the diverse fabric of social, political and cultural narratives.

“I am an American” were the dying words of a woman trying to climb Mount Everest.  Words that alienate, yet somehow affirm a grey boundary placed between native and foreigner.  This grey area, that transforms over time, from one individual to the next, is the ‘disruptive fog’ that was so brilliantly cast.

As a viewer and partaker in this elusive dream, I am compelled to remember my own histories in such a way that will enable me to retell them in so rich a form as this one.