By Antígona González
“I always say that when you are helping another human being to live their life you are doing very very important work. If you are teaching a child and you try to make the difference, you do your work. I think the work of a nurse, a teacher, all the helping professions are never compensated or recognized for the profound work that is done.” – Gloria Lippmann, May 11th, 2020
At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City, FABnyc responded by dedicating staff time to aiding local efforts to calling senior members of the LES community to make sure they had all they needed during the lockdown. As we talked with the elders, we realized that beyond basic human needs, connection and conversation can also be meaningful, particularly for those with limited online access. Out of this realization came the New York Memory Project, which was taken on as an oral history project, On being home while feeding the lungs., by artist and FABnyc collaborator Antígona González.
The New York Memory Project aimed to achieve a deeper understanding and create dialogue between the artist and the interviewed elders in order to communicate and share their (and our) truths, in spite of what we all were facing: isolation, uncertainty, and fear throughout these difficult times.
After recording several interviews, González has developed her own narrative of the project, On being home while feeding the lungs., and will present her work in exhibition form at the Downtown Art theater space at 70 East 4th Street. On October 3rd, the artist will welcome small (socially distanced) groups of people into a multimedia installation, walking them through conversations with folks who have lived through times of social injustice, political upheaval, personal growth, and, now, a global pandemic exacerbating all of the above. The New York Memory Project, in centering the artist’s experience and work, seeks to uplift the voices of the most vulnerable and yet most powerful of our community: our elders.
This project is only one way of sharing a process of conversations with elders during the first months of isolation due to our current pandemic. The exhibition presents an intimate view of different feelings and perspectives while facing a transitional time, with no clear destination but a sort of pause, in which my personal relationship with my elderly parents can’t be left out. It comprises an act of listening and sharing, the chance to deeply immerse ourselves in our memories, a breakout of our often tight times, to speak our different truths, and being present as an interlude before we can think of possible futures.
Through this small archive of voices, memories, feelings; and reflections on childhood, youth, relationships, dreams, being at home, being by ourselves and with company, the passing of time, and other subjects, I offer an invitation to a common reflection on the accumulation of time in our bodies, the ways we see health, and the ways of being one and in relation with the others. I would love for us to embrace and discover the possibilities of offering and receiving care in times and worlds of isolation.
About the Artist
Antígona González is a performer and creator of physical and documentary theatre pieces, and has also been engaged in theater production, lighting, and technical departments. Since 2010, she has co-developed community art projects based on the oral history interview process. She is co-creator and performer in theater pieces with Teatro Línea de Sombra (Mexico) since 2007; the piece Amarillo has been part of performing arts festivals in around 20 countries. Other pieces include Baños Roma and Article 13, among others. She is co-founder of A contrapelo, which creates community art projects working with memory and oral history. She has collaborated with Cie Carabosse on #Fire installations (Niort, France), performed in heyday mayday parfait, by Daria Fain (The Commons choir, NYC), and was artist-in-residence at Downtown Art, 2017 (NYC).
Julia Cavagna, Dramaturgy and performance collaboration.
Miguel A. Valderrama, Lighting Design