Proposal for multimedia performance

Can art bring back the dead?

I think death is a preoccupation for everyone at the end of this year of epidemic—but then, I’m getting older. In 2018 my best friend of 35 years, the celebrated Chicago artist and organizer, Sabina Ott, died in the middle of creating our collaborative exhibition, What Does She See When She Shuts Her Eyes. In 2019 in a Chicago gallery, I mounted the video installation that metaphorically represented her passage.

Now, I propose to take a journey beyond death into the afterworld where Sabina will reveal what I want to know, what we’ve always wanted to know: where did she go when she died?

First, music is heard. Entering the room, one is engulfed by projections on all four walls: a meadow, a river, lava tubes, with two gigantic cartoon girls moving across the walls, talking intermittently. Sabina, like Virgil, instructs

Dana, her Dante, on death, sin, love, redemption, interdependence, and the afterlife. At the center, a cello quartet and a choir deliver a 30-minute oratorio written in terza rima, the sacred rhyming verse form of Dante’s Divine Comedy, pausing occasionally for the girls’ conversation.

The libretto will be informed by readings and interviews with philosophers and psychics, scientists, monks, and mystics, and those who have had a near-death peek over the threshold. The cartoon girls will deliver the news from the other side. The performance will be recorded and repeated during gallery hours using speakers on stands, like ghosts.


I hope the work will amuse, move, and disturb. Sabina Ott believed that art could have a healing effect on trauma. Indeed, the 2019 installation in Chicago seemed to provide a measure of healing for Sabina's community from the loss their beloved artist, teacher, and organizer.