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The World Is Round: Re-membering Sabina
Dana Berman Duff, 2019


6-channel videos on monitors and goose-neck stands. Audio compositions by Karen Finley, A.J. McClenon, John Cage (“Living Room Music” 1940; words from Gertrude Stein’s The World Is Round, performed by Gert Sorensen and Ars Nova Copenhagen, directed by Tamás Vetö), and audio commentary from 2005 road trip to Baja Mexico. 
 

The video below is a simulation of a composition of 6 videos on monitors of various sizes on goose-neck stands of different heights, face-up, image toward the ceiling, so viewer looks down on the screens. Resembling lily pads or pools. The audio can be controlled by the viewer in order to hear each video more clearly at different times.

Videos shot by Dana from 2004 to 2018; includes 2 video works by Sabina Ott and a film sequence by Daniel Marlos from 1994. Audio compositions by Karen Finley, A.J. McClenon, John Cage (“Living Room Music” 1940; words from Gertrude Stein’s The World Is Round), audio commentary by Dana Berman Duff. 

Link to audio balanced for Karen Finley poem and A.J. McClenon sound: https://vimeo.com/312842990

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Link to audio balances for A.J. McClenon and Baja road trip: https://vimeo.com/312841787

I imagined the video monitors as a series of pools. I saw Sabina floating spread-eagle in the water. Many times in the past four years I’ve imagined Sabina floating overhead in the sky where I beamed her with “healing rays.” The blue water and the blue sky.  

 

I shot dozens of videos out of the windows of airplanes over the landscapes between LA and Chicago, between New York and LA, LA and New Delhi, Chicago and Spain, Italy, Iceland. I shot video of Sabina on the Ganges River steps, where the faithful bathe in sacred water and bring their dead to the pyres. Some of the videos are sections of the long drive from San Francisco to Baja Mexico where we bought a house, and others are of canoeing on a Wisconsin lake during a visit to my parents’ cabin. Our connection is represented in the geography between us—we lived only a few years of our 35-year friendship in the same city, so travel was always an aspect of how we related.

 

The construction strategy for the six video screens was to make a collage inspired by Sabina’s method borrowed from Gertrude Stein: take the familiar and throw it up in the air and let it land with new syntax. In this case, it’s a syntax blending six different simultaneous narratives. The six videos have soundtracks that interact with each other much as the images do. The sound will be muted for the Aspect/Ratio gallery installation but can, I hope, be experienced another time. The audio tracks include a poem, “We R Here All Together,” written and recited by Karen Finley for this piece; another video has a soundtrack specifically designed by A.J. McClenon. One of the videos contains a live monologue, recorded as I watched Sabina pace in a parking lot on our way to Mexico, which ponders how as professional women we cope with power.

 

The driving rhythm of the entire 6-channel video work is a recording of John Cage’s setting of Gertrude Stein’s The World Is Round, called “Living Room Music” from 1940, performed by Gert Sorensen and Ars Nova Copenhagen.

 

Once upon a time, uh, once upon a time, the world was round, the world was round, was round, and you could walk upon on it…

 

In Gertrude Stein’s children’s book The World is Round, which Sabina used as the inspiration for her Hyde Park Art Center “mountain,” the little girl, Rose, climbs up a mountain dragging a chair to sit on, so she can see the world from above. In this new work Sabina is Rose, and I think I’m the chair. My work is full of chairs; her paintings are all about the view from the mountain: topologies with lines for rivers and roads overlay all and letters cut lose from sentences hover and flutter across the surface: A ROSE IS A ROSE IS A ROSE. She’s looking down on it all now: yes, the world is round.