The practice of forte da teaches a child to transfer the pain of departures and absences to the “ecstasy” or ” pleasure” of departures. Or, the pain of absence gains its own, perhaps, unique pleasure as the pain of absence relates to the eventual pleasure of finding the relinquished or missing object again. This is the basis of Freud’s pleasure principle
In Charles’ and EX(remade)’s case, it is the transferring of that loss of a family member into an artistic process of creating and then recreating of that artistic experience, from which arises not the pleasure (or even a derivative of the pleasure), but from which arises the performative embodiment of the absent person and all the while, bringing into focus the presence of the missing. The re-emergence of the missing. “Ta da”, now you are not missing anymore, in fact, missing is transformed into a developing and perhaps a new and continual relationship with the missing. This became evident to me as to where Charles could be going with this “remade” work from the few words Charles responded to an email I sent to him directly after the “remade ” performance of EX …
Jennifer: What motivated you to produce/create a remake of EX?
Charles: Memory. I think.
Jennifer: Interesting. Your memory of that time, or search for memory, or the memory of the making of EX. Fascinating.
Charles: That’s a question, right? Answer: yes, all three.
It is in the game of immersing in an art process (as maker), that teaches us to learn a kind of absence (of endings), the absence of another through death.
This could also be true for the audience. When I first saw Ex I had somewhat recently experience of a loss of several close family members. So like Charles, this process of remembering, digesting, understanding and reaching for the dead was deep in my mind and spirit. I was unable to name the container beyond the body that keeps these thoughts and the enigma of the recently dead around and through you. As with me, I saw this attempt for Charles to address this enigma; the images and events that address the feeling of loss. All the inefficient societal steps of confronting the dead; dressing the dead, memorializing objects from the recently departed, and the ephemera from life that was intended to hold in place moments of family events, such as the family portraits from Sears, shown powerlessly inept at preserving anything but a single meaningless point in time. Now shown pointless in the very real absence of another and leaving only the reminders that “oldest, middle and the baby of the family” no longer hold any meaning. Who do “we” become when the assumed “structure” is torn asunder? No mother, no older sister, no middle child, was there ever a real meaning on this?
This work was beautiful and poignantly related. Struggling, because struggling is all you could do in attempting to navigate the slippery meanings and feeling surrounding familial absence. Long with the realization of interchangeability; that it can be and will be any one of us one day. “Ex”, encapsulates the multiple actions of processing memory and mis-remembering; the rendering of absence and that unique way the dead are present in the interstitial world of the recently dead. Charles convincingly uses the device of a door propped up in the corner of the performance space to establish absence as performers remove themselves from the performance space to behind the door. The scene continuing while the presence of the missing is always there, just behind the door. We cannot see them, but they have never left. The continual re-play of scenes where absent cast members have left holes in the script leaving others to cover for them or uphold the scene in their stead. And there is the skillful use of repetition, perhaps memory loops of what now are the established tragic scenes of medication dispensing, the frustration of care-giving to another who will soon be gone, it is grief in the making, the performance of the “pre-mourning”.
Charles has processed for and with everyone who is swimming in the whirlpool of enduring absence, with what we can only hope is a long term wind down that lightens but can never is really resolved. However, it is now encapsulated and memorialized in a container of art that can be considered and revisited whenever the enigma returns, reassuring us that they, the absent, are still there, they are never really gone, and we can resume growing with them, in absentia, again.
By Jennifer Arave
Created by Charles Campbell with performers, (Charles Campbell, Bill Mullaney, Annie Enneking, Megan Mayer)
Fresh Oysters Performance Research
June 16-25th, 2016