The Keeping Room, 2010

The Keeping Room, 2010

“Sitting up with the dead was a common practice among the good Methodists of Palmyra, Tennessee,” my grandmother would say to begin the story of her great aunt’s death. On the evening of my grandmother’s death, her body, which had once been animated, once filled with life, lay alone in an empty and unfamiliar room. Across town, I could only think of my want to sit with her. In this installation I have created a memory space in which the viewer is invited to sit with my grandmother. Its title, The Keeping Room, comes from the more delicate Southern name for the living room, a space for family to gather, to tell stories, to sit together.

The Keeping Room (2010) was created as a viewing space for the projection of the 8mm film I recorded of my grandmother in conjunction with the images from The Saddest Day. Two wall-sized photographic arms reach forward to the curtained entrance, inviting the viewer to enter the space. The room is dark, hay is strewn across the floor, and two dim lights illuminate the space. As the viewer enters The Keeping Room, the lights raise to reveal two funeral chairs sitting next to a suspended megaphone. The chairs face a wall, where leans a Victorian frame, its wooden insert catching the 8mm projection. The viewer sits and the lights fade to darkness. Acting as a speaker, a suspended megaphone softly amplifies my singing voice as the 8mm projection begins to flicker. The film is in color. My grandmother, wearing my childhood dress, dances and plays tug-of-war with my family, who are masked as pigs. The film is accompanied by the fading in and out of recorded conversations and songs shared between my grandmother and me.

Max MSP Programming by Nathaniel Hartman