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Hope Esser

first performed on January 24, 2012
Performance Space at DePaul University, Chicago, IL
performed four times in 2012


Chicago, IL


“And Both Shall Row” is an exploration of adolescent girlhood romance and a confrontation of how fiction fails. In this performance, a naïve young woman dressed in Victorian costume emerges with long, cascading hair that is entwined in an old rope. She awkwardly runs her fingers through her hair and fidgets with the rope. The pop song “Shake it Off” by Mariah Carey begins to play. As this song begins, the Victorian woman also begins to sing a different song. The young woman sings the first verse of a ballad called “The Water is Wide.” The songs are from two distinctly different eras, but the melodies of the songs are harmonious. The songs are both about falling out of love.

After the woman sings the first verse, she begins to jump rope with her hair to the beat of the Mariah Carey song, and continues to jump until the end of the song, when she is visibly out of breath. The initial humor and innocence of the action of jumping rope falls away through the relentlessness of the task. The struggling woman hoarsely sings the last three verses of the ballad as Mariah Carey defiantly sings the last bars of the pop song. After the Victorian character finishes the song, she begins jumping rope again, and continues to do so while exiting the performance space, leaving the audience with only the sound of the rope repeatedly hitting the floor.

“And Both Shall Row” conflates romance of traditional novels and ballads with pop culture telling the same story. Through this work, I suggest that my romantic ideals are faulty but also acknowledge my ever-present longing for them.

Also performed at Defibrillator Gallery (Chicago), Grace Exhibition Space (Brooklyn), and School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Neiman Center (Chicago).