THE WEIGHT OF A BURDEN
I stood atop a pile of rocks, my bare feet trembling from my body’s weight pressing against the rugged rocks below me. On my shoulders hung an empty cloth backpack that soon grew heavier and heavier. Throughout the course of two hours, audience members each took a rock from below my feet and placed it inside my bag. As the pile of rocks grew smaller, my sense of stability continued to fade. My shoulders grew tired from the weight of my pack. I willingingly carried a collection of burdens that night, none of which were my own.
Two months later, I journeyed on the ancient pilgrimage trail called the Camino de Santiago, walking 800 kilometers across the country of Spain leading to the tomb of the Apostle St. James. It is customary that pilgrims bring a rock from their home, carrying a symbolic burden over 600 kilometers before laying it down at the foot of a cross. I took a rock from inside that cloth backpack I held during my performance in April. It was a rock chosen by a random and anonymous participant. And for them, I carried this rock in my pocket for over 600 kilometers to lay down the burden once and for all. I’m sure the rock is now covered by thousands of new rocks that have been carried by traveling pilgrims who came after me.
That person who placed the rock inside of my backpack will never know of the performance I did for them, nor will I ever know for whom I was carrying the rock. This work was created to show the beauty that emerges when the roles of performer and audience become blurred, and there is no longer a distinction between the beginning and end of the piece. Instead, I strived to create a performance that could permeate boundaries and live as a shared and meaningful experience, transcending ownership and expectations.