/ REFUGIO /
JESSICA FAIRFAX HIRST
In ancient times, a person who killed someone by accident could seek refuge from being themselves killed by the family of the victim in one of the six Cities of Refuge in the Middle East. The City of Refuge was also a de-facto prison, as the protection only held inside the walls of the City. My performance “/refugio/“ fell on the ten-year anniversary of a tragic accident, in which the car I was driving killed two pedestrians. In my case the family of the victims forgave me; instead I needed refuge from my own trauma and its many manifestations.
I began the performance by lighting a candle for the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for loved ones who have passed. A video played in the background of “Nevertheless,” a performance I created soon after the accident, in which I rolled very slowly through a field of chicken eggs. In this and other actions I have felt compelled to create “accidents on purpose,” in which I am in control, no one is hurt, and I can clean up the mess afterward.
Members of the public placed bowls full of eggs from a variety of birds, in a variety of sizes, colors, and patterns, the most notable of which were the very large metallic-emerald emu eggs. Once I was surrounded by the eggs I began to place them one by one, gently, in the hands of those present. I lay down, and allowed people to pile the eggs on top of me. I began to move slowly, the eggs shifted, some broke as I sat up.
I raised an emu egg above my head and crashed it down onto my skull. I expected the egg’s contents to slide down my face, but instead nothing moved, and the horrible stench of rotten egg spread through the gallery, so potent that people gasped and started fleeing outside. In the first moments I was aghast, but I quickly realized that the gods of performance had intervened to make my action more powerful. If my intent was to convey the unpredictable horror of accidents, and our lack of control over life itself, what better than to have the performance end with an accident that affected everyone present?