BEING HERE IS EVERYTHING (OR MEETING AND MOURNING PAULA)
PATRICE K MILLER
“Being Here is Everything” is a feminist solo performance art piece incorporating minimalist dance, poetic text, a mirror, and fruit made for and around the work of Paula Mondersohn-Becker, the Expressionist portrait painter who died at age 31 in 1907 after being put on bed rest after childbirth (a practice that endangers the mother). In an attempt to use painting to understand performance, I found literature that focuses on painting in Mondersohn-Becker’s letters and diaries and in Rainer Maria Rilke’s poetry. The goal is to perform a piece that both upholds and amplifies Modersohn-Becker’s work and uses it to explore the performative body of womxn, patients, mothers, artists and those intersecting identities.
The text is by Rainer Maria Rilke, husband to Paula’s best friend Clara Westoff and Paula’s good friend. The text was recorded and mixed by me, and provides an audio framework for a piece that opens with the presentation of fruit to a self portrait of Paula’s, projected onto the back wall and a mirror which stands centered against the back wall. An evolving movement score unfolds as a meditation on self portraiture, the artist’s body, and the mother’s body. The score includes eating fruit, coloring the mirror with lighting gels, and dueting with the self in the frame of the mirror.
“Being Here is Everything” is part of deeply personal life-long project called “The Birthday Project” wherein I create a performance piece inspired by, honoring, and incorporating the work of a womxn or non-binary artist who passed away at the age that I’m about to leave or cross over from. The project began when I turned 30, as a way to encounter and contemplate the intersection of gendered violence, interpersonal and systemic in nature, and the art and art practices of those directly fatally affected by said violence. Each project begins with a ritual on the eve of my birthday that includes biographical reading, work observation, and meditation all centered on the specific artist of that year. I began to “meet” Paula on the last night I was 31 years old, honoring the end of her life and the continuation of mine.