project image
Patrick Ellis

first performed on December 30, 2020
White Sands National Park
performed once in 2020


San Antonio, TX


Edited, Cropped, Re-arranged Sequence of What Happened at White Sands:

Walk on sand barefoot, cold

High desert winter

Near the site where atoms once split apart molecular bonds.

Scent in liquid form is applied to hands, bare and exposed to biting wind.

Hands rub together then inhaled

as if in a moment of prayer.

A foothold is found,

then: shoes and garments like a scarf, felt hat, tights, gloves.

Originally this was a score about costume, color, and texture. White dress, ivory sand; slowly enter red fleece and warmth. This, plus movement excluded in the final cut, was the choreography I had planned before we arrived at the location. A short list was organized. I taught my partner / newly-minted director of photography what I meant by wide shot and extreme close up. We drove. We arrived. My partner steadied the camera and watched me do my thing, respecting that these movements were an impulse I needed to scratch. It was an act of recognition, of witnessing– each other, within myself, and with healed scars the original choreography referred to. The unplanned encounters (the surrealist beauty, our dog off-camera digging holes and having her best day ever, a mutual feeling of liberation) became the uncaptured essence of this culminating moment. I can only describe the in-between moments which informed the performative repetitions. The lavender in the sky following the sparkling glitter of sand particles reflected from the setting sun. The genuine joy felt. These observations couldn’t be documented with a lens.

Weeks later, what struck me while watching the video playback was the subtle movement of rubbing my hands together to warm my palms in the dunes. I do this small, tactile repetition every time I apply scented oil to my skin. Golden jojoba the color of straw carried eucalyptus, clove, Texas cedar, and a few other essential oils supposedly useful to combat germs. It was a risk to travel and do this performance / spiritual pilgrimage. Pandemic-era Trump’s America. Insert one-of-a-kind perfume I made only for my hands. Drop a gram in the left palm. Rub (vigorously, calmly). Inhale.