Today we decided to cut the final week off of our time in Cotacachi due to Coronavirus travel restrictions. We are disappointed and a little frantic, what with trying to finish our installation and reschedule our closing event. That said, many things have been going smoothly, so we’ll talk about one of those.
Last week, we spent a day at Colegio Americano de Quito, leading two forgive/forget themed workshops for high school students. The students were engaged and generous with their ideas. The workshop went like this:
Introductions (10 min) - who we are! who they are!
Forgive, Forget, Both, Neither (15 min) - we read off a series of wrongs and the students move to the corner of the room that corresponds with their opinion of the forgivability, forget-ability, or lack thereof of the wrong, then we discuss
Interviews (10 min) - students pair off and ask each other three simple questions about a memory of a specific experience forgiving or forgetting
Blocks (45 min) - students decorate the blocks for either the forgive or the forget side of the sculpture
The workshops resulted in many cool artworks, which we will incorporate into our interactive sculpture during our abbreviated time left in Ecuador. Here are some photos of the pieces made by the 11th graders at Colegio Americano de Quito.
Hello again from Cotacachi, where we have just 3 weeks left in our 2-month residency. This place keeps getting more interesting as we get more invested in our relationships here. We got a tad bit homesick (we miss you) and regular sick last week, but we are now healthy and back on track toward opening our project to people here in town. We want to take a break from Kickstarter asks and updates to tell you a bit about the specifics of what we are working on!
Throughout our year-or-so thinking on forgiveness, we find ourselves returning to the essential function of TIME in the process of forgiveness. The concept of time keeps showing up for us as one of the core working factors contributing to tangible healing and growth in relationships, societies, family structures, etc. It’s not that time heals all (or even necessarily any) wounds. We know forgiveness is nonlinear. But it seems that time itself keeps disputing the grander concepts of this project.
We don’t know. That’s the thing. This is life’s way of teetering between passive and active. Forgiveness, forgetting, time, and repentance operate so differently in actuality than the way we were taught to perform these things in school, with a distinct “I” statement, a spoken “I’m sorry for the way I…,” a very clear acknowledgement that cites a real wrongdoing. We find it difficult to pin down concrete confrontations, apologies, mitigations that have happened in our lives and seen follow through, but still we know these things happen. So, where do the memories and feelings go? Do they ever get officially processed, compartmentalized, and packed away in a safe memory attic? Maybe they all fizzle out and get lost behind more urgent emotional impulses. If we can’t forgive, the next best option, the involuntary option, might be to forget. We find the unknowable, the inconsistent, the missing piece of this equation lighting a fire under us. So we’ve decided to spend our time here in Cotacachi (notably our longest residency of the year) zooming in on the differences between forgiving and forgetting.
In order to express our thoughts on forgiveness and forgetting over time, we will be devoting large amounts of our own time here to gradually building a sculptural installation. We think, given the subject matter, it’s only appropriate that we take a time-sensitive, time-based approach to this portion of Say You’re Sorry. Here in Cotacachi, we have a garage that opens out to the street. Starting next week, each Call Your Mommer will spend one hour per day every day for 2 weeks in that garage space, working on chores that contribute to the growing visual installation. These chores will be repetitive and productive, while leaving room for creativity. We will be working on portions of the sculpture (wooden blocks connected by rope and fabric) ourselves. We will carve at them, write on them, and decorate them as we see fit, with respect to our experiences around forgiveness and forgetting. Other wood blocks that make up the sculpture will be decorated by people living here in Cotacachi. We are gathering these blocks from high school students, people on the street, ex-pats who hang out at our local cafe, and indigenous Ecuadorians. Over the two week duration of the performance, we will hang these blocks onto ropes—one rope designated for forgiving and one for forgetting. Blocks with two holes in them can also be hung on both ropes, signifying that the conflict at hand lies somewhere in between forgivable and forgettable. We will compile these creative responses together with our own, building them into an intimate display.
The soundtrack to the sculpture is a series of interviews that touches on forgiving and forgetting through the lens of individual experiences. So far, we have interviewed an ex-pat who has lived in town for four years, a German baker who’s two storefronts are community staples, and four members of the indigenous community in Tunibamba, including a community leader. The interview questions ask participants to examine a memory of wronging or being wronged and lay out the process (or lack thereof) of forgiving and/or forgetting. We initially intended to edit the interviews together but through the process of talking to people, we realized that each interview contains a powerful story that stands alone. We now plan to play them uninterrupted, back to back throughout the installation. The two-week build up will result in an opening process showing in the garage with food, music, and casual conversation on forgiveness and forgetting.
This week we went to Quito for several days to follow up on an exciting potential collaboration with a feminist abolitionist group called Mujeres de Frente. We were connected to Mujeres de Frente through a mutual friend, whose work focuses on the decriminalization of drug use in Latin America. The group is made up formerly incarcerated women and artists/organizers, working towards “un mundo sin prisones para mujeres, ninas ni ninos”— a world without prisons for women and children. We deeply admire their work.
We all speak varying levels of Spanish, but we were able to communicate clearly for the most part throughout the meeting. When we entered the space, the group was gathered around a table, chopping some massive amount of carrots for a soup to feed the 20 or 30 kids who come to the space for 3 hours every M-Th.
After some back and forth, we landed on the idea of some sort of creative/work exchange, with each group suggesting ways the other could help with current projects and goals. The proposal evolved to look something like this: We arrive in Quito on a Thursday and help care for the children of Mujeres de Frente (colloquially known as “wawas” here, gotta love it). We do art projects with the wawas or just let them play in the space. The next day, Friday, is the weekly assembly meeting where the entire collective of adult members of Mujeres de Frente meets. We attend the meeting and have conversations around forgiveness as a larger group. During the Friday session, we facilitate forgiveness-related activities including art-making, prompts for our Forgivability Scale, and interviews with the women. On Saturday, we return to help paint a mural, do some light carpentry work, and any other housekeeping tasks that might need doing.
The meeting sparked some interesting informal conversations about forgiveness. One woman said that forgiveness brings her closer to her faith. Another said that she could forgive individuals but never politicians or governments. Tomorrow, the small group we met with will propose the exchange to the full assembly. So we will see what comes of it!
At the end of the meeting, Andrea gave us a tour of the new space, which the group moved into 6 months ago and are in the process of setting up. It occupies the top 3 floors of a building by the Plaza del Teatro near the historic center of Quito. The top two floors are devoted to the kids, offering places to play, make art, eat, etc. Regardless of if the collaboration pans out or not, it was an honor to get to spend an hour with people whose work is so aligned with our personal values and creative aspirations.
CYM spent the better part of January in Santiago, Chile at Centro NAVE! While at NAVE, Call Your Mom investigated our modes of making, incorporating new movement exercises, sound games, and even a day of American Idol style critiques courtesy of Sophie (who does a great Randy, in case you were curious).
In our previous shows and experiments in Say You’re Sorry, people’s inability or unwillingness to forgive themselves kept coming up. One reply on the Forgiveness Scale reads “would forgive someone else but can’t forgive myself.” So we decided to work on self-forgiveness and catharsis as our themes for the residency and subsequent showing, which we called Shadowboxing. The themes also felt pertinent to the kind of emotional exploration each of us wanted to do in Chile. What are our barriers to self-forgiveness? What does it feel like to carry around something you cannot forgive? When do we allow ourselves catharsis? When does that catharsis amount to meaningful internal change?
Shadowboxing‘s premiere consisted of interactive sculpture, sound composition, and dance. NAVE is founded on a reverence of physical experimentation, so it felt like the opportune place to create a work that mostly relied on embodied storytelling. To encourage immersion in the topic and a sense of personal buy in, Call Your Mom created a separate set of interactive prompts. The space (Sala Negra, Centro NAVE) contained two beet punching bags, the Forgiveness Scale (seen in Hard Feelings and Forgiveness Experiment), and four long cloth harnesses connecting each of us to the ceiling. Audiences entered the venue, and were asked to write something they have struggled or are struggling to forgive themselves for on a large canvas behind the second punching bag. Participants could punch, slam, or kick the bag into the canvas, creating magenta splatters. They then sat down for a 15-minute movement piece accompanied by original music and video. After the movement, audience members were asked to cut out their response from the canvas, and pin it on the Forgiveness Scale from Easily Atoned (Facil a Perdonar) to Unforgiveable (Imperdonable).
The experience of performing Shadowboxing was exhausting and rewarding. It was a physically and emotionally daunting piece that could not be practiced or anticipated. Loading giant punching bags with beets that dye our clothing and everything around us could only happen once. We felt immense pride over the performance, and are excited about the possibilities of future renditions to come.
NAVE hosted us in a grander manner than we could have ever imagined. They provided us with a beautiful apartment, usage of incredible rehearsal spaces, and support from a talented and hilarious production team. We are so grateful for the time, space, and resources to create Shadowboxing!
All photographs are courtesy of our dear friend, Fernanda Ruiz.
It is a new year, wow! We spent the last half of the 2010's building out Call Your Mom. First, a PSA: We've made our excel spreadsheet of artist residency/grant resources available to view. DM us on Instagram (@call.your.mom) or email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we can share you on the Google Doc. It brings us hope to see all the creativity and innovation abounding.
Working backwards: We took some of December off, and spent some of it planning our forgiveness-themed summer camp for kids. The camp will take place in June and July in Omaha, NE in collaboration with Tri-Faith Initiative. More on that soon. We spent November working as Performance Coordinators at Cucalorus Festival, where we met some amazing people and put our theater tech skills to the test. At Cucalorus, we learned so much about the logistics of putting on a festival with the help of Brigid Greene and SaBrina Jeffcoat. We each helped tech a different show, all of which we highly recommend looking into! E worked on Lizez Live (Liz Clayton-Scofield) and Color Wheel (Rae Red). Emma worked on Animal Law (Julia Gladstone) and Mime Explains String Theory (Sheila Kerrigan). Sophie and Mia worked on Bus To Lumbarton (Jen West). It was inspiring to devote some creative energy toward other artist's projects and to see how they work. We love collaborating! This world is full of great artists.
Speaking of the world, did you know the four of us are traveling to South America extremely soon? On January 4th (tomorrow!), we will all meet in Santiago, Chile where we will take part in our first international artist residency at Centro NAVE. The residency is shaping up to be great fun—a month full of learning, questioning, crafting, and dancing. NAVE feels like a great match for us as artists, with their experimental, communal, process-based approaches to publicizing the arts.
Happy Halloween from CYM! We are back in Baltimore for the week and are very excited to share Hard Feelings with all those who didn't get to see it live. Both of our houses sold out and we even had to turn some folks away so for all those people and for all our friends not based in NY, here is the info on Hard Feelings: A Show About Grudges.
The show was divided into four sections: MAKE your grudge, HOLD your grudge, SHARE your grudge, and SHED your grudge. It was funny (we know because people laughed!) and also, we hope, thought-provoking. This show gets our award for #1 Best Props in a CYM Show with a handmade Grudge Bag filled with 165 Grudge Balls. As audience members walked into the space, they were handed a survey about their own grudges, which we later incorporated into the show:
Hard Feelings included scripted words, improvisation, movement, audience interaction, and singing. We got a lot of feedback after the show and one comment that came up many times is how rarely people had thought about grudges before seeing it. We are so grateful for any and all feedback we receive as it always informs our work moving forward. We are also very grateful to both our venues, The Tank in Manhattan and Triskelion Arts in Brooklyn, for being such great hosts. The video documentation from the Triskelion show (which includes an additional opening act by Kedian Keohan, Peter McNally, and Ian Edlund) is still in process but until then, here is a low fi video from an audience member in the first show that should give you some feel for it. The video includes opening sets from comedians Sarah Wilson and Kenny Hahn. Click here to watch.
On Monday we are off to Cucalorus in Wilmington, NC, where we will be doing some administrative regrouping, emceeing at the Cucalorus Film Festival, and making a punching bag of some sort! For slightly more regular updates, follow us on instagram @call.your.mom. And to sign off, here's two last photos by audience members of us making googly eyes at / being smushed by our sweet baby grudge.
Breaking news: Call Your Mom is in New York! We’ve started our year of traveling and we have to say, it’s going very well. We’ve had long talks, big meals, and cozy nights. We’ve also secured our second New York venue for Hard Feelings: A Show About Grudges. Our performances will be at The Tank (312 W 36th St, NY) at 7pm on October 22 and at Triskelion Arts (106 Calyer St, Brooklyn, NY) at 8:30pm on October 25! See show poster below.
We wanted to lean into our show date’s proximity to Halloween (without giving in completely) because grudges are scary (ok it’s possible we’ve given in completely). Our show at the Tank will have online ticketing available beforehand, but the Triskelion show is tickets at the door. So come eager and come early because it’ll be a big confidence boost for us to see a line out the door!
We will also sell T-shirts at both shows. For all of you who have only been following our group for the eventual opportunity to own a shirt that says Call Your Mom on it, your time has come. It’s true, we did post a poll on Instagram for a vote on our final t-shirt design, but we like to keep you on your toes and have therefore chosen a completely different design:
We are really loving the time we have to commit fully to our work and are feeling happy, lucky, and full. To all of you who have donated and supported us (and continue to support us) in numerous ways, we are so grateful—you are enabling us to do what we love and share what we think is important. Come see Hard Feelings and/or a Say You’re Sorry production near you!
Call Your Mom
Truces are negotiations to find something less harmful than what has been or something less exhausting than further communication. Two or more sides of an argument electing to put down their weapons, their wishes to win, be right or be just. They are, at their best, a practical decision to salvage relations or to protect a shared future.
As people wrestle through truces, they wrestle with themselves. The internal wrestling is not what the other party hears - they hear the ways that the person is translating themselves and their wishes. And we certainly never hear both internal rumblings at once, we read the treaty or hear about the fight. We engage with the product, not the process of coming to a truce.
Truce, which premiered at the Sondheim Semifinalist Show in July 2019, shows two internal monologues, each playing out in one person’s head as the two parties come to a truce. The internal monologues are paired with different edits of the same footage, portraying different perspectives on the same situation.
Truce is now online, with both channels playing beside one another. This means that the viewer gets to experience both sides, all at once. Click here to watch Truce.
As Call Your Mom edited, we wondered what the repercussions of putting the two channels into one video were exactly. Some of our questions about our artistic choice are:
- How does the work change if we are able to hear both internal rumblings at once, a feat impossible in reality?
- Does its edit create further neutrality, or does one side seem more “right”?
- If the audio is spaced so you can hear every word, does the piece become argumentative instead of contemplative?
- Do our biases inform the way we edit, privileging one type of emotional processing over another?
What can watching these two channels at once offer to the viewer?
This week, Call Your Mom began our year-long experiment together developing Say You’re Sorry as full-time collaborators. We began this exciting new endeavor with gusto! Being full-time artists is no easy task, and although we’ve been planning, organizing, and fundraising for many months in preparation, there is still more to do to ensure we can share our work with the world and also have the funds to buy deodorant.
We started off with the daunting task of organizing and taking inventory of all our files in Google Drive. We would highly recommend—not the task itself but the feeling of having already completed it. We have also been diving into administrative research; how to pay ourselves and our collaborators as a 501(c)(3), how to track our spending and fundraising, how to log our receipts and keep track of our hours. This week has been an energizing leap into our year together, finding a newfound enjoyment for fiscal planning and organizational stability. In addition to important administrative tasks, we have also been looking up synonyms and making titles, which is much more in our wheelhouse:
We’ve also been planning for our fall travel which will start in October! We are headed to New York to develop a show about grudges (see image above for excessive synonym examples). We are so excited to create an evening in collaboration with New York artists and performers where we can all laugh, cry, and get off on our grudges together. Feeling bright and excited for some big work!
This weekend, our video installation Truce opens at One Charles Center (at the corner of Charles and Fayette) as part of the 2019 Janet & Walter Sondheim Semifinalist Exhibition. The installation consists of many individual components that we use to prod at the frustration, processing, and introspection inherent in coming to a truce.
Each video is accompanied by a voiceover that reveals the internal perspective of one person in a conflict. In other words, it reveals only half of the story. Viewers experience one point of view and then the other. They hear the ways in which the two sides talk past each other, find points of agreement, disagree, and walk away.
For example, a few lines from POV 1 include:
I don’t know how they justify what they did.
I’m not trying to say that there is a right thing to do, but isn’t there?
It's not personal.
Meanwhile, POV 2 is saying:
They can explain anything away.
I’m not trying to say that everything is relative, but isn’t it?
Everything is personal.
The ambient audio in the space is both tracks playing at once, literally speaking over each other.
The show will be open Wednesday-Sunday, 12-6pm from now until August 18. Come stand on our astroturf and watch us move through conflict without finding resolution. After the installation closes, we will be posting the videos online.
Say You're Sorry is a multimedia exploration of forgiveness and redemption. From September 2019 through May 2020, Call Your Mom will be developing various aspects of Say You're Sorry at residencies across the country and abroad. In the summer of 2020, we will return to the US to tour our performance and workshop series. Check back here for project updates throughout the year.
Call Your Mom (Emma Bergman, E Cadoux, Sophie Goldberg, Mia Massimino)