Boulder-based artist and University of Colorado of Theatre and Dance lecturer Ondine Geary is bringing a multimedia project to the Front Range that artfully tackles the complexities of grief. Done in three parts, the innovative venture, “Radius of Transmission,” incorporates an installation, radio broadcasts, interactive technology, poetry and modern dance into an immersive and captivating journey.
“I think I use dance-making as a way to understand something, rather than say something,” said Geary, who was inspired to craft “Radius” after the unexpected deaths of both her brother and father. “I’ve used this project as an inquiry into the strange experience of grief, which is something I don’t really have words for. In ‘Radius,’ I think, fundamentally I’m trying to create contexts that relay something of the feeling of my grief experience. Or trying to construct frames that help me make sense of my grief experience.”
Part I involves an art installation built within an undisclosed storage container in North Boulder. Once participants make an appointment online to view the intriguing space, they will receive an email with the location address and further instructions.
To start the process Ondine called upon residents to donate possessions that belonged to someone in their lives who passed. The result is a living time capsule of sorts — with pieces on loan from 40 participants— highlighting the belongings of loved ones lost. Visitors can peer at the objects through cardboard boxes whose holes reveal glimpses of prized keepsakes.
“I met people in their homes, at their workplaces, in my workplace, in restaurants, at trailheads, had objects delivered, mailed — whatever it took,” Geary said. “Collecting the objects from people has been one of my favorite parts of the project. Inevitably, a person would hand over the object and then start telling me related stories — about the object, about the person it belonged to, about their relationship and about grief.”
Photos, letters and everyday items that were used by lost loved ones can be viewed in the free exhibition that runs Monday through Sept. 16. In the center of the cardboard boxes, viewers will find a desktop telephone where they can pick up the receiver, dial a number and record a message. The message will be converted to an inaudible ultrasonic frequency and played in a loop through a speaker in a remote location for the length of the project.
“It was such a privilege to get a glimpse into the tenderness of the participant’s grief and the endurance of their love,” Geary said. “It’s been a gift and it gives me perspective on my own pain.”
Memphis-based artist Robin Salant, who collaborated with Geary on Part I, said, “I hope visitors to the space will find moments, objects, lives, memories, thoughts to connect with — that there will be a sense of support in the web of this collective grief, that they will experience the hard waves or rough edges, along with the beauty and preciousness preserved by our human attachments and the sharing of those attachments.. The installation is a sublime expression of collective grief, a scarcely offered opportunity to privately access such intimate glimpses of loss.”
For Part II, attendees don’t have to leave the confines of their cars. On select dates Sept. 4.-7, up to 20 cars will gather and tune into a certain dial position in their car radios to hear a broadcast created by New York-based sound designer Max Bernstein containing original poetic verses from writer Leah White.
“Separated in their own cars, the attendees will be both together and alone,” Geary said. “They will be with the others — but also very much separate from them. Everyone will be hearing and seeing the same things, but the individual experience will be distinct and will be influenced by the environment in each car.”
The drive of Part II, taking attendees on a ride through Boulder’s dirt roads and city streets, will lead to Part III — a dance performance at The Spark Creative and Performing Arts.
“The dance is like this strange machine that clicks into these different states of being, and then clicks out of gear and into something else,” said dancer Laura Ann Samuelson. “It has a ton of different time signatures happening within it and different kinds of energies that take over, subsume, and get pulled apart by one another.”
While the hurried and graceful motions of dancers will provide an entertaining visual display of agility and movement, they also serve to tell a layered story not necessarily found in most dance productions.
“It reveals the inner-workings of a process under the surface, and the sensation of being caught inside what you don’t get to fully control,” Samuelson said. “That instability feels like the instability of the human condition.”
“Radius of Transmission” was commissioned and supported by Control Group Productions and funded by the Boulder County Arts Alliance NEST at CU Boulder and the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District.
“I never really understand what the work is saying until it goes up in front of the audience,” Geary said. “It’s like the meaning of the piece doesn’t become clear until an audience tries to make meaning from it. But, I can say that I sincerely hope attendees come away with a feeling that the work is meaningful, honest, deeply considered and resonates in some way.”
If you go
What: “Radius of Transmission: A multidisciplinary explanation of grief in three parts”When: Part 1: Monday through Sept. 16; Part II and III: Sept 4-7Where: Part I North Boulder location will be revealed to those who make an appointment. Part II and III: Begins at 4747 26th St.; ends at The Spark Performing and Creative Arts, 4847 Pearl St., Suite B4Cost: Part I free, Part II and III are purchased together $55 per carMore info: radius.brownpapertickets.com