With the Others

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With the Others
Art in Odd Places
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, May, 2013
Photo by Shane Godfrey Photography

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With the Others
Art in Odd Places
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, May, 2013
Photo by Shane Godfrey Photography

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With the Others
Art in Odd Places
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, May, 2013
Photo by Shane Godfrey Photography

0021aa_web

With the Others
Art in Odd Places
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, May, 2013
Photo by Shane Godfrey Photography

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With the Others
Art in Odd Places
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, May, 2013
Photo by Shane Godfrey Photography

A hidden durational performance in the Egyptian gallery of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

event:
Odd Spaces: Performance Art Event
venue:
Egyptian Galleries, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
location:
Boston, Massachusetts, USA
sponsor:
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
date:
May 2013

Project Notes:

When I was invited to do a performance for ‘Odd Spaces,’ I wandered through the museum, a place with which I am familiar, and thought about what to perform, where to perform, what might be an ‘odd space,’ in which to perform. What did it mean to be a live body in a museum full of objects? I thought about the only place in the museum where there were other bodies.

The Egyptian section contains a gallery with mummies. It is a dimly lit room, highlighting the methods used to preserve the dead during the different eras in ancient Egypt. Residing there are the bodies of a man and his wife, and a small boy in another aisle. We see their portraits. We see the shapes of their bodies, their small statures, their bound feet. They are out of their coffins, though still wrapped, safely protected within glass cases. Here are bodies that were once living, suspended in a state of decay, preserved as they had hoped, for eternity. The room smells oddly musty. It is an uncanny place, and I am sure that I am not alone in sensing how fluid the boundaries might be between life and death.

I decided to spend the day with them. The room contains one long, low, black cushioned bench. It faces long cases where the woman lies. I lay underneath the bench for nearly 7 hours, wrapped in a black blanket with only my feet protruding. I could not be easily seen. Only from across the room was it possible to notice me. The bench was long and low and wide enough that I was in shadows, and difficult to distinguish. Museum-goers sat on the bench throughout the day, unaware that I was underneath.

More prominent was the scent of jasmine, a flower that seems exotic to most Americans. The fragrance emanated throughout the room, and eventually into the adjacent corridors. I had only used essential oil on a scarf by my side, but the scent was powerful. Jasmine is described as an ‘animalic’ scent, one that hovers between a piercingly sweet fragrance and the smell of flesh.

Lying there for hours, so still and quiet, I wondered who of us were really still alive.

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