Last night, we saw Bodies of Memory, a performance piece created by a friend of ours, Ginny Sykes. Using dance, film, original and published music (live and recorded), and photographs projected onto a large screen, Bodies of Memory explores how generations of women, (three sisters and a mother) deal with a paternal suicide. The powerful intermingling of the media helped to layer the complexity of the narrative. Shadows of the dancers meshed and interacted with filmic images of flowers, or family photographs, or films of dancers creating visceral conflict and resolution, accompanied as well with sound poems and live music which accentuated the tensions. In the program, Ginny writes, “Each person struggles with questions of identity, love, and separation, against the background of the father/husband’s death…society’s constraints and the rules governing all of their lives are challenged, while a figure from the future suggests a way forward.” Using dance as the primary means of telling the story of this trauma allows for aesthetic transformation and healing. This is the story of Ginny’s mother, her mother’s sisters, and her grandmother. The great granddaughter is the way forward.
What is so appealing about Ginny’s work is her continual reaching and stretching for ways to express herself. She is willing to let loose and break boundaries, artistic and otherwise, to make her points. She is not satisfied with the enormous accomplishments she has already achieved, but is now exploring filmic techniques and performance more deeply and meaningfully than ever before. She is a collaborator and team player who can let others vest their energies into the whole while still maintaining her strong singular vision. (Her communal spirit was tested in the 40 plus public arts projects she has worked on for many years in Chicago, involving school children and community in their design and execution.) Drilling into her family story through its many stratums in Bodies of Memory requires the audience to viscerally interact with the abstract and conceptual meanings presented and it also opens the personal crevices we all own and layers those on top of what we are experiencing in this performance piece. It makes us all look to our own Bodies of Memory and examine the habitual choreography we all perform.
From the program:
Ginny Sykes’ work includes painting, performance, installation, film and public art. She returned to collaborative performing in 2007, at the invitation of Victor Sanders, co-creating Velocity, Lessons of Water and Thirst, and Divided beauty…Her solo Return/Redux was shown at Oakton Community College’s conference Chicago Feminisms: Past, Present, and Future in 2009. In 2012 she made her first film She Wants to Know about her installation work in New Zealand. Sykes most recently exhibited in Surface at Chicago Art Sourced, Select Fair in Miami, Supermarket 2013 in Stockholm, Sweden, and Santitos at the Loyola Museum of Art. Sykes has completed over 40 public art works for communities, schools, and civic spaces such as On the Wings of Water at O’Hare airport and Arc of Nature at the Open Lands Lakeshore Preserve. She received an award from the Illinois Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects for Rora, an interpretive history of the Chicago River. Sykes has taught in both the Museum and School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Evanston Arts Center, Lill Street Arts Center, and Illinois Arts Council Art education programs. Her work is in the publications A Guide to Chicago Murals, Urban Art Chicago, and the Chicago Public Art Guide. She has a BFA in painting from Washington University and studied at Studio Cecil Graves in Florence, Italy. She is completing her masters in the Women Studies and Gender Studies program at Loyola University, Chicago.