I had started this blog post and completely forgot about it. The farthest I got was inserting an image then saving the draft. Anyway. A couple of weeks ago I saw performance artist Erin Helfert's Rite of Passage at Federal Hall with sound design by composer Nina C. Young. Helfert stood in the center of the circular hall, where she would turn towards different directions of the space, and repeatedly recited a monologue about her rape and her 5-year struggle to seek justice for it. (You can read about her experience in more detail here.)
Rite of Passage was powerful while it remained relatively simple. There were no other visuals aside from the artist herself, speakers, the space we were in, and other spectators. Helfert’s monologue, spoken into a microphone with live processing and electronics manipulated and created by Young, referred to “this body” and what it endured, the body that we were seeing right in front of us. To me, she was like a medium, channeling the past and speaking of it with both emotion and distance. The format of the piece itself, taking place in a government building, an amplified voice talking to strangers, took us back in time to the days of the trial. In her Chime for Change piece, Helfert writes: “Countless times, I’ve had to repeat the details of my rape before a room full of strangers, often into a microphone, the speakers blaring to a crowded courtroom audience.”
It was a gray day when this took place and I was almost too lazy to leave the apartment but I’m so glad I did. I was moved by how Helfert, with Young, both created something beautiful and demonstrated great strength after such an ugly and horrific experience.