In other instances, moving forward calls for actual movement—a physical manifestation of what we vaguely call “processing.” On its surface, Grief Work (Ask Your Body) (2016) by Toronto photographer and video artist Maryanne Casasanta presents as a performance of bodily regression. Barefoot and tanned, the artist-as-subject bounces and twirls in slow motion the way a child might on the first warm day of spring. She whirls a half-turn in one direction, then again in reverse. Her hair swings freely around her as if in a playground scene, a kinetic claim of space.
Shot spontaneously only three weeks after her father’s unexpected death, the performance, Casasanta says, is trying to move grief through her body. “I was overwhelmed, exhausted and attempting to manage the barrage of condolence messages from friends and family,” she says. “Dancing was the only thing I could think to do with myself for myself.” Life, the work implies, moves through loss; movement sanctifies absence.
But that life is up to the living. When a person we love leaves our midst, all we are left with are their remnants, either object or immaterial. It is up to the eulogist-artist to take these fragmented bits of highly subjective meaning and reposition them for a broader public. By this process, the narrator is nudged into the position of defining who they themselves are, as survivors and memory-keepers.
Kelly Korducki for Canadian Art
Moving through Grief, 2018