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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Labors of Silence

Obie award-winner Ain Gordon’s new work, Not What Happened, fills a historical void by imagining what happened in a woman’s quotidian 19th-century existence. Forrest Holzapfel, a photographer and Gordon’s collaborator, also explores our forgotten history through stark images of obsolete objects and rural landscapes. These photos are imbued with memory due to Forrest’s keen eye and dedication to local history, and, as the backdrops in Not What Happened, give the main character, Silence, a greater voice. Below Forrest elaborates on his images, their relationship to Ain’s work, and his own personal search for what happened. A selection of Forrest’s photos will be on display as part of Next Wave Art in the Fisher Lower Lobby through December 22. He will also take part in a post-show discussion with Ain Gordon on September 27. 

Kin & Cup

The Labors of Silence
by Forrest Holzapfel

Inhabiting the mind of another person is a leap of imagination which demands empathy.

Silence is pregnant with meaning: a character from Ain Gordon’s theater work Not What Happened, a woman worn from the labor of existence and from the convolutions of her heart.

Silence is also our constructed, remembered sound of 1804. Feeling the character Silence’s place in the world however yields more: the scrape of iron on hot brick and the popping of split beech in the cavernous fireplace. The slide of a bead of sweat down the bridge of nose, crunching the lees of the woodpile underfoot, a gasp of crisp winter dawn air in the dooryard.


My photographs in support of Ain Gordon’s theater work Not What Happened explore the contours of 19th-century domestic surfaces, artifacts of the everyday collected in Marlboro, Vermont. The images are experiential, tactile fragments: a series of questions about how we perceive something purely while in the flow of a mundane task.


These time-worn surfaces bear the marks of human use, work careless or exact, which like baking bread, was just one strand in a braid of never-ceasing tasks vital to basic survival. The illumination of a simple armrest, seen in exhaustion and contemplation after hours of kitchen work, glows with presence.

The series seeks communion with the presence of a character who is deceased but is eternal in her human consciousness. The whip-saw of feeling the complexity of the past but being tethered to the present is a fundamental aspect of the labors of Silence.

The curve of the door handle that has been grasped by hundreds of hands after being shaped by the blacksmith's hammer, the generations of locks that have held the door closed. In the landscape of my hometown are links to the past lives that have inhabited these spaces. The past and present is in flux, this stacking of ages the essence of my photographic history of this singular place.






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