THE REED BED
SARAH H. PAULSON
“The Reed Bed” was a durational 11-hour performance. Audience members entered and exited the space throughout the piece.
“The Reed Bed” was a performance of longing. It was a cry for the return. It was a cry for lost words, lost language, and a place where forgetting and remembering happened simultaneously. It was a place where the kiss was carried by the wind. It was a place where the breath was fueled by fire. “The Reed Bed” invited the performers and audience to reconsider their understanding of life and death. And above all, it was a tiny moment where performance revealed its connection to that timeless place where water is eternal.
For many hours, I lay over a mountain of 800+ pounds of salt. I was handed page after page from a 100+ year-old ledger. With the help of my teacher, Laura Stelmok, I held each page over my neck and burned three holes into the paper with a moxa stick.
Another performer, Emily Lowe, meticulously looked after the large book that was slowly burned. Hour after hour, the book’s bulkiness diminished as she removed each of the 700+ pages. After the holes were burned, the pages were hung on the wall of the gallery.
Meanwhile, the other performers (Corey Bliss, Priscilla Cross, Quincy Davisson, Meg Dellenbaugh, Mackenzie Fitzgerald) moved, gestured, and were present to the burning ritual at the center of the space. They were sung to, individually and collectively, by the musicians (Travis Laplante, Daniel Pearce, Kurt Weisman) and the smoke.
In unanticipated preparation for “The Reed Bed,” and for the duration of our relationship, I collected the discarded saxophone reeds of Travis Laplante. Hundreds of these used reeds were repeatedly arranged side-by-side in a perfect circle by performer Quincy Davisson. She periodically entered this circle and drank water for the whole from a decanter. The reed circle was swept away and recreated, over and over again.
“The Reed Bed” returned to me a passion for what it means to be a human being. For days, I cried after this piece, internally living the results of this performance. I had forgotten something prior to this performance about what it meant to be given the gift of a human birth, and it was in these 11 hours that I was allowed to remember such a simple and profound deep mystery.