Haunting the Past’s Present: Falling for the Forgotten (and not) Dead of History is a  participatory memorial performance that will take place from dusk-till-dawn on Saturday June 29 at Stanford University, Old Union Courtyard (520 Lasuen Mall) as part of the Performance Studies International Conference 19. Each of Haunting’s participants identified a population whose deaths are largely disavowed or marginalized by dominant discourses and processes of memorialization and dedicated their falls to the memory of this constituency.

Participants and witnesses are invited to share any reflections of your experience by typing them into the comments section below.

3 thoughts on “Reflections

  1. Dear Helene,

    Thank you so much for bringing “Falling….” to the Bay Area so some of us in your extended community could participate with you in this important and nourishing work. It was an honor and a deep pleasure to be part of your dawn-to-dusk performance.

    I will post more later, but I just lost the posting I worked an hour on, and I can’t re-do it now.

    Many thanks to you, Cassie, Mollie and Kim for a beautiful and healing experience of “Falling…” yesterday at theOld Union Courtyard at Stanford. Your physical and emotional support was so very helpful and inspired me to stay with the meditation as long as I did, given my state of rehabilitation from two hip surgeries in the past 7 months.

    Warm wishes to you and your family, especially your mother after her untimely fall. Sad irony.


  2. Dear Helene,

    Your Falling movement meditation score – repeatedly falling and rising again and again for 30 minutes, or as long as one is moved to do – is a powerful and nourishing gift – one shared mutually among myself, other fallers, witnesses, the population I fell for (and by extension all humanity), the Earth that held me – Mother Nature in all her expressions.

    I experienced a multi-directional feeding and caring that felt deeply healing and satisfying to my body, psyche and spirit. After a while, I began to feel whole and at peace – the opposite of fragmented, which I often feel in daily life. Each fall brought me into an intimate embrace with the ground, sometimes fully facedown in the tickling grass, spine fluidly seeking a comfortable repose. I lay still 10 minutes or more sometimes, before being moved to rise again.

    Other times I arrived lying on my back, gazing up at the two large trees – a sturdy California oak and an umbrella-shaped palm – that framed our corner of the courtyard. The trunks, boughs and fronds felt protective. With each fall and rise, my senses took in a different variation – a robin hopping a few feet away, people moving through or past the archways, your face, stance, fall/rise or dedication – or Cassie’s or Molly’s – or the curious look of witnesses, or just a girl having her picture taken at the fountain. With another fall, I closed my eyes and gazed inwardly, feeling safe in the public space.

    My emotional and motivational entry to the score was my own personal loss and grief for my mother. The Thursday workshop was an opportunity to honor her memory, then to step beyond my own loss to identify and connect with the larger population of those who have lost their lives in a hospital/surgical mishap, many being the frail or elderly.

    By Saturday, my focus had evolved to reach even further beyond my own experience. I dedicated my falls to the disappeared children and other victims of Argentina’s Dirty War (~1975-83), a horror memorialized in Buenos Aires by the Madres (mothers) de Plaza Mayo and the Abuelas (Grandmothers) de Plaza Mayo. ( A dear friend of mine narrowly escaped the brutal dictatorship and emigrated to Canada, then the U.S. during that time. When I told her about your performance and my dedication, she was moved and thanked me. I really didn’t know a lot about the Dirty War, but after memorializing its victims I became curious to learn more and I’ve been researching it, including listening to the stories of my Argentinian friend.

    Choosing a population that I had only a tangential connection to helped me hold my own experience within the larger context of human suffering – whether by accident, neglect, war or cruelty. It doesn’t lessen my sense of loss. But embodying my loss and expressing it through this simple act of falling/rising has brought me some measure of peace, some lessening of both emotional and physical pain. I’m bringing the Falling score into my personal practice for self-healing. Reference:

    In gratitude,

  3. Dear Marie,

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful reflection!

    Your engaged presence at the workshop and memorial performance was incredibly moving. I especially appreciated how you used your own pain — your grief for your mother and the physical challenge of “falling” while recovering from a double hip replacement — as a means of connecting to the suffering of those more distant from you.

    When I told the husband of a friend about “Haunting,” his response was that he found it necessary to “compartmentalize” the suffering of the world or he “wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the morning.” But, like you, I’ve found that falling has had the opposite affect. I too feel less fragmented. Falling helps me break through the overwhelming sense of isolation and paralysis I often feel when I hear news reports of deaths in distant places or of “other” populations.

    In fact, the longer I engage in embodied meditations on losses related to violence, militarism, and war, the more I’m becoming convinced that those of us who live in conditions that afford us the “privilege” of choosing whether or not to turn towards the suffering of the world, suffer less from apathy, or “compassion fatigue,” than from some kind of “compassion ADD.” Information, in the form of abstracted numbers, sensationalized images, or ideologically-infused messages pass by so quickly, it is difficult to feel, or to allow oneself to be impacted.

    While I always feel conflicted about selecting a particular population to fall in memory of, there is a way it helps me maintain focus long enough for that population to become more than numbers, or indecipherable bodies in a barrage of suffering.

    I’m touched and inspired by the way you’ve extended your experience of falling beyond the memorial meditation. By how its created an opening for a conversation with your friend from Argentina, and by how you’ve taken the initiative to learn more (and to share information) about this population you fell for.

    It was a pleasure to fall with you. Thank you for your commitment.


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