Photos by Lauren Thomas
More than 300 people of all ages wound their way through the Widow Jane Mine at the Century House Historical Society (CHHS) in Rosendale last Sunday to take part in a multi-media event entitled “Dada spill.”
Anne Gorrick, president of the CHHS, welcomed people into the cave and said the “Dada spill” event is a “meditative and thought-provoking experience of how this space was used in the industrial era. It was used as a cement mine, there were mushrooms grown here, it was used for an atomic bomb shelter and now many of the adjoining caves are used for document storage. The presentation is a way to think about our local industrial history, situated in this magnificent space, which is really a living museum. I love the idea that a modern use for this space is for art!”
Sunday’s event combined two themes: Dada, the name of the art/literary movement that originated in reaction to the horrors of World War I, as well as “data spill,” which refers to a security breach. With that, Mau Schoettle and Kate Hamilton collaboratively produced “The Mine Project — Dada spill.”
As people entered the cave on Sunday, they were asked to create identity forms for secure storage in the mine by paper clerical workers (dressed in recycled cloth uniforms that were cut and reduced to pulp and sewn back together to make paper facsimiles of the original garments). They were adorned with wearable paper helmets with lights attached to illuminate the meaning of document storage and security.
In the underground lake, “The Phishing Man” could be seen in a boat trolling for personal information in the “Internet Sea” where people’s identity and information had been stuffed into plastic bottles and tossed into the water.
One of the men in the performance who was placing people’s “secure information” into a plastic jug was Joseph Alessi. “No data is ever truly secure,” he said. “They can claim that these data-storage mines are secure, but in the internet sea, anything can be leaked or stolen.”
He said he was “loving being a part of this. What an awesome space, people are so into it.”
In the center stage of the cave was “The Shredder” — the itinerant timekeeper that bears the burden of the data excess. The character was inspired by a local 19th-century historical figure “The Leather Man,” whom reportedly, for years, walked a regular circular route, spoke almost no words and took shelter in caves. The Shredder’s shingled costume was built using paper components created by the Women’s Studio Workshop (WSW) in Rosendale. It consisted of pulp made from recycled phone books, letters, craft paper and cardboard. There was a large roulade that people could hand to “The Shredder,” who walked back and forth along the stage and would turn, pause, receive an index card and read it out loud, creating a “Rolo-Dada poem” — intermixing facts and observations and reactions.
A short play entitled Wrench by New Paltz-based playwright Elana Greenfield was performed by two actors on ladders in the water wearing high rubber boots, futuristic looking hats, headlamps and vests containing various items.
Their dada-inspired narrative talked about everything from seeing a man who looked like one of their dead brothers, to Sigmund Freud, images at the edge of the horizon, a doctor who spoke few words but touched them on the shoulder and the city that was all light.
In the middle of the dialogue there was an abrupt silence. Towards the entrance to the cave walked a ghost soldier who sang the operatic Ponts-de-Ce song by Francis Poulenc, in a transfixing, beautifully haunting tone that left the crowd speechless and in awe as they followed the trail of her echoing voice and light towards the lake where she joined the two woman. After finishing her song, the dadaistic dialogue continued.
The event finished with a banquet table set up with a candelabra and fine china. A round chocolate tart was placed on each plate with the word “delete” spelled out in white frosting.
Following the performances, the cast and crew introduced themselves to the crowd, who in turn gave a loud round of applause to the creators and participants of the “Dada spill.”
Schoettle and Hamilton hope to obtain grant funding to continue the mine project, making “Dada spill” the first in a series of cave-related pieces.