Mountain, Fire, Holding Still. is a durational performance/installation by dance artist taisha paggett and sound artist Yann Novak created in collaboration with visual artist Gregory Barnett and movement artist Marbles Jumbo Radio. Presented in the Outer Peristyle of the Getty Villa, it is a meditation on death, labor and blackness in antiquity as it relates to the contemporary body, and a performance- as-vigil for past and future lives.
The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 A.D. buried the town of Herculaneum and other Roman cities in volcanic ash. This unique preservation catalyzed later archeological discovery and a fascination with the ancient past. paggett and Jumbo Radio translated the terms mountain, fire, and holding still into cues and elemental directives for a movement practice through their collaboration, which spanned Northern and Southern California. Responding to the Getty Villa (modeled after Herculaneum’s Villa dei Papyri) as an architectural palimpsest containing layers of historical metaphor beneath its surface, the artists use the mountain as the basis of their movement practice and subsequent daylong performance score. Together, they seek to hold vigil for the precipices of power, death, and uprisings of our present day.
Novak layers a site-specifc sound work into the performance through pairing altered field recordings of the Outer Peristyle with synthesized tones that bring focus to time as one of the critical materials of this work. Through this adornment of time, the sound work references the Roman Empire’s relationship to the labor of production for both displaying wealth and honoring the dead, as seen in the meticulously crafted antiquities in the Getty Villa’s galleries.
Mirroring the impossibilities of adequate preparation or closure in the face of destruction, Gregory Barnett created a sculptural weight from found materials for paggett to navigate during the performance. The formality of the structured tailoring of her garments draws from the technical and artistic prowess seen in ancient Greco-Roman funerary offerings, while the solid black palette represents the omnipresent ash of Mount Vesuvius post-eruption.
Mountain, Fire, Holding Still., The Getty Villa, Pacific Palisades, CA, August 27, 2016