Writing: Art/Life Counseling with Linda Mary Montano
Art / Life Counseling with Linda Mary Montano describes my extraordinary experience with Linda Mary Montano’s work at Stanford’s PSi conference. It was recently published in the Performance Research Journal: On Time by Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group edited by Branislav Jakovljevic & Lindsey Mantoan (Volume 19, Issue 3, June 2014) . It was originally published as part of the PSI Performance Blog. You can also read the piece here on Linda Mary Montano’s blog.
“Art / Life Counseling” with Linda Mary Montano
Blog Response by Mel Day
I had an extraordinary experience with Linda Mary Montano’s ”Art / Life Counseling,” a performance piece. (Yes, the same artist who tied herself to another artist for a year.)
Montano had broken her hand and so was unable to perform in person. In her stead was an installation that included a large mirror and a wooden dresser in front of it with a note on top inviting viewers to call for Art/Life Counseling. Since Montano is based in New York, she required her visitor / clients to call before 4pm.
We were all busy setting up and running around to panels and performances yet I somehow arrived at the gallery space earlier than I expected on Friday. I found myself alone with the Montano’s piece, staring into the mirror: without giving myself an opportunity to think it through, I took out my phone and dialed her number. Cold-call counseling—and potentially intense personal self-disclosure—seemed risky, to say the least, and yet the possibilities of such an encounter were too intriguing to pass up.
What happened next transpired over exactly 18 minutes. Montano picked up my call immediately. After an exchange of greetings, I expressed how sorry I was she had broken her hand. I asked if she had been inundated with calls and was surprised to hear that she hadn’t. (We determined the time difference played a role as the gallery space typically filled up in the evenings.) She then asked me the following four questions:
1.What are the 5 most important events in your life?
2.What is your “issue?” The “thing” that keeps coming up for you (or something along those lines!)
3.When did this start? What is your earliest memory of this “thing/issue?”
4.What was your response? How did you handle it?
Then she asked me to repeat after her, word for word, her response—our peaceful pact—to this thing / issue. (Perhaps I’ll reveal her response in a future blog post. For now, I’m keeping it to myself to protect its power.)
Then she sang me a song.
I sat there in the hall in Roble a combination of mesmerized, fascinated, slightly embarrassed and uncomfortable—partly because I had my phone on speaker as I had forgotten my earphones—and utterly enchanted.
I said thank you. We said goodbye.
After we’d hung up, I wandered around Roble for awhile, startled and disoriented, as if finding my sea legs. I’d felt something shift during our call. Does this sound trite? Yet I would even go so far as to call the encounter transformative. An unexpected, clarifying, restorative soundness settled over me.
I seek out this transformative and heightened human exchange with others in my own art / life, but it often seems beyond my grasp (a little too much to ask?), and is all too rare, in my own and others’ work / lives. Human communication, let alone restorative transformation, is fraught with hurdles and gets so very, very messy.
I was astonished at how seemingly simple and powerful it was just then, with Linda.
I wanted to send her a thank you note. Here it is.