Crossing Over | Ritual of Grief

2016

'Crossing Over' is a story of the journey that happens at the point of death. For both the deceased and the those left behind. The project was imagined by artist Bongsu Park, and is inspired by her Korean heritage and its rituals for death and funerals, and her interest in Greek mythology.

CrossIng Over - Ritual of Grief - Part I, 2016
Live performance at St. Mary Magdalene’s Church, London

Image copyright © Bongsu Park

The project was divided into two 45 minute performances led by choreographer Kyungmi Huh. 

 

Part I deals with the river Lethe, a river that causes anyone who drinks from it to lose memory. Central to Part I is an almost shamanistic Korean ritual. The piece deals with grief and loss, sadness and separation, and ultimately love and tragedy.

 

Part II, by contrast, is a reflection on life and fate, and ultimately finding strength and grace in order to deal with a loss of life.

Being unfamiliar with Korean culture my first step was to absorb as many references as I could. I came across the Korean cultural trait of Han (한). Han is a very complex feeling of sorrow, oppression, unavenged injustice, and isolation. This is something that is felt by Koreans only, it is to do with their history. A constant passive dull-ache of the soul. And whilst it is almost a sadness that is so deep and inexplicable, there is still hope. And this is something that needed to be prevalent throughout the audio of the work. 

 

I sought out references for Korean funeral ceremonies and the music that surrounded them. I learned about dances such as Ganggangsullae (강강술래) and Sujecheon (수제천). I spoke with the artist and the Korean dancers and noted down the various cultural phrases spoken at funerals; phrases that would be spoken in unison, spoken for comfort, for loss, for support. And whilst these phrases differed from person to person, the general concept of behaviour and ceremony started to make itself clearer to me.

Throughout Parts I & II the artist was drawing upon many references. One example was of Bhuddism and its 6 paramitas:

- Dana Paramita: Perfection of Generosity

- Sila Paramita: Perfection of Morality

- Ksanti Paramita: Perfection of Patience

- Virya Paramita: Perfection of Energy

- Dhyana Paramita: Perfection of Meditation

- Prajna Paramita: Perfection of Wisdom

 

In Part II, these paramitas were given symbols and placed onto a dice which were to be thrown during the performance. And I wanted to incorporate this six-sided dimension to the audio.

CrossIng Over - Ritual of Grief - Part II, 2016
Live performance at Rosenfeld Porcini Gallery, London

Image copyright © Bongsu Park

My ultimate goal for this work was; to create as much thematic and symbolic resonance between what viewers saw and what they heard.

 

In order to do that I went beyond the references provided for me. I looked into ceremonial funeral music from Greek culture, I looked into chants and hymns. I made it my goal to sample as much sound from the dancers as they moved within the space as possible. As the artist spray painted and tied the dried flowers at the gallery, I sampled those sounds as well. I took samples from traditional Korean musical instruments, I asked all the participants to recite phrases as individuals and as a group. Much like the work I did for 'Re: Re:' I sampled the iron railing and steps of the crypt at St. Mary Magdelene's church, and the sound of the floorboards at Rosenfeld Porcini.

 

Every element that was present as part of the symbolism within Parts I & II had an audio counterpart embedded within the composition.

 

Fundamentally this was also a performance, with choreographed elements, and therefore I need to track the arc of the piece through the audio as well. At what points would there need to be a density of sound, at what points would there need to be sparseness? Where were the peaks in the performance and at what point did the audience need aural cues to focus and engage?

 

A 2019 reworking of Part I - scene 3

From an upcoming as-yet-untitled album by Amit Rai Sharma

The audio piece for Crossing Over | Ritual of Grief ended up as two 45 minutes compositions for the two performances. They were both performed live with various elements being manipulated in response to the dancers and the performance at the event.

 

I am currently in the process of creating an album of the compositions created from this body of work.

Below are edited clips of the performances.​

Crossing Over Pt. I

Live performance at St. Mary Magdalene’s Church, London

Video copyright © Bongsu Park

Crossing Over Pt. II

Live performance at Rosenfeld Porcini Gallery, London

Video copyright © Bongsu Park

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 © 2019 Amit Rai Sharma