Memoirs of the Sistahood – Chapter 4
Installation by Babette Beaullieu
Choreography by Becky Valls
Music by Helen Gillet, cellist
Contemporary Arts Center
900 Camp Street
New Orleans, LA, 70130
Tank Drama: Deliberations from The Wet Grave
Artists working in a multiplicity of art forms — theater, writing, visual art, film, music, dance — are brought together under the umbrella of The VESTIGES Project to present their work in the CAC Lupin Foundation Gallery, along with scheduled events in its Spun Cafe, Freeport-McMoRan Theater, and additional off-site venues. This potent representation of creative, collaborative networks documenting, remembering, and re-visioning post-Katrina New Orleans provides a glimpse into the collective, ongoing effort to think through the past and envision the future of New Orleans. This collection is posed as an exemplar for engaging in a wider global dialogue.
These greatly varied works have evolved over the course of the past eight years, many
winding their way through several iterations in different locales, near and far. The artists and works often traveled directly to those cities with a high concentration of New Orleanians in diaspora,
such as Houston and Atlanta. Other times they reached out to people and places with their own parallel coastal experiences and concerns. Some works
passionately address issues such as public health, global warming, racism, and economic inequities, while others gently touch upon modes of peaceful escape, meanderings of memento mori, and metaphors/tools for intimate community healing and rebuilding.
Tank Drama is defined as “a sensational or cheap melodrama in which water is employed in the scenic effects, as in representing a rescue from drowning.” –1906 Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
The Wet Grave
The “wet grave” term for New Orleans, these days more commonly called The Big Easy, is first referenced in “TransAtlantic Sketches”, by James Edward Alexander, a Captain in a Scottish foot regiment of the British Army. He detailed his travels around the New World, in 1833, when he visited New Orleans and noted it did not resemble any other American city.
There are other references in old newspapers, ephemera, and even a cocktail invented with this appellation. The name “wet grave” arose from the fact that New Orleans, in addition to its below sea level status which flooded graves and inspired the usage of above ground crypts, was also a rugged city to live in being marked by yellow fever, alligators, snakes, and other pestilence, thereby offering a shortened life expectancy to its residents.
The VESTIGES Project began in 1984 as an interdisciplinary collective of artists and
writers who shared a common sense of place and sensibility nurtured by New Orleans. To VESTIGES Project participants, New Orleans is a complex and eclectic culture of remnants,
relics, rituals, memories, and myths characterized by a hazy distinction between fiction and truth, facade and reality, past and present. In 2006 VESTIGES: Think Tank began as a 3-year roving residency under the auspices of the Contemporary Arts Center to explore the flood that turned New Orleans into a true vestiges and its aftermath.
These explorations have continued in a variety of manifestations, now VESTIGES/Enactments 2013, as Jan Gilbert, Interim Director of Visual Arts at the Contemporary Arts Center and a co-founder of VESTIGES, curates a series of dialogues, public art projects, publications, events and exhibitions in partnership with various organizations and individuals.
Memoirs of the Sistahood Chapter 4: Private Property
Contemporary Art Center
August 3, 2013