They Sang to Overcome Their Loneliness
There is a history of relationships between heroines and songbirds, a courtship and an imagined friendship. They are often necessary to the heroines triumph, but the songbirds are simply an extension of self. They are an aspect of the heroine, they are her industriousness, determination, and fortitude.
In archetypal opposition society is nervous of the bird woman. She sits on the steps on the outskirts of acceptable society. When does this iconic relationship between heroine and songbird become persecuted? Is it then inevitable that beauty becomes crone?
Throughout the five hour night festival, I sang to over one hundred porcelain birds that had been installed throughout the downtown of Sydney, Cape Breton. Embedded in my costume and in my hair were magnets to correspond with certain birds. As the evening progressed I would obtain more and more birds on my person—sitting perched on my shoulders, my long gloves and atop my head. I soon had a crown of porcelain songbirds. As the festival commenced, I sang songs of hope and desire and soon I was like a pied piper leading people through the street, but as the birds began to accumulate and the evening darkened so did my songs. By the end of the evening I was simply repeating one forlorn song of slighted love. Rather than leading a parade, the audience began to part and let me pass in my focused recollection.
Photographer Robin Lambert
The Maidens Tragedy
My fascination with fairy tale is in the necessity of happily ever after. The fairy tale’s greatest service, however misleading, is its ability to console and reassure its audience. This genre implies the inevitability of happily ever after, and therefore calms its readers.
The maidens tragedy is a literary archetype that describes the heroines journey. She is separated from her home and placed in seclusion in an idyllic setting. Some kind of betrayal or violation takes her from her idyllic landscape and she enters a stage of wandering in which she suffers. Through the accomplishment of a series of tasks she atones for her faults and achieves happily ever after. Rather than looking at this sequence of events as a linear narrative I began imagining it as cyclical experience. Real heroines find their tragedy in flux, constantly questioning which precipice they hover over. Are they in the midst of suffering and about to atone, or are they drifting in a momentary happily ever after about to be torn from comfort. I do believe in happily ever after’s, but I believe that we have a fickle perception of happily ever after. Once we achieve happily ever after, our perception shifts and our narrative begins again. We spend our lives questing.
Emotions, as ephemeral experiences, churn and build and though we’ve been taught to contain them they become swollen hot air balloons in need of tethering. We become lost in the assumption that they are truly unscalable.
The Peddler makes emotions tangible and manifest. The Peddler’s cart is filled with bursting bags of porcelain trinkets. A kiss is a thimble but so is an acorn. The porcelain trinkets are named—they are wishes and hopes, they are courage and resilience, they are truth and fear. Participants trade the emotions they have in surplus to be weighed against emotions they desire. Only when the scale is in balance could I take ownership of their fears and anxieties and replace them with courage and hope. Truth is no longer a wisp of memory, but something held, a weight in our pocket, something clattering at the bottom of our bag. I was a Peddler of emotions. I bartered and traded and my patrons left with pockets weighted with what was once ephemeral.