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Thursday, July 3, 2014


Desanguishing mourning
Interview:  Linda Mary Montano emails with Diego Martin June 2014
In the following interview Montano and Martin will explore the three fundamental aspects of the investigation I’m conducting (performance, ritual and psychotherapy) in the context of Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía Master’s degree. I’m trying to link these aspects with your personal point of view, and in particular with the work I’ve selected as a case study, “Mitchell’s Death”. Diego Martin
DIEGO: Starting with the performance, because it is the aspect which includes all the other aspects I’m studying, I would like to ask you when and why did you choose this way as a representation element? Which specific aspects do you think it has in your particular case?
LINDA;Thank you for your interest in my work.  My backstory or personal history is the reason I made a performance of mourning. For example:
I grew up non verbal and looked for a language in the "actions" of others who I observed and imitated as life-art and even now I do this by becoming  Bob Dylan, Mother Teresa  etc...
 In 1976 I made a video LEARNING TO TALK (free on You Tube) where I became 7 people, while sitting in front of a video camera for a year.
After my ex-husband was murdered in 1977, I sat in front of the same camera and told the story of his death which I read from something I had written. I "performed" the mourning as art because I had only those skills taught to me by myself as a child because I was thinking life was a theatre played by all of the actors and  family in front of me; I "performed" mourning as a Catholic who went to Church and got  into mystical states of  ecstasy because of the message, the incense, the pageantry, the suffering of being a woman and not being included. Art gave me a chance to somewhat re-create Catholic rituals and Mass my way and I became a private and functioning "priest", something I always wanted to be.
DIEGO: Historically and geographically it seems strange how, particularly in the seventies and eighties, many artists began working on the U.S. West Coast, influenced by spirituality and ritual. ¿Could you tell us, from your experience, what was going on there?
LINDA: California is wild and different and close to Asia so the reason for the difference is because of this Oriental influence of process and space and ego annihilation.  Also at that time EVERYTHING  was happening: drugs, women's liberation, Haight Ashbery, rock and roll and total upheaval of everything that had  been taught or heard or done in the past. Rules were no longer necessary.
DIEGO: Going back to the performance, if we divide it (roughly) in theoretical aspects and conceptual aspects, which sources or models have been fundamental in the configuration of them both –theory and concept– in your production?
LINDA: Then it was just a total accident of my grief. Now, in retrospect, i'm sure art historians can do the theory-concept analysis, given my explanation of some of my history.
DIEGO: About your action in Mitchell’s Death, I would like you to explain it using spiritual, symbolic, ritual and emotional terms.
LINDA: My actions were spiritually based on my inclination toward sainthood and Catholic statues of saints so the close up of my face was in my subconscious, something I had imagined or seen in Holy Cards depicting Mary and female saints. You have to remember I was born in 1942 when the role of women not only in the Catholic Church but also in society was a joke. In the church, women gained "power" by becoming  actors of mystical ecstacy.....by becoming anorexics and hysterics and psychics and radical prophets. Then the church listened to them and came to them for answers or wisdom or protection even! So I unconsciously at that time, was able to pull out of my unconscious, the need to use my face as a statue; my need to imitate the chant I was praying because I was a member of a Zen community at that time;  my need to tell all of my pain to the world because I had no skill in telling my family or friends because honestly, I had zero social or verbal skills or a trust that my voice was even use-able or hear-able.
My family loved music and my dad had a band and my mother sang in the band so we valued music and listening to life ....we did not use "words" to communicate but intuited via vibrational frequencies!!!! So chanting my pain was totally natural for me. And I did the first level of emotional clearing...the spiritual-emotional level. Now at 72 I am doing very intense primal therapy and believe it or not, learning how to do real emotional grief and am finally learning how to feel and cry, not like a "saint" but like an ordinary person! It is exhilarating.  You see, art is great but it is not enough. The whole picture is enough. Art allows you to cry for everyone and with everyone. Life allows you to hold yourself in your own  arms and feel grief, joy etc.
DIEGO: Referring to the text you tell during the action as a mantra, could you explain to us what it is about?
LINDA: The text is the actual story of the murder and what happened for a week after the murder. At the time I did not know it was a murder but now I know. The truth is, we heal by telling our pain and I healed the only way I knew how, by making art and by using the powerful images, sounds and performance devices that are used in Catholic sacramental services because I had experienced great states of transfiguration as a child.  If it works, use it, and at the time of Mitchell's death, I needed to get high, to become ecstatic, because the pain was so great and only high religious "ritual" would soothe me, so I made it happen and as I said before, I was the "priest".
DIEGO: Concerning Mitchell’s Death, and using an acupuncture manual as a reference, I’ve tried to decode the configuration of the needles on your face. Could you explain the needles’ positions and what where you looking for?
LINDA: Diego, this is so funny and makes me want to marry you! At that time, I was studying with a very intense and powerful Guru from India who was also a medical doctor. His name is Dr. Ramamurti Mishra. He allowed us to have great powers of experimentation with all of his teachings and after he started using acupuncture, I also did it on myself and actually some others but I knew absolutely NOTHING about the where, when and how because I refused to learn anything that was not totally spontaneous and intuitive. This is no refection on my teacher and his teachings because he was a scientist and scholar as well as a highly enlightened person; it's just how I always do things. So it was as they say, hit and miss! I placed them wherever I wanted but only on my face. But when I had the acupuncture points tattooed on my upper legs many years later, the tattoo artist, used a book!
DIEGO: I wonder if the performance we’re talking about was the first where you used your art in a therapeutic way. What did you feel during the action, and in its aftermath?
LINDA: No, not the first. Look at my website and read THE CHAKRA STORY. Therapy was always my goal, always my path , always my style. If it didn't help me, reveal something to me, give me energy from the audience's attention, then I didn't do it. 
DIEGO: We’ve been talking about the performance itself, but which was the way (or processes) you went thorough to arrive to it?
LINDA: At that time I was living with an internationally renowned composer, Pauline Oliveros, and I know that her support and love and her incredible influence on my ability to "compose" grief, was instrumental in my making this healing film, MITCHELL'S DEATH.
DIEGO:  How did oriental philosophy influence you and your art?
LINDA: It gave me permission to be  authentic, sparse, more interested in life than art, more interested in healing than my pocketbook or money. Sparse is always my style of life and communication but I see reflections and encouragement for "sparse" in Oriental theory.
DIEGO: Could you describe, in general terms, what is your therapy-art about, and the way you apply it to yourself and to the others?
LINDA: We are allllllllllllllllllllllllllllll  starved for love, for attention, for presence, for life, for mother's breast, for father's attention, for kindness, for mastery, for song, for inclusion, for laughter,  for safety. My art is about giving myself what I need and these are some of my needs. Much of my art has given this to me.
DIEGO:To end this interview I’d like to ask you about a phrase which I’ve selected as leit motiv of my work, to know if it triggers any thoughts, or if you find in it something linked to your work: “Which I only understand in part, I feel absolutely”.
LINDA: It triggers a question: Diego, tell me about the most challenging event from your childhood?

LINDA MARY MONTANO, a performance artist who uses duration, Catholic imagery and humor in her art, presents a workshop based on the theory that our life can be transformed via self-designed rituals, intense and safe actions of rememberance, dedication to present time/past memory and the grace of a supportive community of instant friends who also are participating in this energy "family" of those wishing to be inspired and changed as art.
Sound and movement warm-ups, videos of Montano's past performances and guided art directives for each participant are the foundational methods for all of Montano's workshops where carefulness and safety are practiced and maintained throughout the experience.
The goal is that we all go home with a way, an attitude toward everyday life that is sacred and ordinary and do-able.
Bring a wig and one very intuitive "prop".

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