Presentation: Cecelia Condit

41st Annual UND Writers Conference:
"Mind the Gap: Print, New Media, Art"
March 24, 2010

© 2010 Cecelia Condit and the University of North Dakota

[Video of this presentation is also available.]

[Please note, unless otherwise specified, poetry is presented with published line breaks:
for proper spacing and formatting, please consult printed source.]

Crystal Alberts: Thank you all for coming. I just have a quick couple of thank yous particularly to the UND bookstore, the North Dakota Council for, or actually the North Dakota Humanities Council, and of course the North Dakota Museum of Art and that's all I will say and I will turn it over to the Director Laurel Reuter.

Cecelia Condit: Which side would you like?

Laurel Reuter: I'll take that side. We have to negotiate everything. I'm Laurel Reuter. I'm the Director of the Museum here. And I have to have my notes. First, I want to introduce the artist who are, whose work is in this room because otherwise you won't know who they are. Jay Pfeifer the painter on this side couldn't be with us tonight. This is part of the show called, "Paint Local" and it's the second in a series that I am doing to take a look at what's happening in our own community here. That our community of course is where ever we want to call it, and so we are calling it all of the Red River Valley, Minnesota, North Dakota, all the way up.

Um, we have with us Sarah Hultin. Sarah will you stand. She's the one with the curly hair. And her work is on that end. And Sarah is living in Fargo and thank you for coming. And we have Jessica Mongeon. And Jessica, there you are, Jessica's work is on this side and on the wall over here.

Now, there's an exhibition on the other side which is by Carlos Runcie Tanaka and Carlos comes from Peru and about three years ago I was down looking at a venue for the Disappeared Exhibition and this wonderful museum had a this huge exhibition of his work and I said, "This guys really good, I would love to show his work, can I visit him?" So I had a studio visit and we met and I said you know I could never afford to bring your exhibition to North Dakota, but it's terrific. Well, about six, eight months ago I got an email from him and he said I'm having a show in Houston send me your address and I can send you an invitation. I said, "Well how about sending me the show?" And, he didn't say anything. But not long after that, we got a call and it was the Director of The Station Museum and he was in a board, or in a staff meeting, and he said, "you know we are great fans of yours; we've been following your work for a long time. And you're doing something right up in North Dakota, and we would like you to have this show and we will to pick up most of the cost." So they paid all the international shipping; they paid everything. And we found a ticket for Matt to fly down for $164 bucks. He flew to Houston, rented a truck, drove it up here. And now we will do the same thing, I think Greg will drive it back. And The Station Museum in Houston has picked up all the costs except that truck and that cheap airline ticket, so I really must thank them every chance I get.

Cecilia Condit is sitting to my right, and I have the honor of introducing her. And if you haven't gone upstairs and spent an hour looking at her work, you're cheating yourself. Cecilia asked me, she said, "I want to have a talk with you before I go. I want to know why you brought my show here." And I think I'll answer that question in public.

Um, Mary Lucier, who most of you if you followed the museum know, is the video artist who has done two commissions for us: "Flood Songs," about ten years ago right after the flood, and that went on to win the Internation Art Critics Award for the best video installation in a museum that year. And then she came back and she did a work called "The Plains of Sweet Regret," and we showed it here again recently. And so I was in New York and she said, "I have curated an exhibition, and I'd like you to see my exhibition." So we went down to, where did we go?

Cecelia Condit:The Cure Foundation, the Gallery.

Laurel Reuter: The Cure Foundation. And I saw Cecilia's work and there were probably everything you have saw this afternoon, plus what we have here. And as I looked at it, I thought this is important work and it addresses subjects that we don't like to talk about. We don't like to talk about having a difficult mother, who dies and then you come to terms with her. We don't like to talk about being old and going to the beach and, and nobody looks at you anymore, and if you did you'd, they'd be horrified. Um, we don't like to talk about aging, and we don't often get into the minds of little girls, what they really, what it's like to be a little girl.

And I thought this work was remarkable, because it's dealing with things that artists don't deal with that much. And sometimes literature does, but I don't see it much in the future of arts. So that's why I brought your work here. And also because it, it layers, the work is layered there are many, many layers of like life. It's snatches of this, snatches of that, snatches of something else and it adds up to a whole that's bigger than all of the parts. It's also very poetic. And poetry, when you write good poetry, you take out the n.. or you take out the adverbs, you take out the adjectives, you write very simply and you reduce it to the smallest factor and I think that, that um your work does that. There is a reduction that leaves you with a raw emotion. Now welcome, and we are going to have a chat.

Cecilia Condit: [Laughs] Thank you. Thank you Laurel, and thank you for bringing my show here, I appreciate it. I'm going to, we're going to show you a piece about, you'll intro, I'm introducing you to my mother tonight and also for the first time that I, in a piece, am a performance artist in it. And I, I like doing it. And I feel that I was able to, with the last four, four years of my moms' life, I was able to give her the ability to speak the things that she needed to speak, or the things that she was talking about. So, in some ways, I gave a voice to what it is like to be very, very old.

Which I like to give voice to things that are difficult to talk about or which have often been a thorn in my side somewhat, so I will take very pleasant things sometimes, and I will actually--cause I do such short pieces. This piece is about seventeen, eighteen minutes--and then I try to make them so that you look at them somewhat differently, as though it's the underside of the leaf as opposed to the top of the leaf that you're looking at. That's where I think this piece goes. But it was a piece that made it, for me, very easy for me to do because I got closer to my mother, who was not easy to get close to. And it was fun. So we had a great time.

Laurel Reuter: Did she understand what she was participating in?

Cecelia Condit: My mother really understood what she was participating in. She was, what was it, like I never got to show her because she was dying. I asked her, I brought my laptop and I said, "Mom do you want to see this for the last minute cuz it's going to open up in New York in just about a month and a half?" And she went "I can't do it now." And then she died a day later. But she, but I was close to being done.

And It was an interesting thing to share with her. So for this piece, it starts out with my mother's last breathe because I told her that if she was gonna to die and if I could possibly be there, the camera was gonna be on her. And so she was prepared for it, and she nodded, and she looked at the camera, and took her last breathe and died. It was a really generous act, and I thought that there was very interesting things that had to do with healing by giving people a certain something that is very unusual as a gift. And as an artist, she gave me something that, by just doing that and not just the last four years of her life, which she did enjoy. But she was able to give me something that was, I'm not sure that if one of my sons was asking me if I could, they could shoot me dying and my last breathe, no one's that pretty. It would be hard. So it was an interesting thing she gave me. It was a present.

Laurel Reuter: Do you want to start, the film?

Cecelia Condit: Yes.

Laurel Reuter: Um, we're waiting for Greg, right?

Cecelia Condit: Do you wanna sit somewhere else?

Laurel Reuterr: Yeah. I was going to go.

Cecelia Condit: Yeah, let's go leave this place. Let's put it between here. Alright.

[Film starts] [Woman Laughing]

I love my mother

"I know her why"

I haven't always loved her so well

She became different

More present, in ways she never was.

"Hello everyone, my name is Annie Lloyd Condit. I am named after my grandmother from my maternal side. My mother wanted me called Annie Lloyd. My mother said she was so sweet and gentle."

My mother's life is full of undiscovered treasure. I just have to find it. My mother collects leaves. I collect stories, mother's stories.

[Woman laughing while piano plays in the background]

"Oh my."

"Mom, do you like being in front of the camera?"

"Certainly. An adventure. It's a joy."

"It's a joy?"

"My joy."

"It's your joy."


"Isn't that something."


"Thank you."

"Thank you."

I take my mother with me, everywhere I go. I found this footage of mom that I took thirty years ago. She was just my age then. Mother said, "If I had one wish, I would walk right out of here and go everywhere I want..."

"Bye, bye"

"then come back next week."


They'd all say, "Annie Lloyd, where've you been?"


"Did you have a nice time?"

"Where's that one?"

"I want to keep that one as it is, dried over it."

"Mom, most people walked right past your leaves."

"Children push them aside."

"And they don't notice them."


Great Grandmother [Horde] said that, "Life was like a book with many chapters, some more interesting than others."

In late summer, early fall, a crow landed in the sugar maple outside my mother's window. It was there only a moment, and then it was gone. But mom talked about it for days, for weeks.

"I was walking in the mountains with my brother Bill. There was a huge moon over Silver Lake. And he said, I want you always to remember this and I have"

Mother loves, butterflies. When I was a girl, I dreamed she was one.



"Can you walk in your dreams?"

She said, Yes.


And very well.

"Very well."

"Do you fly?"

She said, "Sometimes."

"Do you dance?"


In your dreams? "No, never."

"Mother, do you love me?" She answered, "I loved you before you were born, I loved you when you are born, and I'll always love you. She said, I'll love you even when you're an old lady."

"Can you get your hand out?"

I was thinking about growing old when mom called and told me, "It seems as though I have been many people in my life, though in some ways, I have stayed very much the same."

She mentioned that she was going to spend the day looking back on all the people she has known. She said, you would be surprised at all the people I have known.

"It's the most interesting thing that could happen to us in our life."

"The last time I saw my mother was one when she was dying. My father want to go see her. They weren't congenial. So, I said I'd go. She looked as if she really loved me deeply before she died. I was glad I had the opportunity of saying goodbye to her. I didn't get up and kiss her, but I saw her by her eyes she really appreciated it. But she died after I left. I went up [to have some] dinner and she died when I was at dinner."

["The Lord's Prayer" being recited in the background.]

A year ago when she was ninety, mother asked her Doctor how long he thought she'd live.

"He said, two years."

Two years.

"Oh, how about this?"

"Ooh, that's a beauty."


"What did you call them, you called them, um...paintings of God?"

"Designs of God."

"They're designs of God?"

"Yes. God's an artist. He loves beauty. People who love beauty, they are artists, too."

Mom told me that she had woken up in the middle of the night and she wondered if she was dead.


Then she realized it was just nighttime and went back to sleep. My mother said, "Seventeen years ago, we buried your father on his beloved Grandfather's grave."

Eleven years ago, mother left her old house, moved to assisted living, and fell in love. She would join him for dinner. John would say, "Annie Lloyd, you made it, you made it."


And he would help her into her chair. One day after dinner, the Docter told him he would die soon and he did. After he died, she received flowers with a note that said, "To Annie Lloyd from John."

A morning dove sang in the morning,

Strongly, softly, the sounds full of joy.

In the morning, the morning dove saw me.

We were friends. He gave his song blessing.

Then his feathers flew over a tree.

Mother wrote this poem concerned about the shooting of morning doves. She sent this card as protest to all the governors, senators, anyone who might listen.

"Until it became too difficult for me to write and I could no longer sign my name."

"I'll be looking for leaves on some tree far away."

"I don't want you to go mom."

"It's gonna happen."

"It's gonna happen."

"I'll wave to you from heaven, saying here I am. I'll tell you all about it."

I was told that mother is slipping away. But she hasn't. She said, I just an old woman without much to say anymore and hardly able to say it but...

"I had this dream. I was at a great party. And I could walk and talk so easily. And everyone wanted to talk to me."

[Happy Birthday sung in the background]

"I was so charming and so intelligent. When I woke up, I realized I had been given a wonderful gift."

Mother dreams more now.

"I do dream recently, too much, I think. I don't know why I do that. Maybe looking to the future and going up through the steps of the past is how we learn to die."

"Last night I saw your father, Walter. He was walking away into the woods."

"In a dream?"

"No. I saw him. He was real. He was thinking that he loves me and he will be waiting."

"Did he tell you that mom?"

"No, he didn't tell me, he just thought it. Then he turned and went into the woods."

She said, "Someday soon I may dance away into the woods."

"Mother, how are you doing?"

"I'm just fine. I'm just old that's all."

[They laugh]

"I'd make you younger if I could mom."

"Oh, you can't go back."

"No, you can't go back."

"Bye, bye, bye, bye." "

"Bye bye. Bye bye."

[End of Film]


Cecelia Condit: Well, that's my mom. Oh, thank you. Um, what about her? Um, what about the piece? Um, what I found is I discovered footage of her when she was fifteen, which was, and her family so that was a big landmark thing for me to discover. I had also been taking images of her. Like the cutout I was carrying was something that I shot when I was twenty-one, and I was doing installations with large life-size cutouts, photographs of people that I knew. And I had that one, which I did an installation that was sort of in a cage, but there was, it was filled with trees and surrounded by an acetate. It was a large installation. And I always kept the photo and then I had other footage of her that I had taken thirty years ago, which is all the black and white footage.

There was a lot of strange things that came together with this piece for me. In that, when my mother said she had a dream of my father walking away into the woods, I had footage of him walking away into the woods. So, no trouble at all. So there was a lot of coincidences in this piece that was really odd that took place.

And, so it was sort of an accumulation of a lot of thinking about aging. I worked in a nursing homes as an activity director and later a consultant for what was then a large chain of nursing homes in the Philadelphia area in my twenties before I started teaching at Universities. I was teaching at art schools in the evenings though, photography and sculpture.

But, then I, so I had a lot of footage of her. But this was something that I wasn't sure I could actually do, because it's hard to take a picture, take movies of your mother as she, you know, that the last thing you're going to do is get footage of her as close to death as possible and to deal with whatever that would do. And, quite honestly, my mother was just torturous enough so that I thought I was really biting off more than I could chew. And then they gave her some medication that made her very pleasant. And we could get close and so it was for the first time in my life that I went "oh we can get along and we can really be friends." And this was the first time in the last four years that I felt like we could really be friends and that was sort of an interesting thing.

But it was a piece that, even though it only took me four years off and on to shoot and to edit, it was really a piece that really took me a lifetime of accumulating footage to figure out, so. And I have other work I've done of her too. And motherhood is one of the things that I actually have, it's a theme, aging is a theme, childhood is a theme, the bizarre and the macabre. This is my softest piece that I've ever done.

Usually I'm a little macabre. In fact, people who have written on my work have said that I was sort of like the video artist the macabre. I was, was the leading practitioner of the macabre and video art. But this piece, I think some of the irony kind of makes it so I have sort of a soft, an edge to the softness of this piece that I wouldn't normally have. I mean, I think that it sort of the sense of the macabre makes it so I can be a butterfly without looking totally idiotic and in terms of a certain irony that I think that the macabre does give one. And I think the same thing is true with being a crow, which was in my interpretation of this...My mother was thinking about this crow that came and landed on her balcony and so she thought about it and thought about it and what I did is that I felt like mother would think about me, so I became the crow. And I wanted to know if my mother loved me as much as like she loved these butterflies that were all around her room, so I figure I'll be a butterfly so I kind of negotiated myself to be a part of this world that she existed in. So, that's how I did it.

And she fell in love with this man who was much older than her. [Laughs] And that was an interesting thing that I was trying to decide whether to put into or not. But he was ninety-four when he died and she was only eighty-nine and he, yeah, so, and she would have married him, but he died. Big blow. But it made me feel like there's no, you people can be romantic at any age there's no question about that. So that was education for something to learn about. Let me see, what else can I talk about.

Upstairs there's a work that I've done, that has, that, I do musicals. And my husband, Steven Vogel, who is here in the back, he's done a number of, a lot of songs for me. I write the lyrics, the poems, and he then puts them to music. And I've done themes on aging, and I've done things about love.

And so I have a piece about cannibalism in Middle America and, it, and it's, it's funny and it's, yeah. It's about youth, but it's also about anything that can happen to you, things that, there's a...Murder has been a big theme in my work and the macabre through that has a founded a place. Trash bags with bodies in the closet has always been a big theme. In fact there was a point at which they were in every closet in my work.

Laurel Reuter: Nature.

Cecelia Condit: Nature, aaahh. You can see in this piece that I have the natural world, it sort of floats in and out of my images. When I was a girl, I, I was raised in the woods. We had a house in Philadelphia that was surrounded by nature centers and we could go anywhere as long as we didn't pass a road or the Schuylkill River. And so, I had a huge terrain of woods in which I could negotiate and so, even though I was in the heart of the city, it became home. So when I go home sometimes in my work what I do is I have this respect for the natural world because it was a major player in my reality. And I like to look at it, it's an unfortunate thing that I like to look at it, I look at it and it makes me happy. So I don't want to shoot something that makes me happy and I spend so much time editing that it becomes important.

And that's something that over the last five, six years that has become an increasing character in the, in the work that I do. People are in the woods; people are, there's animals in the woods. There's this identification with other animals that we have that are, that who we are as, as animals. If we were an animal, what animal would we have near us? Which, which of the ones that we would identify, like my mother identified with the butterfly, and what butterfly...or animal would you identify with? That's one of the themes that I, that I, I play with in my work as well.

Laurel Reuter: Talk about the crow, because it's important in that the film with the little girl and the rat. They saw that this afternoon, right?

Cecelia Condit: Ah, yes.

Laurel Reuter: Talk about the crow cuz I never know what that presence is.

Cecelia Condit: Ok. Crows are, are things that I, are creatures that I actually use in my work a good bit. Ah, they're actually characters that sort of stay around. On this one, I didn't do it except for I was the crow, so it didn't work presenting a crow in my work, but often they're major players.

And, I feel that it, I have this one little piece that I had that was here at the museum oh, about a year ago, where this little girl runs away with this rat or turns into a rat--it's a little hard dead rat--and it's a little hard to know exactly what's, what, which one of those two scenarios happens at the end. I don't know if people have seen it. They showed it this afternoon. But it's, it's a sweet piece. And it's about five minutes long. And there's a crow that's in there and the crow that's in there, which is also in Little Spirits--a thing where a little friend, two little girls go into the woods together and one of them abandons the other deep in the forest and then goes back to her home and watches it get dark knowing that her friend is abandoned there deep in the woods and can't find her way out. So it's about that kind of cruelty.

And the crows are there. And for me a crow is a, an identification with something that's very smart and in the natural world, which is also a scavenger, and something that could be easily taken for granted for how very smart it is. And also it eats dead things often. So there's another sense of the repulsion that's there. But because I also consider myself a scavenger that is I go around with my camera and I collect images and those collection of images find there way in my work. So I don't just go, I don't just plan a narrative and shoot it. I always have images that I'm actually collecting and trying to figure out exactly where I will place them in work and how I do that. And so the crow is sort of like a scavenger. And so there is this identification that is, that I have with it. And it has appeared in like, quite a lot of my work. I have a lot of footage of, of crows that are characters. And in fact it's something I have thought about using as a major character, like where it would be a centerpiece in, in a piece, so.

Laurel Reuter:There's a new work in, as you walk up the top of the steps in the little room at the top, there's your newest work is there. And I believe that's the first piece you made after Annie Lloyd after your mother died. Could you speak about that for a bit?

Cecelia Condit:Ok.

Laurel Reuter:She just finished it and rushed it off to us and hadn't really seen it on three monitors until yesterday.

Cecelia Condit:Yesterday.

Laurel Reuter:So talk about it a bit.

Cecelia Condit: Ok. Thank you. What I did is this is my first installation that is a three channel installation, which is upstairs, and after my mother died, I had this dream. And so I called it "The First Dream After Mother Died," but it was fairly well scripted. And so I, a year later, I just shot it and ah, and ah, and I'm interested in working with multiple things, so images fade in and out. And there, I'm in it, so my mother is not in it. But it starts out in a very strange space, which feels like its cold and watery and, not cozy exactly. And then I'm in it and, I don't know what it is, but it's a dislocation. The characters are not real, but basically I have a sense of myself in this incredibly dilapidated basement. And I have this sense that I have to get out.

And I don't know what that has to do with the grieving process, but I have sense that a grieving process is extremely complicated. And I'm not totally sure if as a culture that grieving is something that we really have to find in any kind of major way. That it actually is something that is much more subtle and it has stages and it's a peculiar journey to take. And I think that this dream of mine was in some way--like my mother was always really psychic so you have to forgive me, I sort of talk this talk--I have this sort of sense that in, in negotiating with her last few years, she was always having dreams and living in a world where she really dreamed a lot. And they were not dreams to her, they were like these, they were real. That, in this dream it felt like it was one of these strange real dreams. And I felt that grieving has a steps to it that I've had, really had to deal with, and it wasn't until I got this piece done that I felt like I came out of grieving and it has been about a year and a half and its complicated.

So when I took my mother with me everywhere I went before, there's a strange thing, I thought it would stop. It's just like when kids leave home they don't know how much you're going to see them ever again. I had this strange feeling, that well you know, your mother dies and you stop thinking about her. But there's a sense of grieving that I feel like I still take her with me to different places. She goes with me, which is a very odd thing. And when I've spoken about it people tell me, "oh yeah, I've never gotten over it," or "my wife never got over losing their parents." And I, and I don't know about that except for that I know that I was shocked by how strange this other thing death is. You know not knowing a thing about it and only being able to speculate what it's about. But its an interesting thing when you lose, you know, parents so, yeah, its an odd experience. Yeah.

Laurel Reuter: How do you get inside the heads of children the way you do?

Cecelia Condit: Ahhh. I like to get inside the heads of children. I think that their, what they are is their just like little us', but they have impulses that are strong and so while we would go "uh oh, check." [Laughs] "Don't go there." The children in my work do, which makes them interesting. While if we went there, we would say "oh that person's too crazy. Nobody would ever do that," but if children do it, then you--and of course we would do that--but, children they can [d]o things so, so naturally like leave a child in the wood or, or run away with a dead rat or think that a dead rat could look beautiful in a little white dress.

Simple things like that appeal to me. In Oh, Rapunzel, this one fairy tale that I did, I have the little girl that that's there and she sort of negotiates being attacked constantly, and being afraid, and there's things that, that the innocence. Innocence is one of my themes. Innocence is really one of my themes. [Laughter] And I, and I think that I can get away with it because of a certain irony. But I think that even going into this piece with my mother, there is a certain innocence that I have going into this, I think, that allows me to go follow her in places that I might, might not, which were actually for me quite scary. Scary.

Laurel Reuter: "I just want to be me." Where does that come from? It's in several of your works. "I want to be me."

Cecelia Condit: Well I do.

[Audience Laughter]

Cecelia Condit: I do. I think everybody want to be me. And I think it's really hard to be me. I think it's terribly hard to be me. We were just having this conversation about the future and how, how it is. Like for me, I hold onto to me as though I don't know who I'm holding onto and I don't know who I am. I have to hold onto the past, and I have to hold onto the present, and the present just has to like sort of ground me down. And I can't...and the future is something, you know, I play with things that are emotionally grounding so I can be me. I also think that, perhaps, I mean like the whole psychology. I have a twin brother and I'm not sure if I'm always been trying to figure out exactly who I am, because I knew who he was. So, and in the dead rat piece, which she this beautiful rat. It's just a lovely, scary, charming rat. It's a, she, she says "let's be twins." And there's, and there's...

Laurel Reuter: The little girl.

Cecelia Condit: The little girl says "let's be twins" and the rat has a voice that the little girl makes up. And I think that this business of trying to figure out who she is and who Rat is, as though...In my work, I think one finds out who one is always in regards to another being. So it's either a little, it's always a little person or an older person or mother or a grandmother, but there's a finding out who one is, but its always in regards to another person. It isn't as though there's a person, like characters are ever by themselves. There's mother and me. There's, it is, it is the nature, and I don't know quite why I always do it, but it is nature. When do work, I think it's trying to figure out and negotiate my world and who I am. And hope that somehow in negotiating my world that I am somehow able to let people think about how they would negotiate, they negotiate their world.

Laurel Reuter: Any of you bigger us' have questions or thoughts that you would like to share with Cecelia?

Cecelia Condit: Yes.

Audience Member: You have my curiosity. What does, in your mom's film, what is the toilet paper represent? [inaudible]

Laurel Reuter: Repeat the questions.

Cecelia Condit: Okay. Well, toilet paper, that's always rolling out the door. Well I always thought she was seemed to me she was either rubbing her nose, or she was always being changed, her diaper's being changed. So it was this odd thing that had this magical thing about it that was just like nothing, but it would always seem like every part of her would like to roll out the door and down a hill and be out of this room, which of course she never could do that she was never able to get out of her bed.

So when people, when she was able to be lighter, they would move her, they would sometimes take her outside for the day, but otherwise she was grounded and so the walls in her world became so small. But it was, for me, it was as though everything in her world was screaming to let me out. Every, the few things that her world was reduced to was screaming to get out. Cuz she didn't want to do that. She wasn't like a person who was a confined person, she was a person who was being totally confined by her body, which was interesting. That's what that was about. But I have her being changed, her diaper being changed too, you know, there was no privacy for her. So yeah. Did you want to ask something?

Audience Member: I just wanted to say thank you.

Cecelia Condit: Oh. Thank you. Thank you too. Um, yeah, so um...when my mother died, I showed it to the nursing home where she was and that was a hoot. That was really funny.

Laurel Reuter: How did they react?

Cecelia Condit: They sat there, and a lot of people were really sleepy all the time, but these people were on their wheelchairs just like aahh [Laughter]. It was so cute. It was really cute. They were like charged, looking at this cuz this was Annie Lloyd, who was, you know, like meandering, you know, and then they knew her, but they didn't know her well. But they watched this because this was about their world and their world getting smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller. And it, and they were not asleep. It was interesting. In their chairs.

Laurel Reuter: How about the staff?

Cecelia Condit: Oh the staff. Oh the staff, oh its people who work with old people really like this film. It's like where, where it actually goes a lot to to people, for people who work with old people. And to old people and that is one of the markets it has... Deena did you want to say...

Deena Larsen: Could you talk a moment about the motion in the piece? Even though you have a very confined space, there's a lot of motion and a lot of things going on and relate those two.

Laurel Reuter: Can they hear the question?

Cecelia Condit: Okay. I, the question is, Deena, is that there's a lot of motion in the piece. You mean my camera moving around?

Deena Larsen: The camera moving around and there are so many things moving.

Cecelia Condit: I have a lot, I mean I'm usually narrative, this is as documentary as I've ever gotten. [Laughter] I mean I tell stories that's what I am, I'm a storyteller. You would not know this by tonight, but this is what I am. But on, but on this one where there's a lot of things happening, I take time in a narrative sense and I condense it that is one of the things that I do. So in transporting myself into the land of documentary, something like this documentary performance, this kind of like in between worlds that what I do is that I still keep that condensedness, so I kind of keep things a little off guard. So you don't know quite what's gonna take place next. So you, you kind of have the general gist that we're, in the big broad brushstroke of narrative that we're ending, going towards the conclusion of her life. But in terms of where you go from scene to scene, I try to keep it kind of so that you're off balanced a little bit. That is what I am trying to do, because I think that's life. Yes.

Audience: I'm curious; you said that she was on medication for like the last four years and you imply that she had a very different maybe personality.

Cecelia Condit: Yes.

Audience: towards you. So I'm wondering if your aunts and uncles, cousins, your siblings and that, how do they relate to that, because you show her in the last, mostly the last four years, as opposed to when she was different.

Cecelia Condit: Oh every, the question is, it's a question where it says like well what is that, what do my siblings feel about all this? In the present, the last four years when she was different, as opposed to who she was before, which of course was who she was for most of her life. Well, but, everyone liked her a lot better at the end.

Laurel Reuter: She was easier.

Cecelia Condit: She was easier. She never screamed. She never got some kind of weird thing about you. She never went off on a tangent. She was a gem. She was someone you would like to hang out with and when you were with her you always felt like she was interested in you. It's really something to be with people who are interested in you. And my mother was interested in everybody around her when she was on her medication.

Audience: So what was the medication?


Cecelia Condit: I don't know.

Audience: Don't answer that.

Cecelia Condit: Well, since then, I've heard other people who were on this medication and it didn't work, but for some reason it just hit like some kind of molecule hit in her brain represented something that was not there before. [Laughs] Yeah, I would take it too. It was, it really worked. We should all be so lucky. She thought she was taking antihistamines.


Cecelia Condit: We never told her, of course.

Audience: I just wanted to see if you could elaborate more about the relationships with identifications with animals. Like you said at one point, a person could self identify with the animals that might be around them. Could you tell us a little more about that?

Cecelia Condit: Oh animals. It's a little, we're talking about self identifying, one's self in animals. I don't know. Since I was raised with a barnyard, which I was, I mean we were in the heart of Philadelphia clearly. But, I mean my mother had every animal in the world. It was a lot easier to get along with animals than people. And she did very well with animals. And so, there were, I mean they were not always nice animals, but they were, they were, I felt like I could identify with animals easily. They were much easier to deal with [for] me than my mother and my sisters. And my brother, whew. They were a lot more tolerable and so I had this identification that's very easy, for me. I also think it brings me somehow closer to a natural world. And actually, even though I walked to work, which means that I walk about a mile each way to go to work, and I walk through woods on my way to work even though I know it may be a little dangerous, I do it. And, and I do it every day that I go to work, which is too much, but I do. And I, and I like to have a sense of the woods and the trees and I, and I get that sense and it's really innocent. But it's a small pleasure, then the animals are a small pleasure in that world. It's true, for me. Well, yes.

Audience: Not so much a question, but a comment on the crows and the dreams. Growing up, I would be told stories, either by family or culturally, that crows or ravens are actually messengers that would bring dreams to people. So that, that was their job and just like an owl might represent you know an omen of death that a crow represented bringing an important dream or message to you.

Cecelia Condit: Okay. That's a good thought. Okay. Ah, that dreams are crows in dreams.

Audience: No crows were...

Cecelia Condit: Messengers of dreams and that they actually brought important dreams, big dreams to people. I like that. That's the dream I did upstairs. It was a big dream. It was only six minutes, but let me tell you it was a big dream. For me to do a piece on my dream, I don't do that very often. I just went okay this is big enough, and I didn't think, I don't, I mean it's an odd piece cuz I don't think of it except for I feel like it's an extension of this, it's like, it's like, to the next piece will be a real piece for me that I really will get into a different kind of layer or something. Very new, very new, but thank you for that. Okay.

Laurel Reuter: Okay.

Cecelia Condit: Yes. Thank you.

Laurel Reuter: Should we offer them a glass of wine?

Cecelia Condit: Yes.

Laurel Reuter: Thank you so much Cecelia.


[Transcription by Rita Sjong; Reviewed by Dr. Crystal Alberts, November 28, 2010]


Contact Information

Crystal Alberts

Associate Professor of English

Director, UND Writers Conference

276 Centennial Drive
110 Merrifield Hall, Stop 7209
Grand Forks, ND 58202