Condolence (working title)
Ain Gordon is a three-time Obie Award–winning writer/director/actor, two-time New York Foundation for the Arts recipient, and a Guggenheim Fellow. Gordon’s work primarily sources lost/intentionally marginalized history.Artist Bio
“My job is to ease the mourning of the still-living, more than care for the dead.” —a funeral director in Philadelphia. Recently, Gordon’s father died during a snowstorm, forcing him to call 911, sending his father’s body on an odyssey through refrigerated morgue drawers in Queens and a New Jersey crematorium. Victorians had a practice of propping up dressed corpses for “one last portrait” and making jewelry from their hair. Gordon’s ancestral Ashkenazis used to rip whatever they wore when someone died; now you just pin on some black ribbon, already cut. Gordon is taking his father’s ashes to the ocean this summer (he’s now learned crematoriums are bad for our carbon footprint, so there’s a new water-based process, but how many gallons does that use as droughts threaten?). It’s not his first time performing the ash ritual; he already knows they don’t “scatter,” they’re heavy, clump, and stick. Why do we use language to portray death is an act of “passing away” or scattering—as opposed to a nodule of grief or absence calcifying into a thing you carry with you (and why pretend we don’t want to carry something with us even if it’s only memory or DNA or a photographed corpse)? How long are remains still who you loved? Who is mourning for? Who heals? Do you want to heal? This project will be created via an extensive oral-history process with funeral directors, embalmers, morgue workers, plus research into mourning practices since the industrial revolution. It will be theater.
Ain Gordon is a three-time Obie-winning writer/director/actor, two-time New York Foundation for the Arts recipient, and a Guggenheim Fellow for playwriting. Upcoming/recent projects: These Don’t Easily Scatter, in partnership with Philadelphia’s William Way LGBT Community Center, evoking the first five years of the AIDS crisis; Radicals in Miniature, requiems to personal icons of “downtown,” which premiered in 2017 at Baryshnikov Arts Center and Vermont Performance Lab and toured in 2018/2019 to the International Festival of Arts & Ideas, the Fairfield University Quick Center for the Arts, Connecticut College, Williams College, and the Yard; 217 Boxes Of Dr. Henry Anonymous, which culminated a residency at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania focused on Dr. Fryer who, in 1972, disguised as Dr. Anonymous, opposed psychiatry’s classification of homosexuality as a disease, and premiered in 2016 at Painted Bride Art Center plus 2018 performances at Baryshnikov Arts Center and 2019 productions at Transylvania University and Center for the Art of Performance; and Not What Happened, a duet for a historical reenactor and the woman she portrays, which premiered in 2013 at BAM’s Next Wave Festival plus Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, Connecticut College, and the Flynn Center, etc. Collaborations: Sō Percussion at the Walker Art Center, BAM, the Philadelphia Fringe Festival; with Samita Sinha at Performance Space 122/Performance Space New York; with Emily Johnson at Northrop at the University of Minnesota, New York Live Arts, Performance Space New York, On the Boards, ODC Dance Commons; and with Bebe Miller at the Wexner Center for the Arts and the Bates Dance Festival. Director of Pick Up Performance Co.
Photo by Paula Court.