Measure of Memory (2011) was a durational performance and temporary landwork inspired by a sea change of events involving a seasonal home for my family in the Catskills of New York, a former farm that was homesteaded by Scottish immigrants in the mid-19th century. For 20+ summers I dwelled in the farmhouse with my family and spent countless hours in the barn napping on sweet baled hay and tending our horse. In later years, my parents built their retirement home on the land and the original farmhouse and barn were left to deterioriate. In 2009 following my parents’ deaths, those iconic structures were erased from the landscape, a condition imposed by the State of New York for us to establish a permanent conservation site. Measure of Memory was my response to the milestone event of 2009 and a desire to make visible the potential of the site as a generative locus for creative inquiry and expression.
Measure of Memory (2011) / Durational performance for camera and temporary installation / Slideshow photos: Catherine Tutter and Dennis Friedler
Starting out at the former homestead site, I began my walk to the town of Bloomville, descending the mountain and counting my steps until reaching the grave site where my parents Antonín and Adele Tutter are buried in Riverside Cemetery. Several yards down in the very same row stands the Campbell plot, the original homesteading family of Zelený Les. I sought to bind our two families in real time through movement and gesture, attending to the respective plots. My ascent back up the mountain and continued counting of footsteps took me full circle to the former homestead, concluding a round-trip traversal of psychogeographic space where the Tutters and the Campbells occupied my constructed terrain of memory. I repeated this walk on 3 separate occasions.
A parallel action was to re-create the footprints of the farmhouse and barn by the calculated laying of mason line using my feet as units of measurement. My source material for seeking the corners of the house was drawn from a series of sensitive portraits of the farmhouse – interior and exterior images – captured by photographer Dennis Friedler just prior to the demolition and stored on a laptop computer. Identifying points of reference from the “virtual interior” looking outwards, I recalled memories of summers in this humble house (now vanished). I scrutinized in the images the stark evidence of its deterioration and collapse – an abandoned dwelling rightfully reclaimed by the earth. When the lines had been drawn, my daughter and I outlined the perimeter with 150 candles in foil pots. We lit them at sunset, ready to witness a re-kindling of the foundations as darkness fell. I watched a full moon rise between the century-old maple and pine trees, living reminders of generations past. I rested within the space of the former farmhouse, thinking about the transformation of matter, how absence becomes present, and asked the question: what endures?