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"Comfort Sessions (Pod 2, Dress 1, Nest 2)"
Katelena Hernandez


  • Project Space 613 Allen Street Austin, TX, 78702 United States (map)

"Comfort Sessions" are an offgrowth from my larger Lullaby Project, in which I am invited to homes to sing: for crying babies, for those who have insomnia, for those who are sick, for those who are dying, for those who are lonely, for those who are perverts, for those who are frightened, for those who need something but don’t know what.

We all have needs, deep needs, barely met, or not met at all. Warmth, intimacy, sharing, protection. The artist, too.  This work came out of my early years as a mother to two children, in which the daily grind of motherhood wore away the edges of my own identity. I found myself again at night, by the sides of their beds: I sang songs my mother sang, I sang songs from Disney movies, I sang songs I learned from Muppets.  I sang Prince and Madonna and Cake, I sang Broadway, I sang 40s love songs and 60s pop songs and hymns and sea shanties and cowboy ballads and early American folk songs and songs in other languages.  Some nights were themed, some nights I had requests. Unlike most of my day’s activities, those were moments when my own pleasure in giving was equal to the pleasure they had in receiving.

During that same period, I stopped being able to sleep myself. Following a brain injury, I developed insomnia that eroded my hours of sleep to the point that I was sleeping almost not at all. Sometimes watching my children fall asleep to my voice was as close to sleep as I could get. So, it’s not too hard to see why I would relish my role as a sandman.

When I started my work based on lullabies, I wondered if I could let myself make work that is so sincere, so utterly uncynical, if anyone would take it seriously. But I find it’s transgressive to actually sing by someone’s side; it’s not the same as singing a concert. It’s an act much closer to the work of a courtesan or prostitute: there’s a line to the level of intimacy one is supposed to have with strangers, and to sing in this way is to cross it.

The Comfort Sessions add a layer of object and setting to this endeavor, to mitigate the awkwardness of being in a group while this intimate encounter is happening. The textures are important; it’s a cliché to say that a bed is a womb, the soft flesh of our mother, but it is, and we all know it, so there must be softness beneath, and warmth above, and a structure around that gives seclusion and safety.  I love the blurring that happens of clothing and object, of object and performer, of gallery space and personal space. At a formal level, the soft polyester drape of fleece is the contemporary update to that heavy wool felt used by Joseph Beuys and Robert Morris.

Katelena Hernandez lives and works in Austin. She has a degree in Studio Art from Yale University and has been involved in the arts in Austin for more than a decade. Information on her projects can be found at www.katelenahernandez.net.

This performance is a part of “Low Lives 3”, Worldwide Networked Performance Art Event
International performances will be projected onsite at Co-Lab at the following times: April 29: 7:00pm – 10:00pm (CST) & April 30: 2:00pm – 5:00pm (CST). For more information on Low Lives 3 visit www.lowlives.net

This performance is a part of Fusebox Festival an annual contemporary art and performance festival that takes place in Austin, TX each April. This year’s dates are April 20 - May 1. More information and tickets are available at www.fuseboxfestival.com

In celebration of contemporary visual art in Texas, Co-Lab is participating in the 2011 Texas Biennial project by joining in with over 60 arts organizations across the state with this exhibition. The list of all participating organizations and further information on the 2011 Texas Biennial, including the exhibition on view in Austin, Houston and San Antonio from April 9 - May 14, is available at www.texasbiennial.org.