Sandra Semchuk's Response to 12 Phonecalls to Joseph Beuys
I am remembering the curtains made of button blankets made by children, with their hands and hearts. Sewing themselves together.
You made a screen of them, a place behind which you undertook work. The work to look at Residential School and its effects. I think of the family screens, how work is done behind them as well and how they tell the history of the family. We couldn't see you behind the curtain, except for your feet. We knew that you were creating a history lesson – a feat that brought together the oral and the written, your Tahltan language with English.
You were telling us what it felt like to be betrayed and erased…for children to lose their mothers and fathers and not learn from mother and father. You were telling us that we were called to witness that genocide had occurred.
And we were settler and immigrant peoples. Listening. Listening.
When you came out and slipped into Joseph Beuys’ shoes (felt) – talked to him in you – perpetrator and victim came together for me, like coyote, hobbled within a room, twisting and turning. No escape.
The fat was there like truth.
The portraits watched on. Skeptical.
I continue to think of the image of the willow rods that friends – we became friends, all of us strangers reconciled to being in this ritual, not without – joined together to form a divining rod/stethoscope/flowering tree/straps with buffalo bone china
listening for water
listening for buffalo
listening for breath
listening for being
listening for community
holding it together all together