Boulder-based artist Ondine Geary, a CU Boulder Department of Theatre and Dance lecturer, is putting the finishing touches on “Radius of Transmission: A multidisciplinary exploration of grief in three parts” (Radius)—a three-part performance project about grief and the strange work of living after loss. The project is inspired by Geary’s experience of unexpectedly losing her brother, Adam, in 2017 and her father, Mike, in 2018.
“Radius” will play out across three venues in Boulder from Aug. 19 to Sept. 16. The project uses a wide range of mediums to better connect will all aspects of grief, including radio broadcast, interactive technology, ultrasonic frequency, installation, poetry and dance.
Part I, co-created with Memphis-based artist Robin Salant and Boulder residents, is a free installation built inside a storage unit in an undisclosed North Boulder location. Intended as an experience for one, visitors make individual appointments to attend between Aug. 19 and Sept. 16. The small storage unit is filled with cardboard boxes. Visitors can peer inside the boxes through small holes, where they will see a range of everyday objects made meaningful by their connection to lost loved ones.
“Each object has been contributed by a community member whose life was changed by loss, and taken together, these singular objects reveal the collective weight of our individual grief,” said Geary.
The cardboard boxes surround a desktop telephone, which has been modified by technology artists Christopher Baker, Ryan Hill and Tim Lowrimore. Visitors can pick up the receiver and record a message, which will be converted to an inaudible ultrasonic frequency and played in a loop through a speaker in a remote location for the duration of the project.
“Though the messages will never be played outside of ultrasonic frequency and therefore never ‘heard,’ they engage a distinct and necessary facet of grief, a reach into absence and an insistence that empty space is not nothing,” said Geary.
Parts II & III—which cost $55 per car—are experienced together and run Sept. 4-7. Part II is a four-mile drive that begins with twenty cars driving into a field near the Boulder Circus Center and encircling a performer who is viewed through the car’s windshield. Part II ends as a processional during which the audience drives to The Spark Creative and Performing Arts—the location of Part III.
The drive between venues will be punctuated by a radio broadcast created by New York-based sound designer Max Bernstein. The broadcast, which includes original poetry by Leah White, comes in through the audience’s car radios and transforms each car’s private and personal interior into a portal for the performance.
“The broadcast anchors the audience in the performance even as they drive along the dirt paths, city streets and back roads of Boulder,” said Geary. “When they arrive at Spark for Part III, their attention is rooted in the work but layered by the outside world, an experience that mirrors the kind of split attention that occurs during grief.”
Shifting the frame from “those gone” to “those who go on,” Part III is a 30-minute dance featuring local favorites Olivia Dwyer, Attiyya Fortuné, Keith Haynes, Hattie Houser, Chrissy Nelson, Gwen Hunter Ritchie, Laura Ann Samuelson and Kate Speer. The performance explores the difficult process of living after loss inside Spark’s warehouse-turned-theatre.
“Part III translates the strange, halting, dislocating work of grief into a work of movement, one that marks grief as seemingly incompatible with our lives, yet intimately tied to our liveness,” said Geary.
Radius of Transmission is funded by the Boulder County Arts Alliance (BCAA), CU’s NEST Studio for the Arts, and Scientific & Cultural Facilities District (SCFD). It is co-presented and supported by Control Group Productions.