Performance Memories
 
Clarinda Mac Low

 
I've been performing for almost as long as I can remember. Literally. Some of my earliest coherent memories are of performing with Jackson, the adrenaline surge etching the moment into my brain. The performing hasn’t stopped yet, and this is the gift I take with me—a fascination with the immediate and electric connection between me and the audience, the delight in events unfolding in real-time, communally. I mark my life with Jackson in performance intervals

*              *              *              *              *              *              *              *              *              *              *

Performance Memory #1: 1970(?)
I realize that there is something unusual, and probably forbidden, about me and my brother being on the stage here in our underwear. I'm about four years old—young, but old enough to know that this smell of old wood, and the dark burnished surface of the boards under my bare feet are symbols of authority, antiquity, tradition and doing things fully clothed. But that's okay. I love the colors in the slides projected on the wall in back of me, and the way the picture gets so big when you shine a light through it. My task is to mix soil with water, each placed in big metal tubs on either side of the stage. I feel very responsible for doing this right; I want to get the right mix, to make sure that the mud is not too watery, and yet not too dry, that it satisfies the feeling of the word "mud." I am also aware that I'm performing this for a group of people watching me, that the other part of my task is to make it clear to them that I'm mixing water with soil. It feels very peaceful up there on stage, my brother and I concentrating on this task, my father reading, my mother's paintings appearing in rich light behind us. I feel like I could do this forever.
[Jackson told me about seven years ago that as the audience was coming in, just before everyone was settled, I started barking into the microphone. He took this as the beginning of the performance.]

Performance Memory #2: 1989
We have the same red plaid shirt on, and the same nose. I feel calm and elated, as my father and I sit side by side on metal folding chairs under a single light. I am about twenty-three years old and I feel young, and full of suppressed emotion from the rehearsal process, full of things I couldn't say, restless with inarticulate rebellions. I understand the rhythm of my father's voice better than I understand most music; dancing with it or to it makes perfect sense. I don't like my own voice as much when I speak, but I like what I say, I like the oblique interplay between us, and the indirect answers I give to direct questions. I run away a lot; it looks like I'm just running. I feel like there's a lot I haven't figured out yet, and the doubt gives me vigor, moving helps me think. My body is a criss-cross network of difficult emotions, and moving helps me feel. I feel like our relationship is on display as a novelty, and I want to undercut that, present us as just two people who know each other, without the corny father-daughter connotations. I don't want to be cute. Too bad, its unavoidable, so I just let go and do, riding the wave of the movement, the words, the watchers.

Performance Memory #3: 2005
In memoriam, I am in white, holding white roses. I drop the roses. I recite fragments of Jackson’s light poems—one song, one comic dialogue with myself, a wild jumping circle because Jackson likes it when I jump around a lot. I stare at the empty chair, knowing there’s no he there anymore ever. This is my last performance with Jackson.

*              *              *              *              *              *              *              *              *              *              *

We were together, apart, together, two intersecting and repeating circles. Our performing lives overlapped, diverged, dove under and over each other, a part of and apart from our blood relatedness. We influenced each other in unexpected and inexplicable ways, every aspect of our relationship inextricably linked to what and how we had performed, on-stage and off. The past tense strangles me with loss, and I reach into the future for how I will perform for my father in the years to come. In performing, I keep him close.