Saturday, April 18, 2020

Annabel Daou "I will worry for you" a performance from dawn to dusk April 3-4, 2020

Annabel Daou 
April 3 2020 615 PM
Drawing document of performance "I will worry for you.
Susan Platt:  Annabel Daou, originally from Lebanon, created a 12 hour performance in which she walked back and forth in a hallway with worry beads and offered the opportunity to worry for each of us for a fifteen minute time slot that we signed up for advance. The piece was inspired by a man who lived in her apartment building in Beirut during the Civil War who walked in the hall with his worry beads.

(Beginning on Saturday, April 18 a new iteration of the performance, I will worry for you (from today until tomorrow) will take place each night from 11:30pm until 12:30am. It will be live-streamed for the duration on instagram (@the_lobby_nyc and @signsymbols).

I asked her to worry for my niece Lucy Mckensie who is working on the front lines of the virus in a London hospital

 Here she is, Lucy,  in her protective gear.

Here is the video of the artist walking back and forth :
 As I watched the performance, I found it deeply moving to see the silent repetition, the concentration, as she went through the beads. These are not prayer beads, they are simply beads that help with stress. Initially in our restless world, I felt that watching for a minute would be sufficient, but as the performance went on, I felt layers of feelings, as I thought about Lucy and her commitment to caring for Coronavirus patients. Her hospital ward was the first to be converted to a COVID 19 only ward.

The drawing was given to me by the artist, virtually. She holds the original for each time slot, although it is my drawing as she said:

"The drawings are a kind of record and also another way of connecting with participants. The drawings stay together, but each one is made for the participant and only for them and belongs to them in all ways except that they can't physically touch it. It's a way of remembering the moment that was shared, by recording the time and the date as a bead in the chain. The whole project deals with exchanges, and modes of sharing (particularly at a time when touch itself is prohibited) and ownership/responsibility with respect to our burdens and our care for each other. I don't have a clear idea about this project, but I've set it up as it is and will let it be what it is to each person.  That may change over time. The structure is like the worry beads, they are pushed repetitively along the cord and tap each other lightly as they move along."

Mark Auslander:    One senses that the multiple beads of the strand, all bound together, are rather like the way that all of us, scattered around the world, are equally bound together by the artist's compassionate meditative performance. Similarly, the various drawings are each virtually "owned' by her clients/participants, but remain united together in the artist's apartment/studio.  Physically separated, we are strung within a single flexible strand of being and becoming. 

It would appear, if I am reading  this correctly, that each drawing has a handwritten date and time indicating precisely when the meditative walk on behalf of Lucy, in this case, was taken.  Each bead then is not only indicative of a person, but of a unique moment in time, bound together to other unique moments of time. At a disorienting period in history when we are confined anxiously in place within our dwellings, and the flow of time seems indistinguishable (how many of us remember the correct day, half the time?) Daou offers each of her participants a discrete oasis of time, a temporal completeness that is fixed for all time, as it were, on the surface of her lovely drawings.  It seems all the more appropriate that she preserves this silver moment for us, this memory picture, on our behalf---we cannot touch it, but we know it is is a distant vault, a moment that can forever be retrieved, rather like Marcel Proust's lost moments in his In Search of Lost Time, which have passed forever, but which can be regained through art.

The artist's project also puts me in mind of  Marcel Mauss's masterpiece, The Gift, written precisely a century ago, as the world emerged from the horror of the Great War and the 1918 global influenza pandemic.  Mauss asked, in the shadow of the violently fragmented old world, how social solidarity could be rewoven. His response, oddly enough was to look at the modern legal and economic form of the contract, which is usually taken to be the epitome of individualized atomized self-interest.  Yet Mauss discerned in the contract the echo, or soul, of the ancient spirit of the gift ("le don"), found in indigenous and classical societies the world over.  Gift exchange binds us all together in part because each gift carries within it the spirit (or extended personhood) of the donor, which comes to rest, at times uncomfortably, within the personhood of the recipient, who can only free him or herself of this weight through acknowledging the gift and giving a counter-gift of approximately equal value, to that the moral weight or essence of the recipient in turns comes to dwell, in effect, within the personhood of the original donor. This dynamic is for Mauss (and later for Claude Levi-Strauss) the foundation of all human society, allowing all of us to be interconnected in ways that are profoundly difficult to disentangle and which often transcend the intentions of any specific donor or recipient, or of their respective social units.

Similarly, the artist gives us the gift of meditating upon our loved one, of walking back and forth silently on their and our (and their) behalf, and creating a time-stamped drawing of that precious unique moment in time, impressed upon the singular drawing forever. Each recipient of that gift in turn reciprocates the gift (the aspect of the artist that has come into our very souls, wherever we might be) by in effect gifting that drawing back to her (although we never even touch it) so that a part of whom we are (and whom the subject of the walk is) now travels back to the artist, co-existing within her and her place of dwelling.  In this way, the ancient spirit of the gift, which is inherently dynamic,  circulatory,  and inter-relational, intimately binding persons and souls in a great chain or strand of being, is resurrected at the most unlikely of times. 

In this time, we all shelter in fear a different kind of transmission and circulation, the movement of the invisible novel coronavirus, which is itself a strand -- a strand of RNA that is not quite alive, and yet which hijacks our own cells to reproduce itself, spread itself and bringing death in its wake. Yet through Daou's artistry, something better emerges as we become different kinds of "hosts": our fluid overlapping personhoods, all dependent upon one another, continue to be preserved on a drawn strand which we may never hold within our hands, but which, paradoxically,  enlivens and enlarges us.


Mauss, Marcel. The Gift: Forms and Functions of Exchange in Archaic Societies. 1954 (1920)



  1. What a lovely thing to do Susan. We are very proud of our wonderful daughter, Lucy. Such a caring person.Imogen and Jack

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