The Mud Room is a transitional area between inside and outside. At my grandmother Dorothy’s house the mud room was also a children’s room where my cousins and I played Atari 2600. When I was ten, my grandfather Bob killed himself with a shotgun in the Mud Room as he was succumbing to bone cancer. My mother was his stepdaughter, and to spare his own daughters the experience, she cleaned the room (the first of several deaths and suicides she would have to clean after). My Uncle Rodney, a Vietnam war vet who struggled with alcoholism, somehow accidentally set the room on fire once. During the work of planning my grandfather’s funeral, the Atari kept me and my cousin occupied. “Thank God for Pac-Man,” I remember my grandmother saying afterwards. The other family atari belonged to my uncle Ron, who committed suicide in 2008. At his funeral I revisited memories of 1986, of dilligently playing two games in particular that both had themes of inside and outside, of disappearing and searching, and both of which I now look back on as a sort of ritualistic children’s work. With so many new suicides and disappearances, I am thinking about these precedents for new ways to create space and ritual to process grief and honor the dead, and how the banal and the commercial can be reconfigured to occupy a spiritual place when other traditions are lost or discarded.
I tried to tell you on the phone
That play isn’t just the work of children
Once it was ritual
Our music made the world once
Before it sold toilet cleaner
We used to pull the morning sun over the horizon on a swing
I could tell I had made a mess of my words by your reaction
Was it offensive to think back on this time as ritual and these efforts as a sort of offering, while another work was happening outside?
A child walking alone through a dangerous place
by slipping through a crack in the wall
Work I- present a mud room and the documentation of the filling of a cenotaph
Work II- share a system where anyone may make a mud room and cenotaphs, with a reoccurring act of care that they can commit to. The mud room will be a place of purification where the outside world is put on pause, the cenotaph is a place with practices defined by its creator