The water that Bostonians drink flows over a history of colonization and forced evacuation. In “Memory Flow/Water of Boston,” Talking (previously known as the Metonymy Collective) revived the layers of memory and systemic violence that are submerged under the Quabbin Reservoir. The Swift River Valley was home to two major displacements. The indigenous communities that inhabited the area were subjected to waves of colonization and genocide. They were replaced by the pioneer towns, who eventually were also removed for Boston to create a safe and pristine body of drinking water.
In February 2018, Talking Wings installed a labyrinth of memory and history inside the Dorchester Art Project. They performed this first iteration of Memory Flow / Water of Boston during XFest Massachusetts 2018. A labyrinthian structure of plastic membranes, pictures suspended in water, paper cuts and projected textures will turn the space into a memory chamber. The space tells the multilayered histories of colonization, environmental destruction and economic starvation that lie at the bottom of the Quabbin. Water textures and sounds drench the space, inviting the audience/collaborator to explore the depths of drowned history.
Similar to a living organism, the space responds to the audience’s intrusion. In a flow of constant movement, live performers lead the audience members/collaborators to the center of the maze. During this process, the history of the myriad displacements, is told through shadow stories projected on the walls of the labyrinth. From the center of the maze emanates a visceral and improvised sonic piece, performed by two musicians who vocally loop ambiance of water and memory loss. Once they audience/collaborators arrives at the center of the labyrinth they encounter four containers full of “Quabbin Water,” in which pictures taken in the displaced towns Prescott, Greenwich, Dana and Enfield lie submerged.
It is the audiences/collaborators task to extract the pictures from the water, before the ephemeral images are washed away. The audience members can take the images with them, for now that they have retrieved the memory, it is their responsibility to keep it alive and breathing.