Song #1  (2015-2019)
Song #2 (2017-2019)
Song #3 (2019-2020)
multi-channel installation with stereo sound

photo: ©Dagmar Morath

JAN 24 to MAY 16,  2021 at the Carleton University Art Gallery.

never before our time have so many people been uprooted.  Emigration, forced or chosen, across national frontiers or from village to metropolis, is the quintessential experience of our time.
—John Berger (And Our Faces My Heart, Brief as Photos 1984)

THREE SONGS is a series of video installations in which Laura Taler performs songs in a variety of languages, in costume as her doppelganger. In this work Taler grapples with issues around translation, the physical labour of mourning, and the slippages between truth and fiction.  The series began with questions about how to move forward with the past.  While grappling with problems of repetition and untranslatability, she discovered that this work is in fact a succession of performances of mourning. Like all mourning, the goal is to move beyond loss to imagine and pursue futures untethered to the past.

In Song #1: Uite asa as vrea sa mor (This is how I’d like to die), Taler sings a Romanian song to the trees, ferns and birds in a German forest.  Sung in her mother tongue with relish and mischief, Taler performs this drinking and dying song accompanied by a series of gestures and finger snaps, the mark of quiet applause and approval.  If snapping could speak it might say, “Yes! I feel your pain”. Besides, you can’t clap and hold a drink at the same time.

In Song #2: El Adios (The Goodbye) Taler sings an Argentinean tango at her late Grandmother’s house in Romania.  In this work Taler tackles what Chris Kraus describes as emotion “pursued as discipline, as form” by addressing the separation from her homeland in the language she choose to learn as an adult. The actions in the video are comprised of a series of practical tasks, from folding linens to practicing dance steps. An atmosphere of stillness and repetition envelops the work and gestures towards the labour of mourning, an activity that must happen with and in front of other people.  

In Song #3, currently in pre-prodcution, Taler performs Romania Romania, a Yiddish song that speaks of a bygone era full of food, wine, and celebration. To encapsulate the relationship of the past to the present, and future, the video is shot inside Berlin’s Gipsformerei, the world’s largest plaster cast replica workshops, where sculptures are remade though molds and plaster, and at the Theater Im Delphi, one of the best remaining examples of a silent film theatre.  The song Romania Romania describes the simple pleasures of eating, drinking, and dancing with friends and family.  The song harks back to what was once considered the golden age of Romania when, between the two world wars, Jewish and Romanian culture blossomed through prosperity and progress despite continued discrimination.  Although the song is about a specific place, the name Romania and the specific foods could easily be replaced by places more recently destroyed by wars.  These wars, fought in the name of nationalism, propriety and vengeance, leave people’s homes and lives destroyed and displace them into the absurd.  A song of joy becomes a song of mourning. 

Provoked by Taler’s personal past and by the current refugee crisis, Three Songs, references the malady of the “foreign”:  Is it possible to make a home in a new land and let go of what you left behind? How can you learn a new language while holding on to your past? What can be translated and what cannot?