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

photo: ©Dagmar Morath

September 2022 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 multi-channel, spatial video installations, in which Laura Taler grapples with questions raised by experiences of migration.  Appearing as her döppleganger, Taler sings three songs:  A Romanian song in a German forest, an Argentinean tango at her late Grandmother’s house in Romania, and in Berlin’s historic Theatre Im Delphi and Gipsformerei — one of the world’s largest plaster cast replica workshops — a Yiddish song titled “Romania Romania”.

Catalyzed by her past and by the current refugee crisis, THREE SONGS explores questions of what it is to be “foreign”, and of language, untranslatability, loss, mourning and the reshaping of identity. How does one make a home in a different place, come to terms with what has been left behind, and imagine and create new futures?

In Song #1: Uite asa as vrea sa mor (This is how I’d like to die), she sings a Romanian song to the trees, ferns and birds in a German forest. Sung in her mother tongue with relish and mischief, Taler perform 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) she 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, Taler performs Romania Romania, a Yiddish song that speaks of a bygone era full of food, wine, and celebration. The work is shot inside Berlin’s Gipsformerei, the world’s largest plaster cast replica workshop, 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 harks back to what was once considered the golden age of Romania when, between the two world wars, Jewish and Romanian culture blossomed, 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.

THREE SONGS is exhibited as three, multi-channel video installations that play on continuous loops.  The work will premiere in a solo show at the Carleton University Art Gallery in September 2022.