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

photo: ©Dagmar Morath

September 25 to Dec 18 2022 at the Carleton University Art Gallery curated by Heather Anderson

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)

In the trio of video installations comprising THREE SONGS, Laura Taler braids singing, gesture and the language of filmmaking in an immersive, non-narrative approach to storytelling. THREE SONGS is rooted in Taler’s personal history of leaving Romania as a child and eventually settling in Canada. It explores such themes as familial ties, loss, displacement and experiences of duality—of being caught between places—that are familiar to those creating new lives in different countries.

Producing Song #1, Song #2 and Song #3 sequentially over six years, Taler learned to sing in languages other than English and performed as a series of doppelgängers—fictional characters that look like her—for the camera.  Interweaving her vocal performances with cinematic attention to the surrounding site and contemplation of how gestures can express the histories and experiences the body carries, THREE SONGS contains both joyful tribute and elegy.

In Song #1, we encounter Taler’s doppelgänger in a sunlit German forest, alone among tall pines as she sings Uite asa as vrea sa mor (This is how I’d like to die), a Romanian drinking song. Her performance of the song alone, in nature, creates a dislocation with where and when this song might typically be sung—at a boisterous party or in a bar—and shifts the register of the song’s lyrics, which call for a celebration, music and drink.

Song # 2 transports viewers to Taler’s late grandmother’s small farm in the Romanian countryside. Village neighbours and Taler’s mother are assembled in the courtyard, audience to Taler’s performance of El adiós (The Goodbye). Taler chose this beloved Argentinian song, trusting its sentiment would cross language barriers. Her choice to sing in Spanish, a language she learned as an adult, highlights the gulf separating her from her mother tongue, from Romania and from the people she left behind. Inside the farmhouse, dressed in a wig and peasant clothes, Taler’s doppelgänger contemplatively performs quotidian activities interspersed with dance steps and moments of stillness. Through these repeated acts, Taler attempts to channel a connection with her long-dead grandmother and evokes the processes and labour of mourning.

The side-by-side videos comprising Song #3 are set in Berlin, in the Gipsformerei, the world’s largest plaster cast replica workshop, and the Theater im Delphi, a beautiful, century-old silent film theatre. Scenes of Taler, dressed in coveralls and working among plaster cast figures, are intercut with footage of her on stage, sharply dressed in a suit and rehearsing a song and dance. Her performance of Romania Romania, a Yiddish song celebrating the flourishing of Jewish and Romanian culture between WW I and WW II, at once embodies joy, nostalgia and mourning. Taler’s tribute to this golden past also gestures toward the destructive forces that transformed Romania and led many to leave the country.

The plaster Janus-head sculpture Taler crafts in Song #3 references the Roman god Janus, deity of beginnings, transitions, duality, passages and endings. Perpetually looking backward and forward, the Janus-head expresses the feeling of doubling—or being split in two—that Taler describes as intrinsic to her experience as an immigrant. Duality and untranslatability are woven through THREE SONGS in Taler’s performances and meditative cinematography, which reflect on the dislocations and relocations of immigration, and on how movement blurs endings and beginnings.

—Heather Anderson

THREE SONGS is exhibited as three, multi-channel video installations that play on continuous loops.   English and French translations of each song’s lyrics scroll on three monitors.

THREE SONGS | credits

Song #1 2015-2019
HD video with stereo sound                   
2 continuous loops, 8m 45s

director | choreographer |performer        Laura Taler
camera                                                              Maria Ångerman
production assistants                                  Dagie Brundert
                                                                            Heather MacCrimmon
                                                                            Dagmar Morath
edit                                                                     Laura Taler
sound mix                                                         Jordy Bell
colour correction                                           Melanie Fordham

Uite asa as vrea sa mor                           
Music by                                                           Elly Roman
Lyrics by                                                           Nicu Kanner

Filmed in July 2015 on location in Germany at the Nationalpark Vorpommersche Boddenlandschaft (Western Pomerania Lagoon Area National Park).

Song #22017-2019
HD video with stereo sound                   
5 continuous loops, 21m 24s

director|choreographer|performer                Laura Taler
camera                                                                   Vlad Carp
sound                                                                      Andrei Botnaru
second camera|drone                                        George Păvăloaia
makeup|production assistant                         Carmen Adriana Stavarache
edit                                                                          Neven Lochhead and Laura Taler
sound mix                                                             Jordy Bell
colour correction                                                Melanie Fordham
sound recording                                                  David Bignell
singing coaches                                                  Kellylee Evans, Amanda Mabro,
                                                                                 Megan Jerome
Argentinean Spanish consultant                   Carlos Boeri

El Adios                                            
Music by                                                                 Maruja Pacheco Huergo       
Lyrics by                                                                 Virgilio San Clemente
Filmed in October 2017 on location in Rebricea, Romania, in the house where the artist’s grandmother lived.

Song #3 2019-2020
HD video with stereo sound                   
3 continuous loops, 21m 37s

director | choreographer |performer            Laura Taler
camera                                                                  Marcus Elliott
sound                                                                     Joscha Eickel
camera assistant | second camera               Kleber Nascimento
grip | gaffer |second camera                           Lucas Heinze
theatre technician                                              Tilman Agüeras Gäng
makeup | hair                                                       Caterina Veronesi
costume design                                                   Tracey Glas
wardrobe                                                                Heather MacCrimmon
production manager                                           Angela Stiegler
assistant director                                                Emma Howes
stills photography                                               Dagmar Morath
edit                                                                           Kim Frank and Laura Taler
sound design                                                         Phil Strong
trumpet                                                                   David Buchbinder
sound mix                                                               Jordy Bell
colour correction                                                  Melanie Fordham
sound recording                                                    Jeremy Darby, Canterbury Music Company
singing coach                                                         Fides Krucker
Yiddish consultants                                              Floralove Katz, Lorin Sklamberg
sculpture creation                                                 Rosemary Breault-Landry,
                                                                                    David McDougall, Deborah Margo,
                                                                                    John Ancheta, Erin Armstrong

Romania, Romania                                  
Music & Lyrics                                                        Aaron Lebedeff

Filmed in October 2019 on location in Berlin at the Gipsformerei and the Theater im Delphi.

This body of work was created with significant support from all the collaborators.

Thank you to: Miguel Helfrisch and the team at the Gipsformerei; Nikolaus Schneider and the team at the Theater im Delphi; Ron Gallant and the team at Affinity Production Group; Yvonne Coutts and Lana Morton at Ottawa Dance Directive; Annette Hegel, Daniel Kaunisviita and the team at DARC; Sandra Dyck, Heather Anderson, Patrick Lacasse, Fiona Wright, Danielle Printup and Victoria McGlinchey at CUAG; along with Walter Zanetti, Odessa Boehm, Markus Lemm, Andrew Rose,Aaron Pollard, Andrew Johnston and Patrick Côté.

I am grateful for warm conversations with Guy Cools, Melissa Bull, Aboubakar Sanogo, Cornelia Principe, Megan Jerome, Marc-Alexandre Reinhardt, Deborah Margo, and Maura Doyle. Thank you to Minodora Taler, Laurian Taler, Xenia Taler, Nicu Spataru, Stanley Frankentaler, Charlotte Frank, Mitchell Frank and Saul Frank Taler for always standing by me.

A huge thank you to all those who donated to CUAG’s THREE SONGS Future Funder campaign. I also thank Migration and Diaspora Studies at Carleton University, the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Ottawa, Ottawa Dance Directive and DARC for their generosity in supporting this project.