Struggling with grief: A performance art

Written by Syed Ali

Erica Gressman, an artist based in Miami/Chicago, performed her art pieceĀ Limbs in the Krannert Art Museum, showcasing a range of motion and music. Limbs consisted of Gressman dangling on a wire, moving and struggling with confinement and facing detachment.

In the beginning of the performance, Gressman, wearing a gray reflective suit, made small movements and was overall still. It felt strange, but seemed very statue-like and beautiful in a way. Eventually, the movements became more clear and I saw that she had various limbs and faces; I felt completely entranced by the dim lights and atmospheric music.

The performance, as it went on, began to feel slightly disturbing and scary. The movement began to get violent as Gressman swung around and hit parts of the tripod structure. The moving limbs and atmospheric sounds/receptive music created an image of a struggling, conflicted stone-being in my mind. I felt uncomfortable for some time, especially when limbs starting falling off, but things simultaneously settled down and sped up after all the limbs had fallen off.


Erica Gressman in Limbs

Slowly, Gressman began to take parts of the suit off, revealing another exosuit. She also tore off some of the additional faces. This made me feel sad, but not in a disturbing way; it felt as if the being was transforming, making painful yet ultimately positive change. In the end, every part of the gray suit came off and she exited the tripod chamber. I felt relief and wonder, mystery and sadness after the music slowly faded away.

Parts of the suit tear off






Another being is created







After the performance, Gressman revealed herself and talked more about what the art piece was about and why she did certain things or created the structure the way that it was. One important part of her discussion was that the tearing of the limbs and the struggle between three worlds was symbolic of loss. It represented the loss of loved ones, loss of family and of friends. It can be difficult to live without the people who you once knew and loved, and grief can manifest itself in various ways. It can be violent or it can be serenely disturbing. In both senses, I felt deeply moved by her explanation; after drawing the connections, I felt more appreciative of the performance and I was glad I got to see it.

Erica Gressman discusses her art







Photos by Syed Ali



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