little lamb

Little Lamb

Presented at Museum of Human Achievement, Austin, Texas

April 2014

As the penultimate experience in the exhibition In The Dark, Little Lamb offered viewers a moment of serenity, comfort, and care in an exhibition fraught with many elements of danger and caution. Since the exhibition was held in complete darkness throughout the gallery, each experience within it related to the audiences' other senses and challenged their sense of trust. By the time they arrived in Little Lamb, the participants had been lead by a rope, hand-fed, forced to search for keys in a jam-packed handbag, had their heads smothered in heated bags, sniffed unknown objects, had religious rites performed upon them, and zapped, flogged, and pricked by a dominatrix. 

When they finally arrived at Little Lamb, the blindfolded viewers entered the pitch-dark space by a circuitous path and pushed through heavy cloth curtains to enter a deeper space. Inside, they were helped to lie down on an indoor hill that I had built, 12 feet long and several feet tall, gently sloped and covered with fresh, fragrant sod. (It was so convincing that viewers were surprised, afterwards, that we hadn't taken them outside.) As their head hit the cool grass, they heard a lullaby emanating directly from the hill, which was wired internally for sound: a version of American composer Fenno Heath's choral setting of "The Lamb," a poem written by William Blake, that I sang from my memories in an amalgam of the tune and the alto support line.

It is a song I sang to my own children, and one which I use often to center myself. Even though I don't share William Blake's religious convictions, I understand the comfort that comes from being given answers to those most basic questions: where do we come from? And why are we here? I find an inkling of that security in the constancy of gravity, the musical silence of a warm night, and the embrace of a mothers' voice.

I loved that Little Lamb became the limnal moment between the many representations of the trials of life and the final piece in the show, which used chimes and tones to create an otherworldly sound atmosphere. To pass through the curtain--literally--and find yourself in a new world in which you can finally rest in complete safety and move to something higher: this is a moment I think should be looked forward to. 

Little Lamb who made thee?

Dost thou know who made thee?

Gave thee life & bid thee feed 

By the stream & o'er the mead;

Gave thee clothing of delight,

Softest clothing wooly bright;

Gave thee such a tender voice,

Making all the vales rejoice!

 Little Lamb who made thee? 

 Dost thou know who made thee?

 

Little Lamb I'll tell thee,

Little Lamb I'll tell thee!

He is called by thy name,

For he calls himself a Lamb: 

He is meek & he is mild, 

He became a little child: 

I a child & thou a lamb, 

We are called by his name.

 Little Lamb, God bless thee. 

Little Lamb, God bless thee.

 

Special Thank You 

A deep note of gratitude to Theresa Kwilosz and the workers of Pearl Gardens for their assistance with this huge earthmoving and sod-installing project. Their donated time and effort (and soil!) made the project possible.