The act of lament had a vital role historically, usually within various
religious denominational frameworks. But in an increasingly secular world,
many do not have the opportunity to experience, and participate in this
I am reviving the ancient performance of lament. I provide the audio chorus
of lamenters and the lament texts.
In order to facilitate the lamenting process, I have collected approximately
150 existing public laments, taken from TV, radio, and other archived
sources. I initially assembled a month’s worth of laments from assorted
Canadian networks. I have also amassed seminal laments provided by CBC
Radio. These include Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s moving articulation
of the death of his dog Pat, Svend Robinson’s tearful confession,
and Pierre Trudeau’s resignation speech. Contemporary lamenters
include those affected by crime, crop loss, closing of rural hospitals,
and unexpected injury or death.
All of these collected laments have been transcribed and then given to
both actors and non-actors to repeat. The audio version of these taped
voices has been merged to create the chorus for the lament. Using an audio
editing program, I have manually assembled the individual phrases of the
laments on multiple time lines. The result is a chorus that includes both
the original lamenter and other voices all speaking the same words at
the same time. The video component consists of the written version of
the lament texts, so that a participant can join in.
Purposely structured in a format similar to organized religion, the aim
is to provide a similar meditative context, but without the prescribed
doctrine. This work creates the recuperative atmosphere without the dogma.
It emerges directly from secular, media sources – sources that are
available and familiar to all regardless of belief system
Visitors to the experience may simply listen, or may join in the lament
with the assistance of the texts provided. Two microphones are placed
within the space so that the voices of visitors are merged with the prerecorded