Pre FAC e
At the opening of Mitchell’s Death (1978), Linda Montano’s face appears on
the screen as a ghostly blur just barely moving to the sound of her voice. That
voice intones a monk- like chant. Montano is reciting the story of the death
of her ex- husband from a gunshot wound. When her face comes into focus,
we see that it is covered with acupuncture needles (fig. 1). Over the course of
twenty- two minutes, Montano shares in a meditative drone the experience
of absorbing the fact of Mitchell’s death.1 She takes us through the flow of
events: the first phone call, then others, the turning of her mind to their
relationship, the decision to fly to Kansas and attend the funeral. The per-
formance is carved from the rhythm of the artist’s breath as she pushes the
story out and pauses for air. The story is sung with the same rhythm, in the
same tone. She rehearses the cycles of thought and speech, the routines of
grief. Finally, she describes being overcome by the need to see Mitchell’s body,
and touch it, to hold him. She sees him at the crematorium, touches his head,
hands, and feet. As the story arcs from shock and grief to this scene, the image
dissolves back into its ghostly blur.
Visually Mitchell’s Death is restrained; we see only the artist’s face, and it
is immobilized. Montano’s voice goes on and on; one’s attention drifts and
flows back. The story is a mantra; it feels as if it has been repeated so often
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