Live at the Dump: Songs of Memory and Forgetting

Songs of Memory and Forgetting is a site-specific installation and performance by McDonald on the grounds of a construction waste recycling facility that processes 350 tons of materials a day. Within the mountains of rubble and cardboard you can see glimpses of people’s lives—clothing, photo albums, letters, tea cups—that arrive from house clean outs, often after an elderly person dies or moves to a care home. McDonald spent six months in residence at RAIR sifting through the personal items and felt a deep empathy for the memories imbued in these familiar domestic objects. 

McDonald’s performance took audiences on an intimate song tour of the site, navigating through the sorting piles to explore the fragile nature of memory. McDonald and RAIR co-founder Billy Dufala collaborated on the music, which they performed using instruments found among the personal possessions. Inspired by the collecting and sorting carried out on a massive scale by excavators and front-end loaders, McDonald’s performance gestures activated objects made from thousands of photographs, pieces of silverware and garments she collected during her residency. Acting as a performative archaeologist, McDonald conjured the memory of the absent owners of these now silent artifacts.

photo credit: Ryan Collerd

Live at the Dump has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage