Published Jun 01, 2020The Holy Gasp, the Toronto-based art-pop collective led by Benjamin Hackman, have unveiled the details of their latest project. Grief, a new performance piece, will be livestreamed from Toronto's Historic Kiever Synagogue on July 1.
Grief will find Hackman reading the names of deceased individuals from a scroll, with the names culled from the Holy Gasp's "Database of the Dead," a website in which anyone can contribute to by submitting names of the deceased. While Hackman reads the list, an ensemble featuring 10 vocalists, two pianists and a percussionist will perform an original composition.
The performance is scheduled to run from sunset on July 1, currently estimated for 9:03 p.m. ET, until sunrise on July 2, currently estimated for 5:41 a.m. ET.
On the origins of the piece, Hackman said in a statement:
In the last five years, my father died of a heart attack; my therapist died of pancreatic cancer; my brother-in-law overdosed; my oldest friend hanged himself — then another friend died in a car accident, and my grandmother, God bless her, died of good ol' fashion old age. Death is happening all over. Indeed, it always has. It is awkward, and painful, and it unites every last being who has ever lived. In the midst of a global pandemic, I wonder if enough models exist in our culture to teach us how to support the grieving, and exemplify healthy ways for us to mourn. I wish to facilitate community and ritual in which it is normal to talk about death, and where people can witness grief and have their grief witnessed in return, if even remotely via live stream and a message board. I want to provoke an urgency for the living to interact with life, and for audiences (especially diverse audiences) to have shared emotional experiences in real time. It is a shame that this project cannot happen as intended, with a much larger ensemble, and a physical audience. But with new deaths happening around the globe every day, a great urgency exists to mount this performance, and we intend to do so.
Grief will also be performed in American Sign Language and the video will featured closed captioning. The performance was initially planned as an outdoor performance featuring a 30-piece choir, but it was retooled due to COVID-19. According to a press release, the current iteration of the performance "will allow for physical distancing between all performers and every precaution will be implemented."
Watch a video about Grief below. Learn more via the Holy Gasp's website.