Jessie Shefrin (b. 1948), Presentiments, Version #3, 1998-2001; DVD, projection, dimensions varied, total-run-time looping; Gift of the artist, 2008
The artist wrote this description of the making of “Presentiments,” which was presented in the exhibition, Signals from the Electronic Cloud in 2002.
My grandmother died before I was born and the only images I had of her where still images. I would try to imagine the sound of her voice or how she might move in an effort to come to know her, to somehow feel her presence in the world. This imagining was not consistent or based in anything known. Nor was it permanent. When my mother was diagnosed with Cancer in 1991, I knew wanted to be able to remember her through her voice as well as her gestures. I traded some family heirloom jewelry for a video camera and set about taping her whenever I went to see her. I made many tapes. I had no intention of making art with these tapes. They were simply a way for me to remember.
The piece was made several years after my mother passed away. Each time I went to visit my mother I set the camera on a table next to her bed and turned it on until I left. I made many tapes. Oddly, I never looked at them until after she died in 1995. When I finally did, I was shocked to see that all the tapes had a glitch in them caused by a malfunction in the tracking of the camera. There were ‘glitched’ through and through. What I saw was a real time breakdown of the image that disrupted, interrupted the actual structure of video in a way that felt entirely analogous to my experience of watching my mother die. I immediately knew there was a piece to be made from the tapes and that I had to make it. Making “Presentiments” helped me to understand that death is an active and alive process and that the act of recording is a way of participating in memory and that memory is a way of remembering experience and that you can never predict its outcome. This was my introduction as an artist to the medium of video and to a way of seeing that engages the multiple and sometimes hidden ‘tracks’ that are the substance of our lives.