The Mourning Cloak Butterfly is a large butterfly and a powerful flier; this species is sometimes found in areas far from its usual range during migration. These butterflies have a lifespan of 11 to 12 months, one of the longest lifespans for any butterfly. L. Hugh Newman, a British entomologist, likened the butterfly's pattern to a girl who, disliking having to be in mourning, defiantly let a few inches of a bright dress show below her mourning dress.
Mourning Cloak began as a performance art piece first presented in early 2017 as part of the Breaking Classical project. The cloak is an obvious tribute to Martha Graham’s solo Lamentation from 1930. In program notes, Lamentation was subtitled Dance of Sorrow, and described as “not the sorrow of a specific person, time or place but the personification of grief itself." This unfolded further as the #metoo movement became prominent in the national and global conversation. Intersecting with both personal source material and historical contexts, Krista immersed herself in a improvisational studio process. Working with the cloak material lent to reflections of cocooning while simultaneously pushing and stretching limitations. It stirred in her a tension and a defiance to allow grief and a colorful fringe of resilient joy to exist simultaneously.
To spin the web and not be caught in it, to create the world, to create your own life, to rule your fate, to name the grandmothers as well as the fathers, to draw nets and not just straight lines, to be a maker as well as a cleaner, to be able to sing and not to be silenced, to take down the veil and appear: all these are the banners on the laundry line I hang out.”
- Rebecca Solnit Men Explain Things to Me and Other Essays
During her improvisational studio sessions, a repetitive gesture became apparent. It was a particular movement gesture where she would follow her breath out with her hand and with an outstretched arm "catch" it before placing it in an imaginary pocket on her hip.
This was metaphor for so much more.
She began unpacking how this movement signature might be interpreting part of her story, identifying points in her life where she had been pressed into silence or punished for speaking out and realized that this movement represented the ways in which she had trained herself to keep her voice in her pocket.
Krista intersected her personal experiences with historical timelines of the women's suffrage, dance history, and the feminist movements. She started collecting audio recordings of men interrupting women, transcribing old television commercials, and pulling excerpts, from Emily Post’s Etiquette book, that perpetuated submissive and docile character traits. She interviewed other women, researched rural stories of pioneering women living in a duality of grace and grit.
Krista found potency in the mourning cloak butterfly metaphor because she too felt defiant, resenting being in mourning over her experiences, pushing against the restrictions that she often ran up against. It was evident as she collected items that related to that one movement signature, that her persistent curiosity was leading her to a personal, political, art making process.
Part of this creative process brought Krista to sit down with an old notebook and found a poem she wrote when she was sixteen; it’s trite and rhyming structure did little to camouflage the defiant and feminist tone. Compelled to respond back to that former self, she restructured the poem, using as much of the original content as possible.
Cloaked in fabric of those before us
Mourning Cloak was performed on three occasions in 2017 serving as a physical process for both grieving and resiliency. Krista experimented with sound designs that intersected her poetry, with voice over montages, and piano.
Krista Pasini studio footage. Sound Design: Krista Pasini, Mover: Krista Pasini, Piano: Michael Wall (2017)