Anthem (2015-2017)

Anthem, 2015, single channel HD video, 4:58

Anthem Practice, 2015, four channel HD video, 6:33


Two HD video works, designed to be shown together as installation or on one screen/projection in sequence (with four channel work letterboxed to single channel).

Anthem is a fractured, lovingly but also brutally close up view of a group of senior citizens (mostly female students in a musical theatre class) learning and rehearsing the Oscar-winning song, Let it Go from Disney’s hit movie Frozen. (I had enrolled in the class in search of potential improvisers and actors, and was cast and featured in the production as Elsa, Frozen’s protagonist ice queen. ) When Let it Go, a song which ostensibly celebrates personal liberation from constraining mores (powerfully anthemic to young children the movie was made for) is adapted—or adopted—by a group of women aged 65-80, their maturity and crone-dom gave the song new meaning. My own position as an “apprentice crone” is apparent in the work, as I appear to be both inside and outside the action and the culture of the elderly actors - more self-conscious, more aware of the camera, and thus, while younger, also less ‘free.’

In 2014, a neighborhood elder theatre school is offering a summer camp where Let it Go, the hit Disney song my 4 year old daughter has been singing for months will be taught to people 50 and over.  I sign up and am cast as Elsa, the ice queen. The following fall, the class is offered again, and explaining that I am working on an adaptation of The Hearing Trumpet,  I receive permission to enroll and film the class.  Week after week, 12 seniors and I sing and dance Let it Go with abandon. The repetition is tedious but the singing is joyful.

THe result is Anthem and Anthem Practice, two related quasi-documentary, quasi-music video shorts which anatomize thearning and performance of a song originally written for young children, but adopted and adapted by a group of elder women, and me. Dodie Bellamy, in her essay “Kingdom of Isolation” writes:

In Anne Walsh’s video Anthem (2015–17), a roomful of postmenopausal women (plus a couple of elderly men) perform “Let It Go” in a series of discontinuous cuts. Each woman sings a line or two, and then another continues. There are choral sections and simple choreography. The women’s haircuts, outfits, and locations change, but the song moves forward, without stopping, to its very end. A woman who seems to be their teacher plays the piano and directs them. The viewer is left to ponder: What is Anthem an anthem to? Aging? Mortality? The enduring repeatability of Disney schlock?

“Let It Go” is an anthem for the woman beyond use value. Is she engaged in a mythic journey or merely making the best of a bad situation?

It would be easy to film the seniors in the video as other, but Anne has inserted herself in the middle of them. She is the first to sing: “The snow glows white on the mountain tonight, not a footprint to be seen.” She looks up to the ceiling, as if very disturbed. Behind her the backup singers come together in a tight circle, right arms above their heads, reaching toward the center, building the palace of ice. Anne, who teaches art at the University of California, Berkeley, becomes a middle-class East Bay woman of a certain age who takes random classes. She’s younger than the rest of the crones and she’s aging well, but Anne’s fate is their fate—their clunky choreography, questionable pitches, their stilted group bonding behavior, hers. Like them, she is exposed in her amateurism, alone in a group that never quite coalesces. Her flesh is falling, like everybody else’s. I’m never going back, the past is in the past. These women have so much past, the floor buckles with the weight of it.

Let it Go is the anthem for Carrington’s book, which I’ve  been living inside of and through for years already.  So long, in fact, that the Apprentice Crone had to be created: an avatar to understand, tolerate, and find humor in the othering experience of my own real aging.