Esprit d’escalier, 2.5 minutes, 2007
With Esprit d’escalier, a French phrase that means not able to think of or to come up with a response or retort until it is too late (after you’ve descended the stairs and left) I brought the desire to celebrate my mother’s language after her death. I’m interested in the relationship of the written to the spoken word, the relationship of typography to handwriting, the physical characteristics of words and individual letters. My mother died of Alzheimer’s, and, as the disease progressed, I was fascinated by what she remembered and when, and her movements in and out of consciousness, which resulted in often odd combinations of words and phrases with traces of her earliest memories. Here I explore a text that I recorded the week before she died, recreated with my own handwriting and voice, which parallels the nonsense of the children’s rhyme. As in Alzheimer’s the earliest memories are the last to go, I include a short excerpt from a letter she wrote in 1955, in her own handwriting, which gives us a small taste of the very different woman she once was.