Deepening intimacy with oneself, one’s loved ones, both past and present, has been a seminal theme across her multiple careers — beginning with years as a professional dancer (from NYC’s contemporary world, to The Metropolitan Opera Ballet, to David Byrne), throughout her time teaching and co-founding a fitness and wellness company and continuing into her career as a formidable filmmaker, known for her compelling, visceral narrative forms.
Baldwin’s recent personal experience living in and out of the disability world boldly informs this project — a time that taught her about the potent mechanisms of stillness and pain.
“The themes and techniques I’ve developed for Our Living Cemetery come directly from my years using my body as an expressive tool, encouraging others to live authentically in themselves, and from my hard knock reckonings with pain. What I know: Bodies are mysterious, fiercely intelligent beyond my comprehension and always changing. Loss, vulnerability and mortality must be reckoned with in ways that wake us up to ourselves, this moment, and the possibility for change.” — Baldwin
"During the first wave of the Pandemic when everything went into lockdown, a dear friend died alone. I imagined that she was surrounded by friends and family, and I was among the people by her side. Being of Chinese heritage, I believe that death releases the person to continue on a journey, and my friend is on her way. But the fact remains that so many people died alone and continue to. And loved ones, who may themselves be isolated, have to grapple with this painful truth even as they deal with their own loss. This became the basis for my interest in exploring how a digital gathering can celebrate, remember and re-member people we have lost and allow those left behind to create space and honor this loss as a transformative force. I began working with Lily on such a gathering within the Guild of Future Architects and which led to the first iterations of Our Living Cemetery. Lily leads and facilitates these gatherings with great care, sensitivity and generosity. And OLC continues to develop and evolve. There may be a future parallel development of OLC gathering that culminates in the creation of an artifact. Perhaps it gets released through a digital portal into a new galaxy where it continues to breathe and evolve. To be continued."
Janet is the associate artistic director of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company and New York Live Arts.