The Weight of Oneself (Elmgreen and Dragset), Lyon, France, August 2019.
(photo: Kimberly Barber)

For the last 3 summers, I’ve taught voice at the Académie de Fourvière in Lyon, France. It’s a summer program offered through the Conservatoire de Lyon where I teach an intensive 9-day course, but also sing myself on a number of concerts with some outstanding colleagues. It’s also become one of my favourite cities in Europe, because it’s so accessible, but so rich in all the things there are to love about that part of the world: architecture, history, art, music, food (!), wine (!!). It’s situated at the confluence of two iconic French rivers, the Saone and the Rhone, and on an almost daily basis, I found myself crossing back and forth across the former of these. There are a number of interesting works of public art around this area, and one of them caught my attention early on. It’s a statue of a man at the edge of the river, carrying another person. For the first while I admired it purely aesthetically, but also thought: typical! It’s a heroic guy carrying a damsel in distress. Ugh! And then the next year I noticed: it’s actually a man carrying another man. So, interesting. But then THIS year, I actually stopped to read the inscription by the artists and read the title: The Weight Of Oneself. And on closer inspection, I realized that in fact, this heroic being is actually carrying a replica of himself.


And as I pondered this, I thought about how as artists, and particularly as singers (because the instrument is within us and encompasses us), we must carry the weight of ourselves. We are tasked with knowing ourselves better each day. With being compassionate and forgiving of ourselves and our failings. Of falling down and picking ourselves up again and again, and feeling the WEIGHT OF OURSELVES. It’s our lifelong journey. And some days the weight feels unbearable, and other days, we feel as light as a feather. Just like our voices.