To Hold, To Keep (2016) centers on the reservoir of Sippo Creek in Massillon, Ohio. It asks how the reservoir was used in the past and continues to be used today. It is also a series of visual and aural portraits of people connected to the reservoir and its water. The piece draws from archival films of Charles and Lucy Myers (made from 1938-40), and contemporary field recordings.
The origin of the word “reservoir” comes from the French word réserver, “to reserve, to hold, to keep.” The reservoir collects and stores water. But the water does not stop completely. Instead, the reservoir slows the water’s movement, carrying the water as it continues on, through and under the city. It seems static, yet is always moving.
The archival films are directly connected to place (the reservoir, the city) and to its people. They hold the past, inviting memory and recollection. The films are also reminders of how these places and people are continuously changing across seasons and years, much like the water. Young women swim and boat, children are pulled in a sled across the reservoir’s frozen surface, and firefighters spray water into clouds of smoke and steam. Faces pass by, quickly, with expressions of joy, curiosity, concentration, playfulness, concern. We read these faces but cannot quite grasp them. We recognize, but cannot hold.
The sound recordings follow the flow of water from the reservoir down to the Sippo Creek below. They are from 2016, nearly 80 years after the films. They offer a contemporary counterpart to the films, and hang on to the fleeting sounds of the reservoir. Ducks and geese swim and fight. A runner passes by. The white noise of the dam is overwhelming. Children cry, sing, and play below. A picnic unfolds next to the creek. Trucks rev their engines as a plane passes overhead. Throughout, water is present. It splashes, roars, hisses, and gurgles. Its presence and flow shape the land around it, and the people that are using it.
To Hold, To Keep was commissioned by the Massillon Museum of Art for their 2016 exhibit, "Readapt: 10-Year Anniversary of Adaptations," from June 4 to September 25, 2016.
3-Channel video with field recordings
Duration: 8:17 (continuous loop)
Commissioned by the Massillon Museum of Art, Massillon, Ohio
Special thanks to Kevin Davison for help with video editing