In Monk’s work, the space is just as critical as the content; within the brief performance on a Jew’s harp that concluded her lecture, her pauses for breath held equal weight with the bouncy notes and vocalizations. Some of what is so arresting about Monk’s gift of using her voice and body as an instrument is her ability to produce multiple sounds — singing a tune at the back of her throat while creating a rhythm section of mouth clicks, for example — but the most human moments are those when the performance is broken so that she can breathe. Monk spoke of the virtues of live performance, characterizing it as a time when the performer is at one with her material. There is something tremendously powerful in witnessing art that is so embodied in its maker, knowing that it truly only exists in the present moment, and based on the energetic exchange between performer and audience.
As the art market continues to cater to those who seem determined to amass ever more wealth, regardless of social cost; as our society is categorically stripped of the tools of education, access, reproductive freedom, and critical thinking in the service of creating as many mindless consumers as possible; as technology increasingly dissolves the boundaries that enable us to create space and experience its benefits, Monk’s work is touchingly human, and more important than ever.