Every traveler is aware of that a few of the most shifting and profound encounters she has in a overseas land aren’t with the dwelling, however the useless. There’s one thing about having your equilibrium upset that makes the previous appear nearer, extra accessible, and understanding that you simply’re strolling atop the similar ramparts, or down the similar medina alleys, or over the similar packed-earth streets as vacationers from a century, two centuries, millennia in the past, makes you are feeling each much less consequential and, at the similar time, much less alone. Here I’m, you suppose, one individual of numerous thousands and thousands, and though my time right here is transient, I too may have joined the others by leaving my footfall on this earth.
In the months since we assigned this difficulty, in the summer season of 2019, we’ve all needed to rethink our relationship with demise. But if demise itself is horrifying to many people, the useless themselves shouldn’t be. Ghost tales, like people tales and fairy tales, are one in all the first methods we find out about one other tradition’s values and considerations, and as such, they aren’t essentially meant to frighten — typically, they’re methods to clarify to ourselves the dwelling’s unresolved issues of the coronary heart: previous ambitions, previous loves, previous hatreds. What occurs to these emotions? Where do they go? As the three fiction writers who created an authentic quick story for this difficulty counsel, a ghost just isn’t a lot an individual as a private or historic legacy, one we will’t fairly make sense of however know have to be addressed.
By that definition, all of us reside with phantoms, and a few of us are even courageous sufficient to confront them. When the artist Senga Nengudi began making her now-iconic “R.S.V.P.” sculptures in 1975, she was a new mother, fascinated by the changes pregnancy had wrought on her body. That experience inspired her series of works made from pantyhose — a humble material, but as flexible and expandable, and therefore as miraculous, as flesh — that she activated with choreography. Forty-five years later, Nengudi, who is now 77 and is finally receiving credit as a leader of both the Black Arts and performance art movements, sees the sculptures differently, as an exorcism of abuse inflicted upon her as a child. It’s not only the body, she says, but the psyche that can “stretch and come back into shape.” History lives alongside the present, always — but if we’re willing to face it, we can sometimes remap what it means, and even, yes, its very shape.