Poem of E.L.

Elisa 2

A body of work in video and dance that explores the last known physical movements, captured by elevator surveillance, of a woman hours before her death in a downtown Los Angeles hotel water tank in 2013.

Released by LAPD in the effort to identify Elisa Lam’s body, this footage went viral, triggered thousands of online conspiracy theories, transformed into exploitive schlock (American Horror Story (Hotel), and Netflix’s In the Cecil Hotel).

Mysteries and horror stories and even true crime narratives ultimately exist in our culture to reinforce dominant hegemonies: patriarchal order, threatened by chaos in its most monstrous forms, gets restored in the end. You can see all of this in the ways Elisa Lam was interpreted once she could no longer speak for herself.

In response, I began memorizing her movement, second-by-second. Working like a somatic detective, choreographically and cinematographically, I have created a sequence of performances and videos that puts her physical knowledge at the center of any possible attempt to “understand” her unknowable experience.

I seek to reclaim the inchoate intelligence in E.L.’s body, striving not to “solve” her, but to learn from her—to leave the viewer and myself more present in what cannot ever be known. I seek to undermine the capitalist exploitation of her story, the casual misogyny of how she’s read, the reductive analysis of mental illness and spiritual realities to which people default so easily and readily when they aren’t willing to face the limits of what they cannot understand.