Modern Love

Entry from Acts of Transfer:

Duration: 36 min 19 sec
Format: ½” open reel

Modern Love is a reading by Constance DeJong of her novel by the same name. The publication Modern Love (1977) compiled writing from 1975-1977 and began as a four-part series of self-published chapbooks that were designed, printed, and delivered by DeJong herself.[1] Modern Love was published by Standard Editions, a press co-founded by DeJong and Dorothea Tanning after the two met in Paris through Tanning’s niece.[2] Artist Jill Kroesen assisted with the text layout for printing and the first reading of the novel took place at The Kitchen in New York on a double bill with Kathy Acker.[3]

This performance at Western Front took place the year following the book’s publication. The set in the Grand Luxe Hall is minimal: a stool lit under a white spotlight. DeJong reads excerpts from the book in a slow captivating drawl, occasionally retreating to the shadows. Eventually she walks over to the piano at the edge of the illuminated stage, and while the piano is never played, it is used as a site for DeJong to sit down and rest her script, taking repose from the spotlight.

In DeJong’s text, narratives, characters, and events seamlessly slip in and out of sequence, rendering time fluid and non-linear. The stories are recounted by alternating characters and from various points of view, including those of an unnamed female narrator, a man named Rodrigo Cortes, and two women named Charlotte and Fifi Corday. A pre-recorded audio clip of a documentary narrator (David Warrilow from Mabou Mines Theatre) retells the story of an old mansion built by the ocean in Oregon.[4] The reading is inter-spliced with music clips by The Chanels, Bob Dylan, and a commissioned work by Philip Glass titled “Modern Love Waltz.”[5] The musical addition adds a nostalgic and forlorn tone to the reading, while the filming style, documented by Kate Craig, mimics the undulating rhythms and rests of the performance.

The strong emphasis on stream of consciousness, the unabashedly personal, and the use of projection as a narrative device is frequently used by DeJong, just as it is by her contemporaries, Kathy Acker and Chris Kraus. Over the years, DeJong has made many variations of Modern Love, including a radio play.[6] DeJong is an active artist, writer, and performer based in New York where she continues to make and exhibit work. In March 2017, Modern Love (1977) was re-issued by Ugly Duckling Press and Primary Information.

1 – DeJong, Constance. “A History of Modern Love (as Told by Constance DeJong).” Ugly Duckling Press. March 29, 2017. Accessed April 2018.
2 – Ibid.
3 – Ibid.
4 – Ibid.
5 – Ibid.
6 – Ibid.

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Original Archive Entry:

New York artist and playwright Constance DeJong performs recitations from her first novel Modern Love (1977).