Brooklyn Rail: Interview by Tess Takahashi

Alison S. M. Kobayashi’s new multimedia performance piece, Say Something Bunny!, first shown in Toronto at Gallery TPW this past winter, combines found and invented documents, theatrical staging, costumes, props, and multiple screens. Kobayashi and Allen’s striking re-imagination of the life and times of a Jewish family is based on a fragment of whose story was captured on a wire recorder in the 1940s. Out of this found recording emerges not only the chronicle of an era that reaches into the 1970s, but also the surprising story of David, to whom this unusual device once belonged.

Say Something Bunny! grows out of both Allen’s organizational and documentary work as founder of UnionDocs and Kobayashi’s performance-based videos, which playfully bring to life the intimate experiences of those connected to a variety of found documents: a note between high-schoolers that Kobayashi once discovered on the road in From Alex to Alex, and an old answering machine cassette that once belonged to the recently divorced Dan Carter, which features the voices of his son, his wife, and his new lover. In a similar vein, Say Something Bunny employs humor, pathos, and imagination combined with meticulous historical research and innovative staging to produce an audience experience that’s both great fun and seriously thought provoking.

In what follows, Kobayashi, Allen, and I explore their process of turning a nearly illegible seventy-year-old recording into a concrete and moving multimedia experience.