The Installation: “I Was Born for This.”

The Profile of the Installation:

Several students and members of the faculty contributed to the soundscape of the installation by adding their voices to words uttered or heard by and about Joan of Arc, in English, French and Latin.

The audience was asked also to add personal contribution to the installation,  by writing a thought about Joan or about a promise to follow a personal goal on the trunk of the tree at the heart of the installation. In return, they can take a token of memory, created by clay artist Jay Strommen.

Notes on the Concept of the Installation:

When asked by Professor Carmen-Helena Téllez,  P.I. of the Mellon Interdisciplinary Sacred Drama Project and artistic director of the project “I Was Born For This”, to create an installation on the impact of Joan of Arc and the role of women as agents of change in history,  artists Gwendolyn Terry (installation art), Christopher Preissing (sound art and composition) and Charlie Simokaitis entered into a dialogue with Notre Dame scholars Daniel Hobbins (Medieval History) and Don Crafton (film studies) to use the film as a point of departure. The art installation would add to the echoes of Joan of Arc’s life already present in Dreyer’s film and Einhorn’s oratorio, through a new immersive and meditative experience. They were particularly inspired by certain images that are very powerful in the film  and altogether important in the narrative of Joan of Arc’s life, such as the oak tree where she heard the voices, the stake where she was burned, the emphasis on faces in Dreyer’s film within a  monochromatic spectrum, the fluttering of birds when she is about to die in the film, the stochastic motion of the irate crowd after her death, the pervasiveness of the idea of “voices” and the mysterious tone of the bell that Einhorn so carefully recorded. Below you find some ideas and images that have inspired the artists in the development of the structure.

Video Artist Charlie Simokaitis has this words about his video installation, designed after a conversation with Professor of Film Studies Don Crafton:

“With this project my intention was to both honor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc as well as recontextualize specific segments of the film to support the poignancy of the installation.  By altering the speed and construction of this visual narrative the goal is to underscore the timelessness of the message and meaning of the iconic Joan of Arc.  Images of historical figures are also included, supporting Joan’s relevancy in subsequent epochs, inviting us to examine our own.”

Composer and sound artist Christopher Preissing wrote the following thoughts about his work for the installation:

“The phenomenon of Joan of Arc is a universal experience, though one that we each experience individually. To me, it is ultimately about potential, the potential that we each have within us for greatness. It is a greatness that is no merely about our own self interest, but about the greater for society. If we each live up to our potential, trust ourselves and our inner voices, we will create a greater good for all. It is our inner voice that is calling us that provides the inner strength we need to pursue our goals. The out voices, the world if you will, is transitory and full of noise that can sway us from our path. For it is true knowledge and strength that comes from within, not from being told what to do, but in trusting and having the courage to recognize and embrace. That knowledge, the knowing, comes from trusting our inner voice and having the courage to act upon it, being steadfast in our journey, not being swayed by transitory noise.

For “I Was Born for This” I have created two sets of sounds distributed by a total of 13 speakers. The first set of sounds, projected out of the installation, represent the sounds of the outside world, the noise, the hum and buzz of our day-to-day lives. The distractions that often keep us from our path, our true inner journey. The second set of sounds, projected inside the installation, consists of voices, whispering and speaking words of encouragement.

The number of speakers and sounds within and without the installation creates a rustling, a soft cacophony, a susurrant murmuring effect, reinforcing the visual elements of the installation. The sounds themselves reflect, on the one hand, the noise of our daily lives and the voices that would distract us, and on the other, the sound of our inner voices, that if we trust and follow, lead each of us to our fullest potential.”


Installation artist Gwendolyn Terry has shared also some images that are part of the process of creating her installation:

Inspiration: Bird murmurations, after one of the final scenes in Dreyer’s movie.



C.H. Téllez