March is Kidney Month: "To Give is To Receive is To Give"
In last week's City Eagle, editor Ellen Leahy wrote about kidney transplants in honor of National Kidney Month. The Monday, March 17 film at Funk 'n Waffles on, was the story of another kidney transplant. This time it was the tale of two artists and their ultimate collaboration. SU Film Art Alumni Ryan Tebo recently worked with two artists from Brooklyn, Tom Abbs and M.P. Landis, to chronicle the experience of donating a kidney in the film "To Give is To Receive is To Give."
I arrived just in time to order a Buckwheat Blueberry waffle and find a seat for a live performance. Tom Abbs, an avant-garde jazz musician, took a stand before the audience on a small stage with a projector, film screen and a smorgasbord of instruments behind him. He quickly announced the absence of his friend and fellow artist, M. P. Landis. Landis was in the hospital fighting a kidney infection, but with Abbs' warm note to the audience it was apparent he was there in spirit.
Abbs wandered over to the instruments and took a seat. A video projection began to play, exploring ambient imagery while he played avant-garde jazz accompaniment. Much of the video was the act of painting and along the way I spotted images of trees, vague figures and a beautiful animation. Abbs played a cello, dijeridoo, snare drum, symbol, electric bass and used a loop pedal to play back his sounds.
Afterwards came the feature film, a documentary about Abbs's kidney donation to M.P. Landis. For eight years, the two collaborated as artists and became close friends in the process. A little over two years ago, Landis had kidney failure. With multiple health problems as well as a long waiting list for donated organs, the best option for Landis' health was to receive a kidney donation from a live donor and Abbs was a match. In a letter to friends written before the surgery, Abbs explains, "Eventually we all have to watch our friends and love ones become ill and we almost always are helpless to provide anything more than emotional and logistical support. I am one of the lucky ones in that I can help my friend. This coming Monday December 4th (2006) I will be giving my friend my left kidney."
Recorded in a two-week period, the film includes interviews with both artists around the time of the surgery, as well as words about their collaborations by Abbs' partner Sarah.
From Abbs' letter, "Michael and I see this in many ways as another collaboration. Although it is different than making a film or art piece, so much of it feels the same. A process with a reward and a chance to learn and grow."
Courtney Rile is a creative professinal who makes her home in Syracuse.