Palliative Care (1985-1992)
Toronto, Canada: Zalucky Contemporary, 2016
SD DVD 25:00
Edition of 20
Yesterday Zalucky Contemporary premiered Lee Henderson's fantastic new Palliative Care (1985-1992), a video assemblage of every reference to death found in the sitcom The Golden Girls.
The NBC series was created by Susan Harris and starred Beatrice Arthur, Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty, as four older women who shared a home in Miami, Florida. The show was both a commercial and critical success, and spawned three spin-offs and eight international remakes (Chile, Greece, The Netherlands, The Philippines, Russia, Spain, Turkey and the United Kingdom).
Henderson has divided his episode-length work into seven sections (for the series' seven seasons) and presents the clips chronologically, by original air date. In a Q&A after the screening, it was revealed that only five (of the 180) episodes were omitted from the work, for lack of a clear verbal reference to death.
The editing is quick and concise, with the rhythm dictated by the original scripts. The references are often mid-sentence and tightly trimmed, with rapid-fire pacing. When the word (death, dying, eulogy, heart attack, murder, die, etc.) falls at the end of the sentence, the canned laughter follows, serving as a strange form of punctuation.
Most of the dialogue takes place in the main set of the shared home - with it's soft pastel 1980's decor.
Other sets include a funeral home, a dinner theatre, and a hospital room. The character of Rose Nylund, portrayed by Betty White is often seen in a hospital bed, surrounded by her visiting friends. Of the four actresses, only White (now 94) remains. The others died within a year of each other at the end of the last decade.
Like many of his best works, Henderson's video offers a compelling (and often very funny) meditation on mortality. Beautifully packaged in a wooden box, the video is also accompanied by a bookwork/folding scroll of a list of each of the words or phrases heard in the video, in alphabetical order.