The bardo, put simply, is a state between death and rebirth. It’s an intermediary existence, more about the journey of life than the finality of death. It allows us a state of continuum, death becoming more than simple flesh and bone left to wither away, as we leave this life on earth and journey forth through the states of the bardo on our way to rebirth in the next. In life we are immediate, every action a propellent force. The things we create, our art and lasting legacies, pieces of us that we leave behind as living documents. It’s these charters that we can attempt to extrapolate from. They help us build out worlds through the clues left by the lives of people that have left indelible marks on us.
We can picture the artist at home, hibernating away in comfort from the harshness of winter or walking familiar paths to keep synapses firing. The life of the auteur builds and grows, flowers budding on branches we never saw in life that have only grown in their absence. It’s hard to put a final nail in the coffin, to sign off and walk away and announce that everything under this banner is done and committed to dust. But it’s in our limited understanding of death that we misinterpret the end. The end is a storm. Waves crashing upon us, a sudden shift from one plane to the next.
But storms bring change, and it’s in the space left in its wake that we expand. Change isn’t something to be feared, even when it feels like the end. Themselves is perhaps the end of al Riggs, insofar that this is the culmination of 10 years spent writing, recording and touring. Over 11 tracks the lives of six artists become lenses through which we view snapshots of domesticity and a vulnerable sense of comfort with being in flux. Riggs takes us on a wave through their densely layered opus, a project that took life over multiple attempts to arrive at the end of the line. Themselves is also an act of rebirth.
The state between death and rebirth is the reimagination of the self. It’s a space of focus and introspection. The hope is that our journey continues forward, that while our living documents sit on display for adjudication and dissection, the spirit pushes itself ever further, not content to idle on the accomplishments of the living world. Maybe oblivion is not the end, but a transfer station to the next journey. When one life ends, is the next not just a reinvention of the self? We will all be reborn in some way or another, in this world or the next. It’s in us to embrace the entirety of finality, as we enfold ourselves into what comes after the end.
“Death never gets me
It’s the rebuilding that’s tough
All the new configurations
New limbs grow out of the rough” – The Bardo 1987