Latitude 53 presents Visualeyez 2017, the seventeenth edition of Canada's annual festival of performance art, from September 26–October 1, exploring the theme of awkwardness

Visualeyez and more performance

Posted by Cindy on September 26th, 2010

It’s Saturday night and I’m still in Edmonton writing about Visualeyez. There’s just so much to say and I’m trying to be as thoughtful as possible, but it’s harder now that the artists are gone!

It’s not harder because it’s fading from memory, it’s harder I guess because I’d rather still be attending performances and talking with artists than buckling down and getting the hard work done!

Tonight, I’m taking a break from the writing to go to more performance, with Todd Janes. It’s an evening of sound art and live audiovisual works, featuring Clinker, Scott Smallwood (from Visualeyez 2010!), Comaduster, and Wayne Defehr.

Here are the details if you’d like to meet us there:

Stanley Milner Library Theatre
7 Sir Winston Churchill Square.
Edmonton, AB
8 pm

Comfort Room Food for Thought

Posted by Cindy on September 25th, 2010

Arriving back at the gallery shortly before The Comfort Room by Jennifer Mesch and Scott Smallwood was to start, I have just enough time to be fitted with a bread dough baby sling by Alison Reiko Loader in the Culinary Cultures of the Kinder/Garden installation before heading into the performance space. Sitting on the floor with my new doughbaby slung around my belly, I stare up at The Comfort Room’s tables full of collections of inedible objects arranged like petits fours, hors d’oeuvres and pretty candies, and think about comfort, physical objects and things that pacify, things that lubricate pleasant social engagement and things that we want to be alone with.

I feel the bread warming up against my body and starting to rise, softening and growing and resembling my own soft belly. I am comforted by my baby dough and I am comforted by watching Jennifer Mesch put things in her mouth and I am disappointed when she spits them out, not because I wish she would have swallowed them but because I wish she wanted to keep them there. But her character is fighting with wanting them in her mouth, wanting to swallow them, wanting their weight deep in her warm belly, and trying not to be overcome by her compulsion to do so, trying to be “normal” and “healthy” and “good.”

Pica is the name for the disorder characterized by a compulsion to eat non-food objects. It’s also the Latin name for the magpie, after which the disorder was named, ostensibly because magpies are scavengers that will eat nearly anything. Strangely, there is another disorder named after the magpie, the “magpie syndrome,” which refers to the phenomenon of being irrationally or overly attracted to things that are shiny, colourful, new, or unobtainable. The comfort room set installed in the gallery oddly brings these 2 odd behaviors together; it is a collection of beautiful collections, an assortment of myriad attractive textures that do all seem like they would be perfect to put in the mouth.

So I think about psychological disorders, my own attachment to physical objects, my fears about becoming overwhelmed by “things” like those people on the hoarding TV shows and the horrific news stories about getting buried alive by a landslide of 50 years of newspapers. I think about the things I put in my mouth and how they make me feel. I remember what I sucked on as a child and I remember what I sucked on yesterday. I try to remember why I did it in the first place and why I did it again, and why I will do it tomorrow. I reach down to feel the rising dough against my skin and I take a deep breath, calmed by the physicality of the object that has become a part of me.

Jenn is occupying the space like a magpie, moving from collection to collection, running her fingers over and admiring her shiny objects, picking up handfuls of others and stuffing them in her mouth, turning in circles and rising and falling. Moving around the space, she seems to be playing as much as dancing with intention, and I imagine her as a bird that is surrounded by its favorite objects – giddy and awe-filled and overwhelmed – there not for sustenance as much as the compulsion to be there.  It’s not just that, though; the human in her is also guilty, fighting against her desires and struggling to do what the brain says is right.

This comfort room, though appearing to be the place where a woman’s treasures are stored, where she can feel safe to do as she pleases and not be judged, is acting like more of a torture chamber, where all her comforting devices, her security blankets are laid out to look at but not touch – it is a room of control and self-denial, and I can see that in the movement, too (though more formally – now she is moving like a dancer thinks someone denying themselves would move). Then she puts something new in her mouth and she lets the new object move her.

The audio component of the piece, created live in response to Jenn’s movements, provides a lush soundscape reflective of her movements in the space and therefore helps evoke the fully realized environment of the comfort room. The sound also underscores the psychological weight of the piece and of Jenn’s movement, its’ creaks and groans and muffled shuffling calling to mind memories of sneaking into the kitchen after bedtime, vermin collecting rubbish and eating the walls, being warmed and lulled by droning heaters and rhythmic appliances.

The Comfort Room reminds me of Diane Borsato’s work Artifacts [in my mouth], where she went into museums and examined the collections by putting things in her mouth. Getting to know things by the way they feel in her mouth is, as the artist put it, is “a whole different way of knowing.” Come to think of it, this performance reminds me of several Diane Borsato pieces, including Warm Things to Chew for the Dead and Sleeping with Cake, works that attempt to uncover emotional knowledge of objects in hopes of applying them to our human needs. Food serves important emotional and psychological needs as well as physical ones.

Of course we develop emotional attachments not only to people and to food and to the things that are connected to or remind us of people, but to things and their “thing-ness,” their singularity. Because putting things in one’s mouth is comforting, (especially for those of us, like me and like Jenn’s character, for whom putting things in one’s mouth is comforting), getting to know objects by putting them in our mouths, licking them, sucking on them, and for some ingesting them gives us a completely different sort of emotional attachment and response than looking at things and recognizing their beauty, listening to sounds and hearing their music, feeling objects and appreciating their texture… It’s not always what something reminds us of that give them emotional power; things and how we interact with them are powerful in their own right.

Talking with Jenn after the performance, she tells me that she wasn’t sure ahead of time what she was going to do in the space. Did it even make sense that it was a “dance” performance? I don’t know anything about dance or how to talk about it, but in the end, I really connected to the content and to the improvisational nature of the work. If the artist didn’t know exactly what she was going to do before she got into the space and the performance started, then I think I can believe what I saw – that the things she put in her mouth made her move.

Breakfasts on the horizon

Posted by Cindy on September 23rd, 2010

Last night I went to the airport with Todd and Brette to say goodbye to the last out-of-town artist. On the way, I asked Brette about her suggestions for breakfast places in Regina, because every time I’m there overnight I never know where to go for breakfast in the morning.

She suggested a few key places, such as Stan’s Diner on Park Street, the Novia Cafe on 12th Avenue, the Abbey Restaurant and Lounge on Albert, and La Bodega on Albert for Sunday brunch. Now I’m excited for my next trip to Regina, and hopefully I can set up a breakfast date while I’m there!

As for now, I’m hunkered down with my pages of notes and my laptop to reflect on everything that’s happened since I’ve been here; there’s bound to be many more posts over the next few days while I catch up on all the amazing things I’ve seen!

Food Wars: Menu

Posted by Cindy on September 23rd, 2010

Now that the dust has settled on the Food Wars scandal, there’s time to stand back and reflect on the meals created by Mexican artist Manolo Lugo and Guatemalan born artist Naufús Ramirez-Figueroa.

These meals were so decadent and over the top it was clear the artists were earnest about competing for top spot in the hearts and stomachs of the audience!

This post will be updated later today to include photos, so come back soon!


Visualeyez FOOD: more meals

Posted by Cindy on September 22nd, 2010

Last night, the remaining artists at the festival went out one last time with staff and volunteers, to Dadeo cajun/creole restaurant on Whyte Avenue.

In attendance were Beau Coleman, Alison Reiko-Loader, Vicki Wong, Robin Lambert, Brette Gamel, Chun Hua Catherine Dong, Heather Challoner, Catherine Kuzik, Todd Janes, Jamie Hamaguchi and me! (You can see that though everyone is still having a lot of fun, some people are getting awfully exhausted by this point in the festival!)

Alison had been talking about trying to find a good Alberta beef steak while she was in town, but this was her last night. Someone suggested she go for steak and eggs this morning and a great conversation ensued about the best place to find steak and eggs in the not-too-late morning on a weekday in Edmonton. I enlisted the help of festival breakfasters Robin and Brette, who recommended Alison try Tasty Tom’s. After weighing her options (including the sleeping-in or getting up super early to do breakfast before her flight home), Alison decided to have just a light snack at Dadeo and go out for a steak dinner later in the evening. I offered to go with her.

Alison, Jamie and I walked around on Whyte Avenue for a few hours after Dadeo, shopping and browsing. Alison found a couple of antique cookbooks for souvenir gifts (oops; I hope her husband isn’t reading this before she gets home!) and we all found some really nice clothes and shoes which we couldn’t afford.

Then we went downtown to Lux, which had been recommended as a great local steakhouse. Walking in, we knew it was perfect! We made a beeline for the big old steakhouse-style booths!

We both had steak, and shared potatoes and mushrooms (and shared the amazing pecan fritters for dessert!)

We talked well into the night about art, food and our lives, and had to be kicked out when they were trying to lock up. Back at the hotel, Alison and I entertained each other with our favorite Youtube videos and funny picture websites.

Her best pick: Pinup Robert Downey Junior

My best pick: Selleck Waterfall Sandwich

It was hard to say goodbye, but now that there are no more pesky artist to distract me, I can get back to some real serious art blogging!

Show us your Comments!

Posted by Cindy on September 21st, 2010

I’ve been writing for hours – responding to comments on the blog on my post about Brette and Robin‘s performance Show Us Your Edmonton!

I encourage all blog readers to spend some time reading the Show Us Your Adventures thread; there are some interesting questions raised and debated.

And if you haven’t yet, you should also spend some time with the podcasts recorded by the artists:

And their CBC interview:

My next post will detail the full menu from Manolo Lugo and Naufús Ramirez-Figueroa‘s Food Wars, along with several photos for your fond reminiscences (or wistful wishes) ! Enjoy the last day of Visualeyez!

24 Hour Party People!

Posted by Cindy on September 21st, 2010

Though some artists are staying until Wednesday, lots are leaving tomorrow. After going out to the bar for a drink tonight, post-feedback session, a whole crew came back to my hotel room for some good old goofing off. (I am in the middle of some major writing here, mind you!)

I don’t mind taking a break for a bit of fun, though. It was kind of a heavy night, content-wise, so it’s nice to goof off and do a bit of bonding, artist-to-artist-to-artist-to-artist.

Feedback and goodbyes!

Posted by Cindy on September 21st, 2010

After a day filled more with art talk and less with performances, I have more inspiration than ever for my upcoming posts.

However, at the same time, the festival is starting to wind down and artists are slowly going home; my anxiety about completing more blogging about the art is growing, as is my sadness that it’s coming to an end.

After a very productive feedback session with Robin Lambert and Brette Gabel I’m going to be up all night responding to blog comments about Show Us Your Edmonton!

It’s a dream come true, as far as my own hopes for the blog – that there would be conversation generated about the work and my writing about the work – even though I anticipate it will be even harder to clarify positions and solidify arguments than it has been to create the original posts.

My own breakfast adventure!

Posted by Cindy on September 20th, 2010

This morning a handful of artists and I are  going on a breakfast adventure to Cafe Mosaics on Whyte Avenue. Yum!

Then I’m going to be at the gallery the rest of the day, blogging and napping. I’m excited to post the menus and closeup food pictures from last night, and have great notes for a double-header blog post about Miles of Aisles and Culinary Cultures of the Kinder/Garden!

Don’t forget to weigh in on the debate about who should have won last night’s food war!

Show us your adventures!

Posted by Cindy on September 20th, 2010

At Latitude 53 at 7:30 tonight there’s a feedback session for Robin Lambert and Brette Gabel‘s project Show Us Your Edmonton!

I’m really excited about it because I haven’t had a chance to really talk with them about their project yet.

From what I can tell by reading their blog posts, they seem to be working really hard. I mean, I’m sure breakfast itself is not too much work, but it sounds like they’ve been sent on some pretty big adventures!

I’ve had a hard time figuring out how my job as festival animator can work with their project. I feel that my job is to experience the art, partake of the experience of both the artworks and the social life of the festival, talk with the artists about their work, and provide (through this blog) my take on things. My take on things is, obviously, going to come from my own particular point of view, and hopefully that point of view adds to the flavour of the performances to make for some stimulating reading, for people who couldn’t attend the events, people who DID attend and just can’t get enough, and for the artists themselves.

That said, Show Us Your Edmonton is a one-on-one performance that isn’t really conducive to audience members (or festival bloggers) tagging along. Plus, Robin and Brette seem to have been kept so busy on their daily adventures and figuring out how to make a podcast (not to mention seeking out technical support for making the podcast work and actually making the podcast) that they haven’t had time to attend many of the other festival events, which means less opportunities for interacting with them.

Which is why I’m excited for tonight’s feedback session, because it’ll be the closest thing I’ve had so far to personal interaction with the artists and the work. The only problem is that I still don’t understand how I will “animate” something I haven’t had a personal experience with! Oh, this job is much harder than I could have anticipated!

The thing is – the artists have blogs (Robin’s) (Brette’s) where they write about these daily adventures, post pictures and a podcast. These blogs are great, and I’m happy to share them with you (please, go!) but me writing about what I’ve read them say about their adventures sort of seems lame, especially in the absence of that personal interaction to inspire my take on things.

Basically, they’re animating themselves, and doing a great job of it! To be perfectly honest, I’ve read all the posts, but haven’t had a chance to listen to any of the podcasts. I’m sure the podcasts are just as awesome as the rest of the blogs, but better; maybe my job really is just to point people in the right direction.

I’ll let you know what I REALLY think after the feedback session!

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