The Flight of the Animator

Posted on September 16th, 2015

My plane scuds above the earth. Below, plains roll by, punctuated by arroyos and coulees. The sun cuts through tiny portholes. I blink and look around. Up until now I had more or less zombied my way through the miracle of flight by watching Yojimbo, the fuzzy domes of hair peeking up over the edge of seat-backs, and pools of sunlight warp and drift along the ceiling with each tilt of the fuselage.

I realize, right around now, that this is the furthest north I’ve ever been. I’m heading to Visualeyez 2015, a week-long adventure of performance art in Edmonton, a city I’ve never stepped foot in before. Then the plane starts to descend, and the clouds shift from cotton to stucco to used bathwater.

Murk envelops the plane. I keep glancing out the window for a skyline, since I think it’ll make a good photo for the blog, but I can’t see anything until the telltale shock of wheels hitting solid ground rumbles through the plane and there we are.

Or, rather, here.

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During the drive downtown, through fields no longer tilled, Todd Janes (festival curator and director of Latitude 53) mentions that Edmonton is a city with no natural borders. No mountains or seas hem it in; no neighbours clamour at the gate. And thus the city grows. It expands without pre-imposed limit, as resources and vision allow. Fallow fields roll by, and I wonder if it will eventually collapse, following the boom and bust cycle of oil and other natural resource extraction industries. Or does the city possess a bulwark against dire contraction, a creative and communal centre capable of stemming the tide, reorienting its flow, and transforming collapse into something else entirely?

It’s the perfect place for a performance art festival based on the theme of expansion-and-collapse, the rhythm and pulse of that cycle, and the potential insights nestled within the movement, the space, and the boundaries we associate with up and down, in and out, rise and fall, growth, decay, and the relationship between them.

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Eight artists will spend seven days making performance-based work in this city without borders. It is the Festival Animator’s job to share those experiences for those who cannot witness them firsthand.

So, as a guest in this city and first time visitor, let me introduce myself. Hello, I am Cian Cruise, a writer from elsewhere here to capture the stories of Visualeyez 2015 and deliver their still-beating heart on a platter, to you, via some words.

Over the next week, I’ll be delving into the space between expansion and collapse, visiting and re-visiting the different artists’ interpretations of the theme during their multiple performances, and carving some slim measure of solidity from performances that are essentially ephemeral — like a big, tasty roast made of fleeting moments.

Please join me.