Posted on September 22nd, 2015
After pushing her shopping cart to the West Edmonton Mall and dancing her way through the urban steppes, there’s only one thing left on the beige wolflady’s “to do” list: destroy the material remnants of her journey, crush the cage that binds her, and create that portable manacle anew.
Julie Laurin‘s final segment of Performing the Trajectory is split between two rooms of Latitude 53. In the first room, a video dominates the wall. In it, Julie pushes the cart through a swamp of thin, muddy gruel. She’s wearing a sheer satin dress and the same high-heel boots from before. The cart slips and slides through the mud before it thickens, revealing a weltered field of corduroy, criss-crossing heavy machinery tracks. Piles — and I mean heaps — of decommissioned automobiles are stacked throughout the background. Julie rounds a corner in the filth, a shiny beacon of femininity within the pit. She stands before the gaping maw of an E-Z CRUSHER, this huge pale yellow and black machine, marred by years of use and neglect.
Now the sound makes sense. A deep thrumming vibration emanates via the video and into the room — the constant rumble of a sleeping mechanical giant. It is omnipresent and oppressive, and it runs throughout the rest of the performance.
Julie descends into the heart of the machine and leaves the cart behind. Then she takes hold of the controls, and flattens the cart. It squeals like a stuck pig, bending at the seams. A conveyance no longer, Julie rolls the wrenched metal pancake out into the pit, and drags it through a trough all its own, until the video resets, and the moment returns anew.
On the floor in front of the screen sits the smashed shopping cart in a spotlight. In the other room, an uncorrupted cart stands on all four squeaky wheels.
Julie stands between the rooms, bisected by the wall. Her arms raise to embrace both halves of the beige lady’s fate: the hyperreality of video and conclusion, and the fantasy of shiny perfection. Throughout the action she moves from one to the other, navigating a shared creative liminality unavailable to either state.
In the video room she brings safety goggles for the observers and noise blocking earmuffs that she discards on the floor. From the back room she hurls an extension cord at the cart, like the perfect lifeline toss to an explorer floundering over a waterfall. She emerges from the darkness carrying a grinder, applies it to the dead cart, and the fireworks fly.
Amidst a hail of hellfire Julie lops off the back-basket section of the cart and brings it into the other room. Here she reveals pliers and a spool of wire, used to attach the back-basket to the front of the living cart, basically adding a grill. She affixes the back to the front like a metal consumerist palindrome, creating from destruction while alluding to the inevitable return of the shopping need. Back to front, front to back, and back and back again.
She whips off her coat, revealing the sheer satin dress from the video, and tries to affix it to the ground with tape but it doesn’t work, so she slings it back on. To the fallen cart in the other room, where she reapplies the grinder to the wheel bracket and the sparks shower. She tips the cart on its side to get closer to the wheelhouse, shooting a rain of baby flames that makes Luciana and Guadalupe dart from their seats. It doesn’t come off. Julie kneels, pulls out her cellphone, and takes a picture of the obdurate wheel that simply won’t abandon its cage.
To the other room where she returns to the cart like a wayward lover, hauling it on top of herself, mounted by the cage she braces it upon her legs, her torso. The chain holding the skeleton key which nudges quarters out of the thin slot dangles just out of reach, yet she grasps for it all the same. She stands and she grabs it and she drags it by the chain into the far corner of the room. Julie climbs aboard the implanted shelf, but it rips off one corner and the edifice topples. Cart and woman tumble sideways, crashing to the floor. Undaunted, Julie pulls a bandaid from the ether, unwraps it, walks to the crowd and sticks the beige plaster to the wall. She hands another bandaid to an observer, and they place the strip beside hers.
Off comes the trench coat, braced on her thigh. Out comes a white marker. Upon the beige skin of the jacket she writes, for the crowd, “DES LOUPS.” Again, the wolf. The constant prowl of the hunting/gathering female lion. The imbalanced role of satin and heels in the trenches of modern trajectories. Julie’s performance enacts the cages we drag around with us each and every day in a rich material exposition, the need for a creative interpolation to maintain sanity in the grey hellscape, and the impossibility of ever ultimately extricating ourselves from the beige cages of identity, gender, society, race, routine, rank, or class. Pick your poison.
When she is finished writing, Julie lays her emblazoned coat on the ground and observes her handiwork.
“Thank You,” she says.
And the video rumbles in the background. And the machine roars.