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

Day 3 – Evening Gavin Krastin and Alan Parker

Posted by Irene Loughlin on September 18th, 2014

So much art, so little time.  Falling somewhat behind in this blogging and we are all missing Alan who could not not come from Capetown, South Africa due to difficulties acquiring visas to travel.

Gavin Krastin presented an impressive work at Latitude 53 last night.  On entering the space we encountered the artist, solitary and naked under a bright spotlight, his head encased in a large, bulbous mesh of plastic wrap connected to a long swath of the material that hung from the high ceiling and draped towards the ground.  A neutrality of gender was communicated through the hidden, or suppressed genitals of Gavin’s towering figure. This adapted self was a conflation of impressions both alien and human, aristocratic and abject.  Gavin’s body contorted in jagged movements which punctuated the stillness. These actions were particularly severe and unnatural throughout the abdomen.  (Gavin later told me about the word in Afrikaans “gutvol”, meaning ‘a gut full of rage’.)   The solar soundscape which accompanied this work echoed through space, and was punctuated  intermittently by Gavin’s abrupt actions. (Gavin Krastin  Photo: Irene Loughlin)

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Gavin eventually reached the floor in an eloquently choreographed struggle with the materials, and escaped from the head encasement of plastic.  Three small audio speaker voices spilled out into the space and mingled with the general soundscape.  The first audio relayed an event that happened in South African Parliament a month prior, where the president was confronted for embezzling twenty-five million dollars in public funding to build a private estate.  The second piece of audio contained a political speech by President Obama which detailed US support of Israel during the civilian bombings of Gaza.  A third audio speaker emitted a British news report detailing the recent ISIS killing of an American citizen.   This audio cacophony was all at once disrupted by an entertainment industry’s intrusively banal report of Kim Kardashian and Beyonce’s budding friendship.

Following this section of the work, Gavin was taped into a plastic bag with a breathing tube by his assistant, Karen.  As he breathed through the tube, the plastic was sucked against his body and his flesh was reduced to associations with vacuum-packed objects or food.  The emphasis remained on his head where a flat, pointed hood formed in the shape of a prehistoric creature.  Within the open space of the gallery, the artist communicated a claustrophobia and tension, his body turned inward, as a vehicle of contemplation regarding the political situation in South Africa. (Gavin Krastin, Photo:  Owen Murray)

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Gavin later spoke of black economic empowerment policies in South African as effective means of redress in relation to the country’s history of apartheid. Such policies were generally supported by the younger generation of white South Africans who wanted to dismantle the social injustice and racism which had plagued their lives.  They witnessed, however, a generation of older white men who alternately did not share their perspective and who were forced into an unwilling confrontation with their assumptions of privilege when they lost their seat of unquestioned power during the redress process.  A confrontation with “the alien/ated other” whether in terms of citizenship, the right to equal work and pay, etc. became an unavoidable fact as these men lost jobs and privilege, experiencing themselves a marginal amount of the pain inflicted on people of colour in South Africa.

In the essay Visualizing the Body: Pain by Charlotte Hopson, the author states, “An image of the body in pain (…) represents more than the experience of trauma; it can embody political transgression, social deviance, and serves subjective purposes and functions, to inform, renounce, educate and delineate.” A grief inherent in the history of denial and brainwashing which so impacted South Africa is embodied in the work of Gavin Krastin as he seeks a third space (after Homi K. Bhabha) from which to rotate consciousness and his body.  

Day 3 Afternoon – Performance by Nayeon Yang

Posted by Irene Loughlin on September 18th, 2014

Nayeon Yang began her performance quietly behind the cenotaph in Churchill Square, where she unpacked a suitcase containing a large ceramic pot, bottles of blueberry juice, bottles of soya sauce, black bean sauce, water and cider vinegar.  She later relayed that she wanted to use materials from her home in Korea as well as something Canadian.  (Nayeon Yang  Photo:  Irene Loughlin)

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Nayeon laid down a white cloth on the bench and placed the pot in the centre of the cloth. She then proceeded to pour the contents of all the bottles into it. She chose a pot used commonly for fermentation which subsequently heightened the scent of the liquids.   She then pulled on the cloth, transforming it into a long skirt.  Wearing all white, she placed a woven ring on her head and balanced the half full vase there.  Some of the contents spilled and began a stain down the centre of her clothing in the front and back, which would become more pronounced over the course of the performance.  She asked Soufia to continue pouring the juice into the vase until it was full.  (Nayeon Yang   Photo: Irene Loughlin)

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Slowly Nayeon stood up from her seated position and proceeded to walk around Churchill Square for approximately forty-five minutes.  Nayeon mentioned that historically Korean women carried water, food etc. on their head, and she wanted to use this action in her work as a signifier of a ritualistic activity existing outside of Western culture in the performance. (Nayeon Yang  Photo: Irene Loughlin)

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As she walked through the square, the scent of the liquids of her container mixed with the strong smells of the hotdog stand. We passed a Thai food truck, and the surreal subtext of a group of women practicing aerobics while music blared from loudspeakers.  As Nayeon walked slowly around the public square, Adam from Latitude 53 passed out a postcard for viewers to fill in and mail off, as shown below:  (Postcard by Nayeon Yang  Photo: Irene Loughlin)

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Some curious viewers came close to the artist and were able to catch the scent emanating from the pot.  Others viewed from a distance with curiosity.  In a few conversations I had with viewers, one woman reported that the action looked painful and upon further reflection she stated that perhaps it was her guilt that caused her to read the image that way. Several people asked about the festival and about the nature of performance art.

Nayeon continued to investigate space, tracing a pathway down the centre of her body with the liquids as well as with her body as it moved through the public square.   Her concentration and the pace of her work were exquisitely timed and it appeared that she drifted effortlessly through space.  (Nayeon Yang, Churchill Square Edmonton Photo: Irene Loughlin)

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Nayeon finished her work back near the public fountain, at which time Pam Patterson felt compelled to respond to Nayeon’s work.  Using three bricks which would serve as a motif for her performance later in the week, she placed them at the threshold of the public fountain.  She threw two bricks into the pool of water and carried one in on her head.  Wearing only a bright blue piece of plastic, she submerged in the water, walking the bricks with her hands while horizontally floating across the fountain floor.  An image that was both weightless and heavy, the contrast of the water’s transparency against the weight of the bricks and the complimentary colours of the materials created a striking image in the sunlight.  Unfortunately the police then arrived and the performance ended.  (Pam Patterson, Churchill Square  Photo: Irene Loughlin)

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