Posted by Cindy on October 4th, 2010
So last weekend I was sitting – hiding – in Sydney’s office at Latitude 53 while a wedding took place out on the balcony. It kind of felt like the performance festival was still going on, not because of some sort of cynical attitude on my part towards the spectacle of marriage, but because there was a nice big audience for the relatively intimate event, and half the people had cameras, and because they all clapped when it was over. I mean, and because it happened at Latitude 53 (duh). It got me thinking about performance art, as I had been for 2 straight weeks without a break. I mean, I’m a believer in the idea that it’s art because the artist says it’s so. But what makes it performance?
Visualeyez is great for presenting a breadth of performance practices and for testing the limits of what is considered performance. More even than the varieties of food-related performance this year were the varieties of ways in which the works were performed by someone – or something – other than the artists themselves.
Adina Bier performed – but passively – and asked the audience to be the active performers in her work On Boulevard de Clichy.
Culinary Cultures in the Kinder/Garden enlisted bacteria and other life forms that were as much the performers as Alison Reiko Loader and Kelly Andres.
Hourglass begged to be performed even in the absence of the artist Chun Hua Catherine Dong.
In Show Me Your Edmonton, Robin Lambert and Brette Gabel invited the intimate audience to be equal collaborators in creating the art.
caribou X crossing‘s Beau Coleman, Melissa Thingelstad and Matthew Skopyk had the audience of Miles of Aisles perform the work, though it was the grocery store itself that was on display. During the group tour, the audience had the great fortune of experiencing both the story playing on their iPods and the spectacle of the throng of other participants misbehaving in the grocery store.
Just about all the work was participatory, inviting viewers to share and contribute to the work.
Food Wars in particular invited viewers to share not just in the experience but in a meal prepared by the artists Naufús Ramirez Figueroa and Manolo Lugo.
In Ask Me About Salt, the very title encourages spectators to engage with the artist Randy Lee Cutler.
Comfort Room, the one performance where the audience was clearly the spectator and the artists Jennifer Mesch and Scott Smallwood the performers on stage, was a foil for the other projects, reminding us of the value and beauty of performance made to be watched and experienced.
Not only did I get to see all the performances and get to know all the artists, but I was also privileged to be at the gallery every day watching all the behind-the-scenes action, and I saw all the hard work that went into making Visualeyez a reality.
Before I leave the blog and go back to my life in Saskatoon, I just want to extend a wholehearted thanks to Todd Janes and the whole Visualeyez team, including all the staff and volunteers at Latitude 53. There’s no way I’ll be able to remember everyone’s names, but I’ll do my best. Thanks to Robert Harpin, Alaine Mackenzie, Vicky Wong, Sydney Lancaster, Russell whose last name I never caught but who did all the heavy lifting no one else dared to, Jamie Hamaguchi, Heather Challoner and Jacqueline Ohm all the other volunteers and all the board members who attended and volunteered at the events and everyone else behind the scenes that I never got to meet but who helped make the festival so amazing! (I’m talking to you, Sally Poulsen!)
And special thanks to all the artists! I’m really grateful to have had the chance to meet you and get to know you, and I feel like I made some really close friends. Those artists who I already knew I had the chance to get to know better, and I’m coming away from the festival enriched as an artist and a writer and a person.
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!
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!
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.
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!
Posted by Cindy on September 16th, 2010
I was able to meet most of the artists tonight, (or at least see almost all of them together, since I’d met just about all of them before), at our big group dinner at Chianti’s. I was hoping to be able to talk with each of them about their projects and find out more than what I can read in the project descriptions on the festival website.
Tonight I was, of course, most interested to spend a bit of time with Brette Gabel and Robin Lambert, whose performance Show us your Edmonton! is scheduled to start this morning (Thursday!) at 7 am, but with no promo yet available about how or where to engage with the project!
The performance description does say that there will be a zine made following at least 3 of the performances that will be distributed during and after the festival, and I will definitely pick one of those up! But there’s gotta be more…
So I sat down with Brette and Robin, who told me that in advance of their travel here, they distributed the breakfast invitations through friends to friends-of-friends through their online networks. The breakfast dates are strictly one-on-one (well, one-on-two to be more precise), and time and location are determined by the participants themselves, in conversation with the artists. Each Edmontonian breakfasteer is charged with presenting the artists with a post-breakfast adventure – a little journey for the artists to undertake to get to know THEIR Edmonton. It might be a map, a set of instructions or, who knows, a, little game, but in return for the artists buying the participant the breakfast of their choice at their favorite joint, they’ve gotta divulge one of their Edmonton secrets or point the artists in the right direction.
If you’re super sad that you’ve missed getting in on these breakfast performances, chin up! There are still THREE BREAKFAST APPOINTMENTS AVAILABLE!
Friday, September 17
Monday, September 20
Tuesday, September 21
I believe they’re available on a first-come, first-served basis. To claim one of these spaces, you must email the artists at:
And if you can’t do breakfast with Robin and Brette, well, when they’re not out adventuring, you can find them throughout the festival at other performances and events. Otherwise, they will be creating podcasts of their adventures and actively blogging about the project; Robin and Brette each have their own blog:
And, of course, I’ll be posting as much as I can about the project as news comes in from their dates! If you’ve been on one of these breakfasts, please leave a comment and tell us what happened!
So, I spent the rest of my evening at Chianti’s catching up with festival artists Naufús Ramirez-Figueroa who I’ve known from around the Canadian performance art scene for the better part of a decade, and Jennifer Mesch and Scott Smallwood who I met at last year’s Visualeyez Festival, when they were both brand new to town and made a real impression on all the artists in the festival with their genuine enthusiasm for and interest in the event. It’s so great to see them here again as presenting artists! From what I can tell, they’ve become committed and valuable members of the local art scene in the short time they’ve been here, and they’ve also had tons of local adventures of the kind that make them really cool people in general. Not only do I urge you to attend their performance on Friday at 7:30 at Latitude 53, but I encourage you to get to know them over a beer. Maybe at the Visualeyez Rooftop Patio Launch Party tonight!
Finally, I had a good talk with Beau Coleman about her project with caribou X crossing collaborators Matthew Skopyk and Melissa Thingelstad, Miles of Aisles. It’s an audio/video performance walk through the Sobey’s Urban Fresh at Jasper Avenue and 104 Street.
To participate in this project, you must have your own portable media device, (like an iPod), and you need to have downloaded the video or audio files before you get there. Take the tour anytime during Visualeyez on your own, or if you don’t have access to a portable media player, (or if you just like experiencing art in crowds,) come to the gallery on Saturday at 4, where a larger group will meet to take the tour together. Maybe the ambient sound of so many iPods playing the same thing at the same time will let you hear what’s going on, or maybe you could just make a new friend and ask to share theirs!
I didn’t get a chance to talk with Randy Lee Cutler, whose performance Ask Me About Salt is today at noon and Friday at 4. I hope to make it to the first performance so I can tell you all about before the second performance, but I still haven’t gone to bed and it’s nearly 4 am! Yikes! I’m regretting not talking to Randy about it now, because I’m just noticing that the map link on the schedule for this event takes you to “Downtown Edmonton” which doesn’t seem like a very specific meeting place. Zooming all the way in, I see that Google Maps offers 9918 – 102 Ave NW (the Southwest corner of Churchill Square) as an “approximate address.”
You might want to check with the gallery to make sure you know where to go tomorrow.
I did talk very briefly to Adina Bier about her performance On Boulevard de Clichy. I’m not going to spoil anything for you, except to say that it involves hundreds of bananas, and that she’s gonna need all the help she can get!
Well, there’s so much I want to tell you, but it’s way past the time I should’ve gone to sleep to get reasonably enough sleep for the early start I want to get tomorrow! Plus I still need to figure out how to get the video tour on my iPod!
I’d like to extend a special thanks to Chianti’s for being such gracious hosts to our rowdy crowd tonight, who were constantly capturing the attention of the other patrons with out hooting, clapping, and regular “announcements” to the entire restaurant!
More adventures and pictures tomorrow!
Posted by Cindy on September 16th, 2010
I’m really curious about Brette Gabel and Robin Lambert‘s performance, Show us your Edmonton! which is supposed to start tomorrow morning at 7 am.
Their project description says “We will be extending an invitation to community members of Edmonton to have breakfast with us.” Yet, when I ask gallery staff about it, they’re a bit coy.
So who is special enough to get invited? How do I get one of these exclusive invitations? Where are these clandestine breakfast meetings taking place and can I be a secret spy at another table?
I guess I have a lot of questions for the artists at our dinner at Chianti’s tonight! I’ll be blogging as much as I can about what I find out, so if you want to know more about these breakfasts, stay tuned!
There’s a festival preview in this week’s Vue Magazine – if you just can’t get enough of reading about Visualeyez you should check it out!