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 6 Afternoon – Nayeon Yang, Marie-Claude Gendron, DC3 Art Projects, and Gala

Posted by Irene Loughlin on September 23rd, 2014

So many things happened on Day 6 it proved impossible to keep up.  Friday started with Nayeon Yang’s final instalment of her work in Edmonton’s Chinatown district which drew lots of attention.  People engaged with the work, coming up to us and asking us what it was all about.  I described the work to one group as a ‘moving sculpture’ which seemed to dispel some confusion.  We distributed the postcards asking people to write to Nayeon’s family in South Korea with their impressions of the performance.

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Nayeon Yang  Chinatown, Edmonton  Photo: Irene Loughlin

Nayeon continued her concentrated journey doing a loop of Edmonton’s small Chinatown neighbourhood.  There was no difficulty at this point in smelling the liquid in the fementing pot, which wafted towards the viewers.  I will now always associate the smell of vinegar with Nayeon’s work in Visualeyez.  The vertical line splash on her clothing from the contents of the pot had become more pronounced over the last week and began to recall associations to dried blood or the rusty orange of a deep sepia ink or the application of iodine to the skin.

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Nayeon Yang  Photo: Irene Loughlin

Upon completing her walk, Nayeon sat down in front of the chinese zodiac square and washed her face with some of the remaining contents of the pot, signalling the end of this cycle of performances.

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Nayeon Yang  Photo:  Sandra Der

In the early afternoon we accompanied Marie-Claude Gendron in her first performance for Visualeyez.  She alternately dragged, pushed and kicked a wooden plinth forward down 106th St towards the impressive towers of Grant McEwan College, while carrying a large plank of wood on her back.  The artist moved quickly and the performance assumed a processional quality.

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Marie-Claude Gendron   Photo: Sandra Der

MARIE-CLAUDE GENDRON 4Heading north, Marie-Claude arrived at her destination after a somewhat arduous and uninterrupted journey flanked by the viewers on either sidewalk and some passing cars.  When she reached the college, she chose an epic modern archway under which she set down the plinth and wooden plank. She climbed on top of the plinth and held an object reminiscent of a silver ‘winning’ cup victoriously in the air.

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Marie-Claude Gendron   Photo: Sandra Der

Her arm became weak and she started to struggle with the object as she continued to remain in this pose.  Eventually the object dropped loudly, and she dismounted and entered the college, carrying a mallet tied to a long piece of material.  As we followed behind her, she walked quickly and quietly swung the hammer.  We passed the school cafeteria and a viewer remarked later that this that it brought memories of Columbine.  From what I’ve seen of Marie-Claude’s work in this festival, her work does definitely carry an unexpected weight of a potential danger which is never actualized.  A young woman of relatively small stature, she moves quickly and decisively through the streets of the city and the architecture of the college claiming unquestioned authorship within this public space.

She exited the school, and standing outside we suddenly realized we were surrounded by glass windows.  She began to swing the hammer over her head.  Although she did not release it, we completed the action in our minds by imagining with horror the hammer being flung in the air and smashing into the windows.

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Marie-Claude Gendron   Photo: Sandra Der

I constructed a whole narrative that someone would get hurt while typing on a computer in the office tower, and an ambulance would have to be called.  Did the festival have insurance to fix the glass? I feared these possible outcomes and shifted uncomfortably as if standing at a precipice.  Several other viewers seemed to have a similar reaction. The artist drew our attention to the vulnerability of the architecture, that which we generally consider to be solid and controlled, or controlling.  Her actions seemed to draw out the potential, hidden bodies within the buildings, calling them to make themselves known.  During the performance we came to be aware of the architecture in a completely sensitized way, not as a place to pass through without noticing, but as a changing space dependent for its definition on the activity that it holds or contains.

We’ve all experienced ‘dead’ spaces of architecture where nothing goes on no matter what goes on,  so its impressive Marie-Claude had created significant activity and spatial reflection in this work through her intervention in what was most likely theorized to be a ‘neutral’ space (evidence of this can be found in the beige tones prevalent everywhere).

As closure for this performance, Marie-Claude emptied her boots of sugar and sand, combining the left and right contents on the ground, leaving evidence that she had walked the space.   This trace of the body becomes particularly meaningful when considering expectations in relation to gendered encounters with architecture. A gendered experience requires that there are various layers of visibility at work in the public realm in relation to our bodies – in public space, the female body, even when present, is absent. To leave evidence of a once present absence doubles this assertion of claiming public space in Marie-Claude’s work.

Beau Coleman drove myself and and Marie-Claude in what was the most efficient location scouting trip I’ve ever been on. Marie-Claude quickly chose a location for tomorrow’s performance on the ‘other side of the river’.  Then we headed to DC3 Art Projects to experience the work of Blair Brennan, including a collaborative performance with Brian Webb accompanied by Allyson MacIvor.  The work explored the subject of magic and the  language and ephemera surrounding religious experience in Christianity.

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Brian Webb (above) in collaboration with Blair Brennan DC3Art Projects, Edmonton Photo: Irene Loughlin

The bed of nails I think did not require being constructed during Webb’s performance as I thought the object’s presence was quite strongly felt in the exhibition already.  The movement of Brian Webb rolling along the floor to the bed of nails and back again was a compelling image exploring these religious themes and served to agitate the divide between the audience and performer.

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Brian Webb  Photo: Irene Loughlin

Moving back to Latitude 53 for the Visualeyez Gala, we encountered Soufia Bensaid standing in the black box that she had used previously in the week.

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Soufia Bensaid    Photo:  Irene Loughlin

Although earlier in the week she had drawn a weaving, unending line in the architecture of this space punctuated by large dots at the end of the piece, this time Soufia began by using dots which tapped against the walls rhythmically. After about ten minutes of tapping out a line of dots on the wall, she suddenly stopped and looked at the viewers.  To our delight she then gave out pieces of chalk and invited us into the space to do the same.

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The small alcove became packed with people all tapping out a dotted rhythmn. We were unable to created a rhythmic line as Soufia had done as there were too many of us, and the work evolved into the generalized creative chaos that is Visualeyez when everyone gets together to work on a piece.  Surprisingly, the final result became something of a poetic, universal drawing, as eventually the tapping diminished and the work ended itself.  The viewers also enjoyed documenting the trace of the drawing on their bodies.

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Following that food, drink, dance, conversation. The stuff of life.

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Visualeyez Crew (l to r): Pam Patterson, Nayeon Yang, Soufia Bensaid,

Todd Janes, Marie-Claude Gendron, Gavin Krastin. Photo:  Irene Loughlin

Day 3 Evening Soufia Bensaid

Posted by Irene Loughlin on September 19th, 2014

Soufia Bensaid’s work took place in a ‘black box’ alcove constructed within the Latitude 53 gallery space, a remnant structure created for a previous exhibition at Visualeyez that had not yet been dismantled.  The artist paced slowly around the interior of this black alcove, scratching a large piece of chalk against its three walls.  The resulting wavering, continuous line began at floor level and continued up the walls.  (Soufia Bensaid  Photo: Jack Bawden)

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It was difficult to catch the moment where Soufia turned at the edges of the space, and her rhythm remained unbroken.  Working from the ground to the height of walls, the performance recalled the techniques of drawing, but this horizon line in motion referenced some other kind of landscape, perhaps symbolic of the ocean, or the hum of background noise in a room.  (Soufia Bensaid  Photo: Jack Bawden)

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As she continued to draw this uninterrupted line, she maintained equal pressure and distance from the wall with her arm.  Occasionally there was a barely discernible, awkward twist of a wrist and elbow.  The elevating height of the line recalled rising tides, a long twisting path.  Upon completion of the drawing, Soufia began to punctuate the work with the chalk, rhythmically punching at the environmental scale that she had just created by fixing dots in space. These dots splattered on the lines of the wall, recalling imploding notes on a musical scale.   (Soufia Bonsai  Photo: Jack Bawden)

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A sense of her frustration with the order she had created descended upon her as deep sounds emerged from within her body.  She eventually broke through the flimsy alcove structure that contained her by increasing the ferocity of this action.   (Soufia Bensaid  Photo: Jack Bawden)

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I interpreted the work as both a negotiation and confrontation with normative structures of sound, a kind of breaking through the fixity of auditory environments in relation to her experience of hearing, and an assertion of the kind of sensitivity she had previously talked with me about, a sensitivity that can be unwelcome in a society focused on outward knowledge and capitalist production and in opposition to the emphasis she places on ‘listening’ to her body and the subtle information in her environment.