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

The Flight of the Animator

Posted by Cian Cruise 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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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.

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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Day 3 Visualeyez Morning Session

Posted by Irene Loughlin on September 18th, 2014

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Our 10 am meeting started off with quinoa and fruit by Robyn (mmm) and performance art exercises on the patio led by Soufia.  I didn’t document those because that would be, well, either too invasive or too silly.  We mirrored each others’ actions and made some of our own, as well as communicated through nonsensical verbal games. Following this dadaesque a.m. exercise, the conversation circulated around the question of space and its affect on movement.  Unlike Soufia’s methodology which centred on taking the time to walk in Edmonton and respond to her surroundings, Pam Patterson described her process as necessitated by pre-planning because her performance involved creating with two or three participants she had not previously met.  She talked about internally adjusting the plan to the circumstances of her surroundings as she became more familiar with the space in which they would work together in Latitude 53.

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Naeyon reframed space as that which is not necessarily outside ourself, asserting that “our body is the space” as a unit of time, and as a biologically-defined space.  It is from this place she suggests we can explore the concept of space, rather than defaulting to our understanding of space as something geographical, something outside of ourselves.  Todd Janes spoke of transcending a concretized space through the use of smell and sound in performance, and the embodiment of space using our physicality as a kind of psychic extension of our surroundings, an extension often animated through the storytelling that takes place via the viewer, during and after the event.  Performance art can also function as a kind of projection into space, where the performer views themselves and their performative situation from the outside by casting their awareness out into the viewing area – an ‘over there’ throwing of one’s consciousness, a technique which pre ponders the ‘fantasy of reception’.  We briefly spoke about the opposite of expansion via collapsed space, and its underbelly – displacement, as immeasurable (although there was something about a eureka moment in a bathtub), which I imagine are threads that will return later in the week.  Naeyon posed the question “What is the purpose of measuring?” which will be tackled tomorrow.  We finished with Soufia recounting her experience of last night’s performance,  where she guided our evening walk by following ‘where the space opened’ in the urban landscape via traffic lights, empty spaces, and the passage of other walkers. Gavin noted the difference to Capetown, in that Edmonton generally obeys traffic light crossings, whereas Robin contributed her knowledge of the policing of crossing in Edmonton, which we would come to know more intimately following Pam Patterson’s transgression over the threshold of appropriate public space for a body, which is apparently, not in the plaza fountain.

Sneak Preview

Posted by Irene Loughlin on September 17th, 2014

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The Visualeyez table Images by Irene Loughlin

Incredible! The sun and heat.  I should have left my winter coat at home!  This morning after being pummelled in an early morning session of deep tissue work (and when they say that in Edmonton, they mean business)  I wove down 106th St wondering what would happen today to amaze me.  Visualeyez participants met for the first time around a table at Latitude 53 over mid-morning breakfast, thanks to Robyn O’Brien (Latitude Admin Coordinator) the self-described ‘creepy ghost making toast’!   We were also joined by Latitude 53 creatives Karen, Emily and Olivia.

The artists spoke on some of the predicted themes of Visualeyez in relation to movement. Naeyon Yang beautifully articulated her thoughts on scent, which will play a central role in her upcoming work.  There is no certain archive in which to hold scent; she therefore proposed that we consider memory as an anchor, a metaphorical container which addresses the problem of scent’s temporality.   Todd Janes recounted crossing paths with a coyote last night on his way back from the airport with Naeyon, and reflected on the panicked responses to coyote sightings and the urge to enclose wildlife via environmental colonization and urban sprawl.  I posed the question of intentional space in performance and how choosing space affects the artist’s movement in their work.

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                                               Adam Waldron-Blain and Soufia Bensaid location scouting   

In the afternoon, we scouted for locations and Adam spoke with a reporter about the festival.  Soufia Bensaid continued to familiarize herself today with the city of Edmonton. I received a cryptic text message at 8:30 pm to join her at Latitude 53 at 9 pm, where I found her sitting quietly on a bench in the front patio area.   Awkwardly crossing the barely discernible line between public space and performative space, I sat down beside her and assumed her meditative pose.   Todd Janes and Gavin Krastin noisily drove up and stumbled out of the van, yet Soufia’s concentration remained unbroken.  They were also compelled to sit with her.  I thought about Soufia’s different way of hearing, and her contributions regarding experiences of the auditory as we sat with her in silence. Earlier in the day I had noticed how some abrupt sounds made her jump while other sounds were barely discernible to her.  I heard people come and go, the traffic, an ambulance.

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Soufia eventually handed us flashing LED lights and led us in a walk.  Waiting for us to catch up with her near the Days In, she did not hear a car pull up behind her waiting to turn into the parking lot.  She held her ground peacefully and made eye contact with the driver, much like the coyote Todd encountered in his headlights an evening earlier. The driver became impatient and irritated while she stood unmoving and we stopped and started, negotiating the awkward and invisible boundary in the hierarchy of driver/pedestrian.

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Edmonton or Venice.. 

Soufia’s walk revealed a romanticism about Edmonton I didn’t know existed – historic buildings reflected in the water, people dancing by the water fountain.  I felt confused as I walked around the edge of the fountain.  Later we confronted traffic at a busy intersection, singing childhood songs, and screaming as loud as we could, our voices lost in the acceleration of the vehicles.

photo-3                               Observing oncoming traffic (l to r) Todd Janes, Soufia Bensaid, Gavin Krastin 

Welcome to Visualeyez!

Posted by Irene Loughlin on September 16th, 2014

I arrived in Edmonton last night, armed with iPad, laptop and phone, happy to be the Visualeyez blogger and eager to begin documenting the cultural life of the city.  Here is my first victim.

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the common Edmonton hare

If you find a solitary baby hare in Edmonton, do not pick it up.  If you do, you are a KIDNAPPER. (more…)