Posted by Irene Loughlin on September 22nd, 2014
Day 6 Morning discussion on research-based practice Photo: Irene Loughlin
This morning I posed a question as to what was the participants’ association to and understanding of research-based practice in relation to performance art. Together we generally located the definition of research-based practice within academe, with which the artists present had some kind of relationship. Some of us are completing our Masters degrees, some are teaching, and some of us went through an undergraduate or an art college program. We talked about artists buying time in academia where resources and funding may now be found. Nayeon started off the conversation since I had talked with her briefly on this subject the day before. She contributed that learning and knowing have traditionally been separated, and that it is often assumed that research comes first and is then followed by text. We were all familiar with such pressures to conform through the structural process of grant or proposal writing. Such applications largely demand that the artist has worked through the ‘why’ before the ‘what’ of the artistic project being proposed as a kind of intellectual and psychic projection of the studio work that they will produce. However if we consider artistic studio practice as “the text” (the ‘what’ of creative work, where materiality is made manifest), then we must also acknowledge that creative practices often precede or conjoin with the research-based and theoretical underpinnings of the work.
Soufia Bensaid remnant object from performance – measuring… Photo: Irene Loughlin
We talked about the supremacy of quantifiable research which can overshadow the text/artwork, altering it and perhaps rendering it less meaningful or impactful. I thought about the work of art ‘falling into place’ contextually within a socio-political framework, and how this process can happen many years after the work’s creation. Is it not the same locating a work within an artist’s individual practice? Some of us felt a resistance therefore, to the concept of research-based practice. I suggested that research-based practice was perhaps a continuation of conceptualism which had maintained a hold on contemporary art since the 1970’s, and that research-based practice could be viewed as perpetuating a kind of status quo and a resistance of emerging/prior modes of knowledge and future hybrid forms, particularly those emerging theories that produced less concretized, diverse perceptions and understandings, as forms of under-represented ways of knowing.
Pam Patterson has worked with the subject of research-based practice extensively. She asked us to consider the interstitial spaces (the in-between of theory/research and practice) as primary spaces of investigation. I thought about a discussion of the work of Janice Gurney in graduate school, where the physically uneven spaces between two-dimensional images offered a pathway through meaning, pointing to a kind of topology of knowing. We returned to the interstitial in considering Pam’s work, where the arrangements of bricks (in an earlier run through of today’s piece) called to mind a kind of aesthetic topography, an aerial view of what pockets of exclusion might be made visible through the methodologies of movement and the installaction work produced during performance in the gallery.
Pam Patterson – Brick – formation through installaction Photo: Irene Loughlin
For Marie-Claude Gendron who joined us last night, research work is synthesized through action, and we must learn to talk about the work. What could motivate us primarily to learn to apply language to performance art in relation to experiences which are often ‘unspeakable’ (or those experiences that feel diminished through speech)? Marie-Claude suggests an answer: The motivation ‘to speak to/about the performance art work’ exists in the opportunity that opens for others who can then offer their responses through language. We will therefore be able to engage in meaningful and previously unimagined exchanges.
During her performance, Marie-Claude Gendron asks police officers, “What is public space then and what belongs to the city? Can I climb a tree, pick up a rock?” Photo: Irene Loughlin
Pam put forward that we could question our assumptions about research as manifested primarily by ‘talking’ and ‘writing about’. She suggested that artists can play a new and integral role in academe by pushing what we understand research to actually be, and agreed with Marie-Claude that action is a valid mode of research. In her presentation yesterday at the University of Alberta, Pam talked about the parallel practices of art and research working in tandem. She added that as artists, if we are trying to change the way research is understood we must first articulate this change and that this in itself is a difficult task, as we are pushing against the weight of history. Beau suggested that artists are also a relatively new presence in the academy, where we are often challenged to quantify the abstract, and to measure the worth of art in an era of an increasingly pressurized and conforming neo-liberal society. We agreed that to resist requires integrity.
Dwight Conquergood, Buzz Kershaw and Delueze and Guattari were cited by Gavin as theorists who have resisted such pressures and have narrowed the divide between research and artistic practice in a way that values the qualities of creative work. He demonstrated snippets of these theorists sculpted language from whom we might take heart and inspiration, by quoting ‘the rhizoidal approach’, ‘the plane of immanence’, and ‘the body without organs’. A very full discussion, in which ‘talking about’ research-based artistic practice prepared me for the bodily experience of such concepts in Pam Patterson’s afternoon performance Brick.
Posted by Irene Loughlin on September 20th, 2014
(l to r): Soufia Bensaid, Pam Patterson, Angela Skaley Photo: Irene Loughlin
Well, as we speak I’m both in and blogging about Pam Patterson’s performance work which includes the artists from the festival: Nayeon Yang, Gavin Krastin, Soufia Bensaid, and as well as some visiting artists/participants: Ester Scott MacKay, Beau Coleman and Angela Skaley.
At first I felt kind of sad that I wasn’t performing with them although I am kind of performing with them (I’m sitting at the table typing this, but they’ve all left me about 10 minutes ago for the video area of the room) but it all seems good right now. I took a photo of them throwing a stack of images that represented themselves in the centre of the table. That was the beginning of the performance. (inserted 6 am Day 7)
Performance by Pam Patterson Photo: Irene Loughlin
I’m struck by how the performance is somewhat slowly paced but I’m having a hard time keeping up. The viewers are sitting against the wall on benches, at the north wall of the gallery. I wonder why they don’t come over here.
Now the artists are taking from a huge pile of bricks, and they are stacking the bricks by each artist’s pre-stationed, open umbrella. Audio has started of rain and there’s old film footage of a man running by a brick wall. Beau, Gavin and Ester cast shadows of various lengths into the video projection. Some of the stacked bricks are also shadowed in the projection. They’ve picked up their umbrellas and are now walking around the space. Another brick in the wall by Pink Floyd is playing and each of them have a different action with the brick. Nayeon seems to be scrubbing the floor with her brick. Beau is rubbing two bricks together. Pam is slowly lifting a brick to the ceiling then down to the ground. I haven’t caught the rest (although they all had their individual actions) because now they have started throwing the bricks.
hey teacher leave them kids alone
Perhaps a reoccuring theme as earlier this morning we spoke of research-based practice. But I still have to organize the notes from this morning, so today’s posts are not created in a linear fashion. I hope you don’t mind.
Well, this turns out to be quite a clever piece. Nayeon is dragging her umbrella full of bricks. Several of the umbrellas have been deconstructed into their basic form.
Well I wish I had time to post the photos right now but I don’t I’ll do it later. It does seem like general chaos now. Should Pam really be holding Gavin up to the ceiling? I don’t think that’s so good for her body. Oh now Beau is helping her. They are doing it! He’s hanging the umbrellas off the grid, which is pretty high up since Latitude has high ceilings.
(l to r: Beau Coleman, Nayeon Yang, Gavin Krastin, Pam Patterson, Angela Skaley) Photo: Irene Loughlin
There’s various aesthetic arrangements of bricks on the floor. Check out this one. That’s Ester’s.
Arrangement of bricks by Ester Scott MacKay, work by Pam Patterson Photo: Irene Loughlin
There seems to be a lull where not much is going on. That’s great maybe I can post a photo. Oh wait, Gavin is throwing a brick into the corner. Now Beau is going to. Soufia just jumped for an umbrella. This seems to be the destruction phase of the performance.
Oh they are all sitting down now. Thats my cue. I’m supposed to turn the light off or something. I think I’ll make them wait. They all construct a personal symbol as they stand behind their chairs (generally with their hands), something that represents them but I can’t catch it. now they sat down and are ripping up their paper. gavin just threw some afrgAT ME. its interfering with my typingg. damn itsannoying. noow i can’t ssew the screen. see the screen. i should take a picture. oh well. seems like the piece is over i think perhaps?
yes seems like it is. the end.
Posted by Irene Loughlin on September 20th, 2014
Entrances and exits were the topic of conversation this morning as we gathered around the table. We were happy to have Edmonton artist Beau Coleman with us today.
(l to r) Beau Coleman and Pam Patterson Photo: Irene Loughlin
We all know the drill when it comes to entrances and exits on a theatrical stage. An actor or dancer emerges from stage left or stage right, usually from behind some heavy black velvet curtains, and disappears into the wings similarly upon exiting. Somehow performance art is different. Entrances and exits often embody an ambiguity for the viewer. ‘Is it over?’ is a question that generally hangs over the uncertain endings of a performance art work. Perhaps someone takes the plunge and claps, and are followed hesitantly by other viewers. The clapping increases in volume when we realize that its all ok, that no one is reappearing in the space. Its assumed that the person that claps first is most likely “in the know”, (otherwise, why would they take the risk?) and has some secret knowledge of the ending of the work. Its safe to follow along. Perhaps they are a friend of the performer?
Although there’s often uncertainty on the part of the viewer, Soufia contributed that coming into a space as a performer brings with it a definite consciousness and intentionality. Pam questioned the expectations of a beginning and an end in performance, citing the concept of the suspension or arrest as an important aspect of movement in dance. Todd talked about the permeable borders of the audience and Gavin and Pam talked about locating the beginning of the performance in a conceptual rather than a physical moment. Such conceptual beginnings might be found in an evocative thought or object, a discussion with the Festival Director (sometimes years in advance), or in the first meetings with collaborators.
Soufia Bensaid, Nightwalk Photo: Irene Loughlin
Endings were also located in the recollections of the viewers such as the stories they told of the performance sometimes years after the fact, when memory could not be counted on for complete accuracy. The ephemera of the piece (such as the postcards in Nayeon’s work) might also be places where endings are found. Soufia spoke of the profound after effect of the performance on the body, which is in fact, unspeakable in terms of psychic transformations. Endings might also be found in the impact and markings of physical injuries that could have occurred during the performance. Beau mentioned that the performance takes on a kind of sculptural form in reflection, to think on a piece necessarily transforms the performance into an art object. I asked Nayeon why she did not look for an exit at the end of her performance in public space as there were many opportunities to duck behind a food truck for example. She explained that by not exiting the performance becomes more about the viewer, their need to discuss the work or not, and that not exiting diffuses the separation between life and art.
Pam Patterson on Practice-Based Research, University of Alberta Photo: Irene Loughlin
In the afternoon, we went to a lecture by Pam Patterson in Natalie Loveless’ class at the University of Alberta where Pam presented on practice-based research in performance. I’m stil somewhat confused by the concept of practice-based research, although we kicked this idea around at the University of Toronto (particularly with artist Yam Lau) during my graduate studies. I’m proposing we talk more about this idea Day 6 in our morning sessions.
Lipstick and Bullets by Cindy Baker at The Feminist Exhibition Space at the University of Alberta Photo: Irene Loughlin
Luckily, we also ran into Cindy Baker in the parking lot of U of A. You can currently see her exhibition Lipsticks and Bullets, at the Feminist Exhibition Space at the University of Alberta (until Dec 23rd). I waited for her artist talk in the sunshine, experiencing the sublime on campus while the fall leaves rained down on me. Cindy’s artist talk and the exhibition covered many fascinating observations on the subject of lipstick and bullets. Did you know that ammunition factories during the war became lipstick production factories after the war, where bullet encasings were transformed into the casings for lipstick through just a slight alteration? You can also see a cast of Cindy’s clitoris displayed with the other lipsticks, as a response to a discussion on always defaulting to Freudian interpretations of the phallic when contemplating objects such as lipstick casings. Which, when you think about it, the Freudian association doesn’t really make sense. Great woman, great exhibition.
Gavin Krastin, assisted by Karen Gill Photo: Irene Loughlin
In the evening Gavin presented the second instalment of his performance. Although I had previously seen this work, it was as hypnotic as the first viewing. Later, Soufia Bensaid took a group on a silent night walk in the area. I followed for a while but due to an old knee injury I left the group somewhat early as I’d been standing most of the day. I missed the finale of the walk where Adam apparently sang beautifully to the traffic. I’ll try to upload that audio with Soufia today. Day 5 was a thought-provoking day, and I’m looking forward to unpacking the ideas put forward in Day 5 at breakfast this morning, which is Day 6. Unfortunately, its our last day! Well, at least we will always have the Visualeyez Gala, scheduled for later tonight!
Posted by Irene Loughlin on September 19th, 2014
‘We, the Audience…” Photo: Jack Bawden
Day Four has been somewhat chaotic even though, or maybe because, the subject of our morning talk was ‘measuring’. The conversation swirled around Orlan’s early work, the work of Jin me Yoon, the topographical, the grid, menstruating as a way that the body measures, the difficulty of finding time for studio practice if you have children, work etc., creating in small measurements of time, time and its pressures on women, measuring one’s own visibility as one ages as a woman (Pam Patterson, Nayeon Tang, Ester Scott MacKay, Irene Loughlin). Gavin talked about some bizarre historical practices of measuring race in South Africa, and that measurement has been used as a tool for fixing supremacy. He observed that fixed measurements cut away the bleeding, the mess, the questioning and the provocations in life and art. Money and acquisitions have long been used as a methodology to measure worth. In performance, Todd mentioned measuring durational works as a necessity to give an indication of ‘where you are’ in the performance, and a less metered approach to measuring that includes assessing the impact of a work while you are in it and taking the temperature of the room. In Todd’s ‘furtive’ (under-discovered) practice, a qualitative reading is often located in his journal writing after the fact, as there is often a great degree of subtlety during the work, and no physical documentation is taken as fixed evidence. For Todd, there must be a measure of interchange in the work between performance artist and viewer, although the viewer may not always be aware that they are implicated in the piece. Soufia mentioned measuring time organically, particularly in the preparatory period before a performance, where it takes approximately 20 minutes for her mind to settle in solitude apart from the audience/viewer. Gavin related the strategy of measuring through breathe which allows for a greater diversity of measurement (as 20 breathes can mean many things to many people). The opposite might be found in a strictly metered approach to measuring by counting, a method which is often used in dance training. Very interesting conversations, which I’m sure will play out over the next few days.
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)
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)
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.
Posted by Irene Loughlin on September 18th, 2014
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.
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.
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.
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…)