Latitude 53 presents VISUALEYEZ 2014, the fifteenth edition of Canada's annual festival of performance art, from
September 16–21. Featuring performances from six artists exploring the concept of MOVEMENT.

Day 7 – Marie-Claude Gendron – public/private space

Posted by Irene Loughlin on September 23rd, 2014

Marie-Claude Gendron enacted her performance in public space today, a method which carries with it its own particular challenges.  She tied herself to a remnant train crossing signpost with a roll of yarn and covered her eyes with a white cloth.  In conversation earlier she had talked about what she can’t see being infinitely more important than what she can see and her belief in the value of the imagination.  Her work is suggestive; through her actions and movements we are called to imagine a completion of the image.

Marie-Claude seems almost suspended in space as she hovers from the signpost.  The strong vertical movement of lines in her work find a resting place for a moment.  The platform of the boulevard from which she hovers functions as a strange, interstitial median that separates the converging movement of traffic.  The boulevard also functions as a furtive site where pedestrians wait illegally for a further break in the line of traffic, a gap through which they can impatiently cross.  It seems appropriate then, that Marie-Claude perches upon this object of architectural stillness above a site of busy activity in all directions, and blocks her vision while engaging in the repetitive act of unravelling yarn.  The ends of the yarn float in the wind as she proceeds to unwind the material.

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Marie-Claude Gendron    Photo: Irene Loughlin

The artist started this work with a similar aesthetic strategy to the previous day, a walk along a vertical line suggested by the environment and architecture of the space.  This time, there is a sense of encroachment inherent in the space where the city meets nature and vice versa along the deserted train tracks.  The liminal character of the site heightens her movement and we notice the change from dirt and grass to sidewalk, the approaching buildings, the busyness of pedestrians etc. as we follow her towards a highly trafficked street.  Interstitial places such as the one she traverses have been tamed and re-imagined through the neo-liberal lens of downtown development.  Condos line one side of the train tracks and a restaurant/bar is located on the other side.   As she did yesterday, Marie-Claude’s goal is moving towards a static ‘tower’ located at the ‘end of the line’.  Holding the heavy plank of wood, she struggles and tries various positions, balancing the wood both on her back and in front of her.

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 Marie-Claude Gendron   Photo: Irene Loughlin

The remnant train crossing structure is located in the middle of a busy downtown intersection.  As in many contemporary cities such markers are preserved for their ‘historic’ value which propose something beyond the monoculture that cities are all moving towards (if they have not yet already arrived there). These markers fall flat as effective replacements for a local culture which has generally been displaced via the pressures and strategies of economic development.

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Marie-Claude Gendron   Photo:  Irene Loughlin

Marie-Claude unravels a ball of yarn while onlookers and drivers watch and take photos.  A man leans out of his pickup truck as he turns the corner, and asks if she is ok.  We are not sure if she notices or hears him since she is blindfolded.  After about ten minutes of unraveling, the police arrive.  The police officer is actually quite nice and somewhat relieved I think when we explain that it is a performance art work for Visualeyez. Apparently there is a phenomena known as “stunting” going around.  Performance art used to be a solitary endeavour, with few referents.  Youtube has ruined that for us.  In any event, the police officer tells Marie-Claude to come down and find a safer place to do her performance.  He actually gives her a set of instructions!  I wonder if he has read the fluxus handbook.

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Marie-Claude chatting with the police officer regarding the nature of public/private space  Photo: Irene Loughlin

The officer wants her to do the work at a cafe and tie herself to a chair on a patio. But, he says, you must ask the owner first.   Marie-Claude engages him in conversation about what belongs to the city and what belongs to nature.  She asks, “Does that tree belong to the city?  If I pick up a rock does that belong to the city?” He answers yes to both questions.  Well, she has to get down because she’s distracting drivers and he will get in trouble with his boss if he leaves her there. Eventually she agrees and he offers her a lift down which is kind of a lovely gesture in the sunshine, somewhat brotherly.   I might say paternalistic but he’s too young to be a father figure.   He says that he has calls like this but usually its ‘mentally ill’ people.  Damn mentally ill people get blamed for everything.  He says he’s seen a lot worse from them.  In any event they offer to take away Marie-Claude’s plank and the other officer tries to put it in the police van but it doesn’t fit so he gives it back to her.  We talk together about the work and Marie-Claude mentions the policing of tension, what is permitted tension in our society and what is viewed as dangerous and must be stopped?  When I think on this, it seems that permitted tension is always related to capitalist production.  I am left with a final thought from Marie-Claude:  “A small gesture can do as much as a large one”.  I test her hypothesis against her performance and it works, as her materials and actions were quite subdued, but it was, however, the environment and the people interacting with her, which caused the spectacle.

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 6 MORNING Research-based Practice

Posted by Irene Loughlin on September 22nd, 2014

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Day 6 Afternoon GROUP WORK – performance in real time by Pam Patterson

Posted by Irene Loughlin on September 20th, 2014

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(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)

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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.

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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.

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(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.

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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.

 

 

 

Day 5 Entrances and Exits

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.

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(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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

 

 

Day 4 – Afternoon Nayeon Yang at the Market

Posted by Irene Loughlin on September 19th, 2014

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Nayeon Yang Photo:  Sandra Der

Nayeon’s work at a street market in Edmonton marked the second instalment of her work using scent.  The scent of blueberry juice, cider vinegar, soya sauce, black bean sauce in a pot used for fermentation had grown stronger, and her surroundings had grown narrower.  Walking on the street assumed the long vertical movement of a processional, adding to the ritualistic context of the work.

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Nayeon Yang  Photo: Sandra Der

People were much  closer to Nayeon in this segment of the work and she was flanked by market stalls on either side as she walked.  Workers and visitors to the market consulted each other to figure out what was going on with Nayeon as she wove down the street, narrowly avoiding people and animals.

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Nayeon Yang  Photo: Irene Loughlin

Her clothing although still white and made somewhat more pristine by the peaceful quality of her movement, nonetheless had gathered more stains from the dripping liquid, and the work as a whole began to take on a slightly worn quality.  Somewhat sadder in its feeling, Nayeon sat for a moment on the ground at the end of the work, evoking a feeling of displacement.

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Nayeon Yang  Photo: Irene Loughlin

Day 4 Morning – Why Measure?

Posted by Irene Loughlin on September 19th, 2014

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‘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.

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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