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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Marie-Claude Gendron Photo: Sandra Der
Heading 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Following that food, drink, dance, conversation. The stuff of life.
Visualeyez Crew (l to r): Pam Patterson, Nayeon Yang, Soufia Bensaid,
Todd Janes, Marie-Claude Gendron, Gavin Krastin. Photo: Irene Loughlin
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 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…)