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!