Latitude 53 presents Visualeyez 2017, the seventeenth edition of Canada's annual festival of performance art, from September 26–October 1, exploring the theme of awkwardness

Day 4 Morning – Why Measure?

Posted by Irene Loughlin on September 19th, 2014

we the audience

‘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 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)

Gavin Krastin

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.