Shannon Cochrane's performance at the Vancouver Art Gallery
October 26, 2007
Friday, December 28, 2007
Thursday, November 8, 2007
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
It was an excellent festival. I had a rigorous and engaged time. My only regret is I couldn't see more of Second Life performances. My collaborator Tagny Duff (as avatar EBA HAX) and I (as avatar Lady Justice Beaumont) performed one piece during the festival but I was at home on my computer and Tagny was in Australia on her computer so we couldn't see what others saw at the LUXE BALLROOM at the Western Front. I got a glimpse of Tagny's solo piece at the Western Front but really wanted to see more. (photo: Performology Remix #2 by Eba Hax/tagny duff & Lady Justice Beaumont/margaret dragu)
But take heart! Jeremy Turner is working on the video and other documentation of this extraordinary and ground breaking festival over the next three weeks that shall be updated on his blogg. Go to his blogg at
to see an extraordinary video clip of FAU FERDINAND's solo Second Life Performance "All nOObs are Sailors 2" and read statements by Jeremy Turner, Skawennati Tricia Fragnito & some participating artists. Jeremy shall be updating so re-visit the site often.
SECOND LIFE is a new place to make art but it is also a new and generally misunderstood virtual world. It is often portrayed in mainstream media as a capitalist wonderland of real estate fuelled by Linden dollars and trolled by cruising yuppies consuming and amassing virtual possessions while somehow translating Linden dollars into big US real life dollars.
This is not my experience of SECOND LIFE. As a SL resident, I am lucky to be allowed to create art in a non-currency utopia full of art galleries, performances, lectures, and stimulating social intercourse.
I have barely broken the surface of what SL can offer as a new canvas for art making. It was an extraordinary opportunity to partner with Tagny Duff and participate in a festival with her and other artists who are much more skilled than I am. Frankly, I am still having trouble flying and landing and keeping my clothes on so Tagny's and my collaboration with chance choreography as an extension and memory of Cage/Cunningham/Rainier principles in aktion with our ongoing investigations into history/memory was really challenging.
Thank you to all Second Life Artists!
... respectfully submitted by Margaret Dragu
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
Monday, October 29, 2007
The Beet Goes On
"All the world's a stage/ And all the men and women merely players;"
--from As You Like It by William Shakespeare
An essay. An invitation. A dinner party in Gastropod Restaurant. These are the three components that created the last event in the 2007 LIVE Biennial. It was a lovely, congenial evening. The food was great, and the conversation lively, but it was a strange way to end the festival. I made the reservation for my partner and me before the festival had begun. I was told there was only room for eight people at the table. In the end, there were about 16 of us, but I wonder how many had actually made the reservation without being directly invited by the hosts. I'm guessing there were maybe four of us (general public) at most--a very exclusive event. An event about performed exclusivity.
I could go on at length and talk about the elegant costume the hostess wore, the flawless and attentive service, and the beautifully lit bar that was like a mini-stage in itself with props made of colored liquid and glass. I could put up the photos of the salmon belly amuse, the duck, the lamb and the squid, the three quenelles of sorbet, and the crabapple and sage mignardises, but I won't. It remains exclusive--a memory we paid for "Dutch Treat" to be the audience and the performers. Eating in a Vancouver restaurant is one of the best theatre tickets in town.
As a foodie trained in theatre and fine art, I am finely attuned to the meal-as -performance metaphor. A couple of years ago I was having a heated discussion about food with a philosopher over brunch. He asked me why he should pay so much for a meal at a fancy restaurant when he could buy the same ingredients at home and cook it himself for much less money. "Well, because you miss the theatrics of the whole event!" I countered. "The atmosphere of the restaurant, of being served and entertained by the front of house staff, enjoying food made by a creative chef with many years of training and experience. What about the art of conversation? I haven't even mentioned the not having to do the dishes part. Dressing for dinner. Oh,and the wine cellar. We can't forget that."
One of my favorite moments in the meal at Gastropod was when I'd asked everyone at my table the question, "If you were a farmer, what would you grow?" Without hesitation, the architect said "I'd grow beets!" He was so enthusiastic about the lowly beet and he talked about how he missed the jars of pickled beets from his childhood in Chilliwack. The chef beside me agreed: "I love beets!" he said. "We make a soup at our restaurant (Camille's in Victoria) that is just puréed beets and water, nothing else". A beet-lover myself, I was very pleased we had a shared affection for this humble vegetable at our table. Who would have predicted that we would have bonded over beets?
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Saturday was a cloudy, 8+ degree, & 10 km/hr wind kind of day. It was also the final day of THE LIVE BIENNALE 2007. Around and about the Waterfront Skytrain Station were three emerging artists presenting intervention works addressing the theme of Public Displays of Affection.
Unfortunately, I arrived too late to see Francisco-Fernando Granados.
Francisco-Fernando Granados (Vancouver, Canada)
I ran into DEEP DISH who told me it was a lovely piece that was a series of poetic aktions executed by the tuxedoed artist in front of a church/fountain and employing a bridal bouquet. It sounded bittersweet and perfect for a day made for the soundtrack of a French Nouvelle Vague film. I appreciated Deep Dish's description but hearing about a performance art work is like istening to someone descibe last night's dream. Often it is a case of "you just had to be there". I sincerely wish I had been (at Granados' performance).
Francisco-Fernando Granados' performance at Habour Green Park, Oct 27
More LIVE5: To Francisco Fernando-Granados Photo set
Julianna Barbaras (Edmonton/Vancouver, Canada)
Julianna Barbaras is not an emerging artist.
If I accept Canada Council's criteria that one has the right to self-declare oneself to be a professional artist; and furthermore, that one also has the right to determine or describe oneself to be an emerging artist , mid-career artist, and/or senior artist -- then I have to accept the fact that this is none of my business.
On this particular Saturday, Julianna (artist-at-large) was dressed all in white. She pinned a large white fabric circle on her chest upon which she had written in black ink " 50% ". Julianna walked around the four corner intersection of Howe and Cordova and approached any and every one with a smile and an outstretched hand looking for a handshake. Sometimes she offered a hug. She did not speak.
My first reading of her 50% sign was that I was watching a hooker walk the streets with a Saturday bargain for the tourist trade. After over half an hour of watching her approach men, women, groups, young, old, rich, & poor with a very open heart, I had to revise my first impression. The 50% badge had to mean something else. But what? I remembered a piece Barbaras performed at a spring FUSE at the VAG that centred on how many women and/or artists of colour were represented in the gallery. Perhaps her 50% buttoniere was a statement that at least 50% of the people walking around downtown Vancouver and our planet are, in fact, female?
These interactions affected her face, her posture, her attitude, her kharma, and hence her exchange with the next member of the public. No matter how lonely the planet feels, we are living together and affecting each other all the time.
More LIVE5: To Julianna Barabas Photo set
Christine Grimes (Vancouver, Canada)
I hate being forced to be with people were relating to people who are SOME PLACE ELSE.
I have grown to loathe being anywhere in public where people are talking on cellphones which, at this point in history, happens in every public space. I have peed in toilets in shopping malls and train stations while a woman in the next stall talked on her cellphone. I have sat/stood beside people talking on cellphones in libraries, doctors' offices, elevators, grocery checkouts, banks, and hiking trails! Cellphones make me want to stay home and never travel or go out anywhere or ever again!!!
More LIVE5: To Christine Grimes Photo set
Poontang in the Park (Vancouver, Canada)
Poontang in the Park: Priscilla Costa, M.Fla and T.Flan are in fine 'clown du bouffon' form as they animate Vancouver's Victory Square in the curated theme of "Public Displays of Affection".
More LIVE5: To Poontang in the Park Photo set
... respectfully submitted by Margaret Dragu
Public Displays of Affection
4pm - 4:30ish
Location: Harbour Green is on West Cordova, between Thurlow and Bute
4:30pm - 5:30ish
Location: starts at the corner of West Cordova St. and Howe St.
4pm - 9ish
Location: Waterfront station
5pm - 7ish
Priscilla Costa and Troupe
Location: Victory Square at Cambie and Hastings
Siinag Bayan · Heart of the City Festival
Babel Tower: Yves Klein Speaks! Cabbage Babbles!
More LIVE5: Yves Klein Speaks! Photo set
More LIVE5: Hor d'Oeuvres Photo set
Meanwhile, back at "In Pursuit of Happiness", things had taken a darker turn. Mars and Firth-Eagland lay head to head on the floor with their feet in opposite directions.
In Pursuit of Happiness was beautiful in it complexity. It was as if Alice had gone through the looking glass as a mature woman and found herself at yet another bizarre tea party. A decade's worth of celebratory cakes read like a compressed history of special occasions in these women's lives. Why do we mark special occasions with a sugar high, a celebration of sweetness and excess? Because we can, I guess.
More LIVE5: Tanya Mars Photo set
This isn't quite the end of the LIVE blog babble, since there are many more photos and video to come and I will be reporting at the RSVP event at Gastropod tonight organized by Germaine Koh.
Saturday, October 27, 2007
Vancouver Art Gallery, Friday, Oct. 26
"People really dress up for it," I 'd been told. "There's cleavage everywhere. It's a bit of a singles scene." You think? Major Galleries across Canada are creating singles nights to bring the romance back into the art world with wine, women (i.e. cleavage), and performance art. This brings hundreds of people out to glam up and party down in a rabbit's warren of performance-filled rooms. If you're lucky, you can even get in to see one. Bio Boxes, which I've been trying to see for two years now was just about booked solid by the time we arrived at 8:30 p.m. We rushed around trying to find the room Randy Lee Cutler was performing in only to be told it was "sold out" Fuck that. Then, miraculously several "standing room only" tickets appeared in the form of Hedda Cabbage's business card (not to be confused with Hedda Lettuce who writes for City Food). We rushed back to catch the end of a musical performance, but by now it had finished. Fuck. By now I was frustrated with the whole schmozzle.
Of course Tanya Mars stole the show with "In Pursuit of Happiness". While we were sprinting in sequined skirts to see the elusive/exclusive performances, Mars sat sleeping with at the end of a long banquet table covered with a quantity of colorful
The performers moved like sugar coma zombies. Firth-Eagland was up the staircase holding a plate of blueberry flan and staring down at the table. As she walked down the stairs she did not acknowledge the audience and she certainly did not offer them cake. Mars suddenly raised her head in a semi-dreamlike state, revealing cake and icing stuck to the side of her face. With dignity, she used a napkin to clean herself up.
For days before the performance, people had been buzzing: "Will they stop us from eating the cakes? Are you going to give it a try?" I was determined to get a few bites, even if I had to wrestle for them. However, when I arrived, there seemed to be an invisible line drawn on the floor that was being enforced by gallery security guards. I chatted with one of them, a young woman in a black dress. "We need to keep people away from the table," she said. "Someone might move one of the napkins that's been dropped on the floor and interfere." One guy showed up with a fork. She sent him away.
I learned that it was the gallery who instructed the guards to keep people out, not the artists. Apparently this caused a discussion around whether or not it was supposed to be read like a theatre piece behind an invisible fourth wall or accessible to interaction and close scrutiny, like a piece of performance art. In the end, audience members (performance artists) broke through the invisible lines and hovered around the table. When they attempted to talk to the performers they seemed to be ignored or received glazed nods.
The women slowly cut pieces of cake. Looking distant and tired, they toyed with their plates. The piece was well-suited to the occasion and the architectural space.
People in the audience discussed which cakes they would like to eat. I liked the look of the fruit mousse cakes as opposed to the fondant-encrusted gateaux. By the time I left to see Hedda Cabbage's show I saw Todd Janes sticking his finger in a cake and licking it. "He did it," I thought. "So will I."
Part II is coming soon.
The outrageously popular FUSE evenings at the VAG attract large crowds of young urban singles who experience art as a theme-backdrop for a singles' bar. FUSE evenings offer a jumble of divertissements including live music, art tours, shopping, line-ups, drinking, chatting; and the roaming of the 4 floors to view paintings, photography, sculpture and sometimes performance art.
Performance art's inclusion in FUSE is a mixed blessing. It offers performance artists an opportunity to show to a new audience/get out of the ghetto. That is a Good Thing.
FUSE is the first time the VAG has regularly included performance for many years (since the '70's?). This is also a Good Thing. Certainly, Performance Art (the literal poor cousin in the art world) is always grateful to dress up in her glad rags and be invited to the family party.
However, it is difficult for a performance aktion to get a more serious reading than as just "a happening", a moving mural or party stunt in the 6 hour evening of moving bodies more interested in eye candy and social intercourse than art. Generally, the more "successful" performances at FUSE are ones that directly employ the architecture of the court house or at least refer to social/class context provided by the "holy white space" of the museum -- historically Duchampian Anti-Art or more accurately anti-art-market or directly go down that road of social/aesthetic commentary. But not all performance art is about or concerned with this content, aesthetic or even art history so as an audience member one often feels one is viewing something in the wrong place and at the wrong time. I am remembering seeing Warren Arcand at a FUSE evening lst year perform a piece with a tree trunk, small axe, lavalier neck microphone, and multiple headsets for audience and ferverently wishing I could teleport the whole thing to a quiet space!
This performance artist/cultural worker had a bath, donned her brown velvet glad rags, took the two hour commute to FUSE and arrived at 7:00 pm. I snagged a little Roy Arden, Georgia O'Keefe, & Emily Carr while roaming the 4 floors inbetween watching 3 performance aktions -- a p'tit-aktion by Shannon Cochrane, a slice by Tanya Mars, & a full meal deal by Randy Lee Cutler.
TANYA MARS (Toronto, Canada) In Pursuit of Happiness
A trio of gals stood behind me as I viewed the tableau vivant by Tanya Mars' & Alissa Firth-Eagland. The audience-gals watched the performance and talked simultaneously with each other & their cellphones. "I think ... like ... it has .... like .....," said one gal to a cell-pal, "....something to do with .... like ... excess?" I would say so.
Well-crafted (designed/imagined/constructed) performance art has an element of creating an image strong enough to stand on its own without interpretation/introduction nor manipulation or theatrical-pretending. Tanya Mars' living image of 12 hour cake eating at the VAG Friday evening and Iwan Wijono's aktion fire-lighting communal blood letters on the floor of Centre A Gallery are two such images.
More LIVE5: Tanya Mars Photo set
Shannon Cochrane (Toronto, Canada)
Shannon provides social opportunities to crowds. At FUSE she quietly changed how the public viewed the gallery and the gallery-experience via greetings/hand-shakings. She has employed other strategies in other cities by moving and re-arranging crowd-control velvet ropes and providing badminton rackets to public assemblies. Seeing Shannon Cochrane "work the crowd" is to bear witness to a deft social animator who constructs a fun/warm event and at the same time deconstructs social intercourse.
More LIVE5: Shannon Cochrane Photo set
Randy Lee Cutler (Vancouver, Canada) Hors d'oeuvres
Randy Lee Cutler brought her alter-ego/personnae Hedda Cabbage into the 3rd floor legal chambers turned fake TV studio with the theatrical conceit of taping an episode of a popular cooking show. This provided Cutler an opportunity to present an animated lecture about the culture of food, landscape, and being "outside the work" (the literal translation of hors d'oeuvres). While pretending to cook up a soup stock made of carrots, red onion, a stick, garlic, her gardening shoes, and a new computer keyboard, Randy Lee chatted engagingly about the carbon foot print, fresh Pacific salmon and farmed Atlantic salmon, mushroom, Emile Zola, imagination and destiny.
More LIVE5: Randy Lee Cutler Photo set
.... respectfully submitted by Margaret Dragu
Iwan Wijono predicts disaster. He told the audience that he sees calamity in coming in the year 2020. We need to be prepared. I see it too--the depletion of fish stocks, the erosion of the agricultural land reserves, and the erosion of third world cultures as they become enslaved to produced the cheap labor that feed and clothes us. Given the pressures of overpopulation and global warming, I can see more potential for natural and economic collapse.
Wijono is a successful international artist, but his business card says he is a healer. One day last week he offered to heal my twisted back in the café where we were sitting. I sat with my eyes closed and he projected his healing energy over me and then encouraged me to do this for myself. He has offered to do a healing circle in Centre A, if we can get this together before he leaves.
Thursday night, As Iwan Wijono lay on the table to have his blood taken, he invited people to come closer, not that they needed much encouragement. The crowd swarmed in on him and without hesitation they were taking photos and videos on cell phone and digital cameras, and at least one vintage Leica. People snapped, then immediately showed the photos to the friend standing next to them, as if the live event had to be mediated by technology in order to be legitimized. It seemed to be a normalized practice in this space: cocktail party seguewaying seamlessly in and out of performance. (This is exactly the kind of performance that is very popular in Vancouver right now.) The chance to give blood was to become an active participant in the performance, creating an intimate link with the performer who thanked each one individually. Four volunteers were people that had been approached ahead of time and came to the performance knowing they would donate blood. Others spontaneously became donors. In fact, although I had not been asked directly, Iwan told me the day before not to be afraid of the blood in his performance, as they were hiring a trained nurse. The night of the performance, he said it again. "Don't be afraid to give blood, Lori."
As I read it, this gesture of giving blood could be read as emergency preparedness on a practical and spiritual level. The city of Vancouver is always giving out reminders that the stored blood supply is running low, so that if there ever was a major disaster we'd be caught unprepared for a large number of casualties. According to Wijono, we are going to need to be prepared for the worst. He should know. Recently, his village in Java was devastated by an earthquake. In April 2006 he brought in artists to help rebuild the village's houses and an bridge. He invited foreign artists to perform alongside the people who live there and who are in the process of reviving their own traditional culture.
More LIVE5: To Iwan Wijono Photo Set
Friday, October 26, 2007
I love artists' manifestos. Iwan's email response to LIVE BIENNALE's call for artist proposals produced one of the very best. Iwan said:
"Public! I think public is dead. The public is dependant on the market that is
controlled by multinational corporations, IMF, World Bank, and includes United
Nations, Stock Exchange, TVs, political issues/rumors, etc.! Public have no
power anymore, all controlled by market and weapon, in other way -- controlled
by fear and consume!"
Wijono played fantastic dance music throughout his performance. He let the assembled crowd socialize and groove to the music. He began his performance with a passionate speech about overcoming differences of ideology, religion, race, politics, culture, and geographical distance by becoming blood brothers. He called for volunteers to give blood. As they lined up, Iwan gave blood first. A registered (gloved) nurse took a small vial of Iwan's blood. While the nurse sterile-needled, syringed, & vial-ed each of the doner's blood, Iwan stood straddled over the supine particpants. He posed for the mass of cameras by standing heroically over the lying bodies while smoking 2 or 3 cigarettes at once and holding 2 shopping bags high in the air.
Irony of consumption? Statue of Liberty with a habit? Tobacco as historic-trade-route-colonization or smoking as semiotics for international-bribe-for-border-crossings?
Wijono stripped off his shirt, laid it on the floor, covered it with stale hamburger buns/cigarettes, and jumped up and down on them.
He poured a can of Coke on the bun-cig-mush then employed this wet goo to write words on a white gallery wall. He cut 2 holes in the shirt, tied it like a hooded-mask on his face, and repeatedly ran very hard into the wall of writing.
Iwan took the harvested communal blood from the nurse and used a paintbrush to write with the blood on top of the initial writings on the wall. The words said:
Free Market; then on the floor: Environment, Belief - Religions, Human Rights - Democracy, Ideologies.Iwan Wijono ran again and again into the wall. Falling. Running. Falling. He took another bottle filled with isopropynol (ethanol?) and applied this liquid over the written words. More running and falling. Wijono took a propane torch and lit the letters of blood and alcohol on the floor.
The words burst into flame.
Iwan's mots cles/key words stood -- burning -- on the gallery floor.... as I left to run for my 2 1/2 hour journey back to my village.
[For more info on Iwan's performance evening, see Lori Weidenhammer's blog.]
... respectfully submitted by Margaret Dragu
More LIVE5: To Iwan Wijono Photo set
Thursday, October 25, 2007
From Shore to Store
So Terence Houle and his buddy Trevor Freeman are sitting around one day, drinking beer and playing the "we should" game. They thought they should portage a canoe around Calgary, traveling from fountain to fountain. They agree it would be really cool to stage and subvert the typical illustration of the concept of portaging one finds in a vintage grade school classroom textbook. Houle explains that it's usually a staged photograph with the stern-faced native hoisting the canoe his friend the Métis voyageur. Both art-school graduates; Terence Houle (Alberta College of Art) is a member of the Blood Tribe and Trevor Freeman is a member of the Métis Nation (University of Lethbridge). Next thing you know, someone from Mountain Standard Time has heard about the idea and wants them to open the festival. In the end, the artists decide not to actually get in the water by the fountains. That would mean getting the canoe wet and besides the piece didn't need it. They performed within a very specific area in downtown Calgary and got into trouble for portaging through a pedway (the enclosed bridge over a river of traffic). Now they've had calls from all across Canada and beyond to perform the piece.
The canoe was in a corner of the gallery with television monitor perched inside the hull. All the clothes the artists had worn were lain out to dry inside the boat, including both pairs of Houle's moccasins. We watched ten minutes of the footage as the pair walked through Gastown to the Hudson's Bay, Harbor Center, and The Sea Bus Terminal, where they stopped for a photo op.
What I liked about the piece was the way Terrence chose activities along the way that emphasized his urbanity and challenged the one dimensional text-book illustration. The fact that his costume meant his chest and legs were bare meant he was vulnerable to the cold, wet weather they set out in. His beautiful beaded red breech cloth was made for him for performing in powwows when he was a boy. I don't know who made the matching spandex shorts he wore underneath. At one point he stopped at "The Chop Shop" on Granville to get his hair cut. Glenn Alteen bought the artists beef jerky at the Hudson's Bay which they tried to barter for chocolate at a "free samples" booth. Houle's moccasins got soaking wet in the rain so he went into a store that sold moccasins (and running shoes) in Gastown. He decided to by the ones made in China because they had a plastic sole. (Very practical for the sidewalks and streets of Vancouver). Houle's favorite comment of the day was: "Hey dude, this is like my grade 10 social class." He said that after a while the city just becomes another landscape and the people are like trees. The response he thinks is classic is when people see the canoe coming and they keep their eyes averted and pretend that they don't see that particular part of the urban landscape. Glenn Alteen says there was a difference between the way people reacted based on where they were from. Tourists were puzzled. Canadians laughed because they "got" it.
Houle & Freeman // Portage '007: CRAB Park to Telus World of Science
I asked if they had some kind of ritual they started the journey out with. Houle said they didn't, but the default ritual seems to be some sort of conversation with authority. A shore patrol officer asked if they had a permit to put the canoe in the water. (You also need lifejackets, paddles, and a bailing bucket.) No, they assured him they were drylanders here to portage across the beautiful city of Vancouver. Someone in the audience at the gallery asked how they men had trained for the event. Houle pointed to his beer. "That's how we trained," he said. Ouch. Those guys are going to be so sore today. After hoofing it around downtown and then to Science World they changed back into street clothes and carried the boat up the hill to the Grunt. "Once we changed clothing, it was completely different," they said. "We were just two guys carrying a canoe."
LIVE5 Photos: Portage '007 Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Finale Photo Sets
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Velveeta Krisp and Tyler Wheatcroft's Paris Hilton "ph level"
assault on the the streets of Vancouver's Gastown.
LIVE5 Photos: ph level Photo Set
In the Dutch Light of a perfect autumn Tuesday, Todd Janes presented an exquisite intervention-diptych.
Todd Janes durational performance Iron Man Oct 22-23/07
Todd performed IRON MAN in a metered parking space in front of Pulp Fiction Bookstore. By placing private/domestic/trad-female or sterotypical-gay-male labour/fetishes in a public/corporate space, Todd Janes drew an array of attention from the public. People were amused, curious, entertained, questioning, and sometimes really annoyed with the loss of a parking spot although Todd had filled the meter and had the right to "park" his ironing board between the white lines.
Todd is well-known for this well-crafted agit-prop intervention. He has performed it in many cities (including Victoria last week as a satellite LIVE event). It is the kind of performance the media loves. Although TV/radio/newspapers play the "oooooboy look at the wacky artist" reading of IRON MAN, this intervention-jewel is political, layered and provocative.
Later that afternoon, Todd Janes took the Olympic motto of FASTER! HIGHER! STRONGER! and slowed down with it for a durational intervention. Dressed in drab pants and hoodie, Todd Janes carried several heavy bags of Army & Navy tinned grocery items (what was in those tins? -- coffee? beans? cookies?) and s-l-o-w-l-y walked through the urban madness of the randomly gathered public in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Todd responded to the frequent sirens by s-l-o-w-l-y looking up to the aural trail then continuing his journey. Janes' focussed aktion made me slow down and begin to see the city background as if it were a film or mural. Over the half hour I stayed, Janes' aktions alternated between background and foreground as he oscillated (like a 3D black velvet painting of the Last Supper) between the performer and a background/drone/pulse allowing the random public to "perform".
Todd Janes' Faster! Higher! Stronger!
Janes is surely asking us where the urban competition of faster/richer/more and the Olympic Mania of dislocation/real estate development leaves the poor.
A bittersweet diptych. I bussed/biked back to the south arm of the Fraser River arriving as the sun set and the Dutch light faded to black.
... respectfully submitted by Margaret Dragu
LIVE5 Photos: Faster! Higher! Stronger! Photo Set
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
It is a warm, blue-skyed afternoon. Finally! The original Edmonton Sunshine Boy has brought it with him from sunny Alberta (where real men carry steam irons). Through an e-mail from the artist I know where he's going to be performing this afternoon. Only a select few had the knowledge, until I posted it on the blog this morning. Is this is new trend in performance art--the TBA performance where you need a GPS and a secret handshake to be able to see the artist at work?
I browse the art books in Pulp Fiction with friends while we wait for the artist. Janes has formed an affable relationship with the bookstore, and they seem happy to let him plug his iron into one of their power outlets. I watch the performer from inside the store. He's plunked his iron down right into a prime parking spot and hung two canvas bags over the parking meter, which he keeps plugged with money. I move out to join in the conversation in progress. This is the second day Jane's performed here and he's already made friends. A man wearing several layers of clothes comes by to drop of a green shirt and pants. He shows Todd the salt stains on the trousers, which Todd promises he will try to get out with his spray bottle. The man says he might as well not stay and watch Todd at work, so he leaves. I see he's only gone a few feet up the street to keep an eye on his clothes from the bus stop bench. It's a touching interaction, making the act of ironing a stranger's clothes a tender, considerate act.
Other people have not been so sweet. "What are you doing?" A woman in an SUV trolling for a parking spot demanded yesterday. Todd explained he's ironing clothes. Did you plug the meter?" she asks. "Yes, of course," says good citizen Todd Janes. "Well, how can you DO that on CITY Property?" she whines. "Maybe she should walk instead of driving that hulking SUV," he mutters under his breath to me.
I ask Todd if he feels this is a sexualized act--a gay male stroking the big phallus. "Not really," he says. Okay, that goes that theory. Anyway, that's what I'm thinking about when I'm ironing--chacun a son gout.
Todd is sanguine, but a bit hesitant regarding documentation of his action. He accepts it, but doesn't want it to become invasive. Wouldn't you know that Vancouver's most invasive newsperson (Mike McCardell) happened to see Todd ironing and stuck to him like a fly on a cow pie. He asked Todd if he was crazy. Charming. Then he asked everyone who walked by if they thought Todd was crazy. "That's a leading question, your honor."
One of the cooks comes out of Aurora Bistro to have his apron ironed. The camera hovers like a wasp out for raw meat and McCardell persists, "Why are you doing this?" he asks Todd. "Well, it's about giving things away, Todd says. "Today it's free ironing, maybe tomorrow it'll be free love. Will you be here tomorrow?" he asks cheekily with an exaggerated wink. The reporter turns redder than a sunburnt cowpoke.
My friend Lois gives Todd a vest and a sweater to work on. Julianna gives him a vintage blouse that she's just purchased, which Todd shifts and carefully steams and works the nose of the irons into the corners. He's created a temporary coffee clatch--a place where we can gather and chat about the weather, and the associations ironing has for us. Lois grew up in a Mennonite farming family in Manitoba. She remembers ironing her dad's green Perma Press slacks and work shirts as a kind of ritualistic slavery. First they washed the clothes and then they had to be hung on the line--winter and summer. Then they were brought in and sprinkled with water. Next they had to be lain out flat and rolled up before they were put in the freezer overnight so that the next day they would be evenly re-moisturized. Now they were ready for ironing. She doesn't remember her mother ironing her own clothes--the bulk of this labor of love was for her father.
Lois, an artist who often works with textiles says that when a man irons one thinks of it as part of his profession as a tailor or launderer. When a woman does it we think of it as labor within the domestic sphere. Ironing is a lost art. I don't iron very often, but I have rose-colored memories of mom hanging clothes on the line flapping in the breeze and then the clean smell of the steam iron. After a certain point, she switched to using the dryer and bought fabrics that didn't need ironing. Women's lib through technology.
Todd tells me there is a pursuit called Extreme Ironing. It is a bizarre Internet phenomenon where macho men hike into the jungle or the deep woods with an iron and snap a photo of their accomplishment. That's just weird. What Todd does is perfectly sane. In Victoria, a street person thanked Janes for making living on the street seem more normal somehow. A gesture of kindness. A miztzvah.
LIVE5 Photos: Iron Man Photo Set
The problem with a performance art festival is that it is sometimes too rich--like several months worth of food put down at the table at once. Some courses inevitably get passed over, and there is little time between dishes to cleanse the palate, digest, and fully appreciate what is being served. The table gets messy and bones pile up on the plates. I will revisit one of the "plats du jour."
The performance took place in the over-crowded foyer of the Western Front. There was only room for a limited amount of people to see the action. The people of the stairs were completely out of luck (no room at the table). The actions themselves were so intimate that every person in the audience had a widely varying point of view. The artist wore a black jacket and black pants (the nomadic international artist costume/uniform). She carried a spool wrapped around a pink cotton wool, the end of which was stuck into one nostril. She flung the spool on the table until the string became unraveled. Eventually the spool became detached from the thread and rolled off of the table and onto the floor.
The audience was quiet and focussed, giving their attention to the artist as if they were all working on solving a challenging puzzle in silent concentration. Camera people moved in and out, swooping in like magpies to feast with their eyes. Now that the thread had unraveled, Vassileva carefully tried to smooth it into a straight line. Still attached to her nose, it was like a bubble gum-colored trail of snot. Using a single razor blade, she carefully cut the thread into inch-long pieces attempting to use only one hand. She tried to space each of these pieces out evenly, and straighten them out--an impossible task, since they curled into themselves. Failure was built into the process, and still she used all her energy to complete her secret internalized mission.
Once all the string had been cut, she unrolled a length of double-sided invisible tape and wrapped it around one hand, scrunching her fingers together. At this point she raised her hand and then slammed it on the table, creating a loud "bang!" Some of the pieces of pink thread stuck to the tape. Vassileva tried to re-form the remaining threads into a straight line. She repeated the pounding gesture, and re-formed the line in between each slam. I cringed and recoiled every time she banged her hand on the table. Once the table was clean, she paused and thanked us.
In the round panel the next day Vassileva said she thinks performance artists have an expanded capacity for awareness, which I thought was an interesting observation. Performance art often serves to give us a heightened awareness of political context, physicality, emotional prejudice, and so on. This is in contrast to pop culture, which tends to numb and pacify us into a malleable hypnotic state. The bitter medicinal quality of some live art is not to everyone's taste. The acts that emphasize the liminality of the body, its messy orifices and body fluids can be very unappetizing. Certainly Vassileva's piece made us aware of the female body taking ownership of her own (self-inflicted) pain.
The violence particularly rattled me because I had seen Iwan Wijono tenderly performing a healing ceremony on one of her wrists (the same one?) the day before. I was angry she had undone all his good work. Furthermore, her self-inflicted pain was an act of sacrifice that wasn't on the menu. She gave it to us anyway, as we were a captive audience, trapped by conventions of respect and politesse.
Perhaps the gesture comes from a place of hyper-stimulated empathy--a way of expressing and expelling absorbed emotions from the people around her, from the social tension in the room and even from the residue of built-up psychic energy in the building. (The Western Front formerly held a funeral society, the Knights of Pythius.) What did her action do to the body of the consumer/viewer? Do we recoil, as a the rifle bruises one's shoulder? Do we leave the feast, angry, tired and a bit tender or do we just keep on eating, handing out our plate for more?
Rumor has it Todd Janes will be performing in front of Pulp Fiction on Main Street from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. today.
He will also perform a second piece called "Faster! Higher! Stronger!" from about 4 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. by the water fountain at the Vancouver Art Gallery.
Sunday, October 21, 2007
Okay, I'm bitter. I'll admit it. I'm in a post-festival-within-a-festival funk. Participatory Dissent is almost over. The artists and curators are out whooping it up at a cocktail party as I write. I'm jealous and bitter. Not only did they fill my mind to the brim with powerful images to sift through and process, my body is wracked with physicalized memories and arthritic pain from walking and watching in the rain. Not enough space between events. Not enough time to foment dissent over bitter melon in black bean sauce and beef at the Congee Noodle House on Broadway near Main (highly recommended, btw). An ugly appetite for MORE inter(art)action has been awakened.
LIVE5 Photos: Roundtable Discussion Photo Set
In the meantime, here's a lovely idea from The Bitter Melon Council from The Bitter Melon Week Recipe book. The book contains a recipe from The Red Fez in Boston for a Summertime "G&B" which suggests you make a bitter melon syrup from two bitter melons, a cup of sugar, and the juice of one lemon. You can improvise from there, or mix 2 oz. gin. 1 tsp. Bitter melon syrup, soda water, and ice. Garnish with a slice of lemon and a slice of Bitter Melon. Here's to the better bitter cure (and an end to that fakking rain): "Cheers!"
Holding on and Letting Go
I feel the weight of responsibility, and the privilege of witnessing Muxux Uleu--to be clear, honest, and respectful.
It was like heading off to summer camp. The audience, once again mostly other artists, piled into a big yellow-orange school bus to head for the beach. It was one of those cold, drizzly days that really gets under your skin. There was a shallow circular depression in the sand, about 4 or more feet in diameter. We were on an off-leash dog beach just west of the Maritime Museum. We milled around, taking in the details. We marked the spinnakers, sailboats, and tankers on the horizon. A bald eagle peered down at us from a totem pole. Bags of brightly coloured gumballs lay in the sand. Starlings gossiped in the trees around us flaming with fall color.
The artist was dressed in a black jacket and black pants. He said, "You're the first to begin," and asked me to put handfuls of the candy into the hole. Someone had told me the candy represented "the lost children of Guatemala." I tried to be very respectful of the gumballs, because of what I thought they represented. Other audience members joined in, eager to help create an image they had in their minds of what the ritual would be, based on their expectations and an image of the performance in Chicago which was in the LIVE program.
LIVE5 Photos: Muxux Uleu Photo Set
People were solemn, yet playful. They threw the gumballs in different creative gestures and some popped gumballs into their mouths, snapping and popping bubbles. Whenever a gumball fell outside the circular pit I felt compelled to push it inside, a gesture based on my own preconceptions of what a ritual "should" be. "Now have some tea. " Naufús announced, but there was none to be see for now. We waited and mingled. The waiting made me more ware of my own body and how bloody cold I was.
Next, the artist started to get the materials ready for burning the candy. Because of the damp weather, extreme measures had to be taken--the use of starter bricks and light fluid. Figueroa got the fire started, with people giving them suggestions and warning him not to get lighter fluid on his clothes. The candy in the middle started to sizzle. The fire burnt the color off the tops of the candies, exposing the white "bellies" underneath. The sugar began to caramelize and bubble. The smell was unforgettable--burnt sugar and lighter fluid. It was nightmarish. I thought of my own bitter childhood trauma, my house burning down when I was seven. Tea finally arrived and was served graciously by Trolley Bus pronouncing the blessing, " May your lips never be dry." It was a yerba maté tea mixed with a North American (Coast Salish?) cleansing tea, very appropriate for the occasion, warming, and delicious. People tried to move the fire along, throwing the candy from the edge into the middle and added cardboard and more lighter fluid. Cameras whirred and clicked and murmurations of starlings formed quickly shifting clouds above the trees.
As I witnessed and interpreted this ritual, I saw it as a celebration of inherited tradition and a letting go of the past. There was a quality of indecision in the ritual on the part of the artist which allowed the audience (many of them performers themselves) shape the actions. I suspect that this added to the tension in the piece regarding the preserving and letting go of the past. The shared ritual, if not literally about the lost children of Guatemala, is about the loss of childhood innocence, cutting the umbilical cord of one's birthplace in order to grow into the new (dis)placement.
On Saturday night, Artur Tajber threw it down Old School and won my heart.
Artur Tajber's TIMEMIT - part of Participatory Dissent
Presented at Western Front, Oct 20/07
Artur played with his pre-recorded shadow/mirror self(ves). Sometimes he followed and sometimes he lead his doppleganger. Does foreshadow increase suspense/tension? Does witnessing sequences of repetition (and therefore having knowledge of what is to come) lessen or increase expectation?
The Projected Image of Artur Tajber (through the gravity-defying-benefit-of-editing) broke the laws of gravity and time. But Real Life Artur Tajber sweated and fatigued while lifting/climbing upon heavy tables, spinning and dropping chairs, and walking with a heavy tread in his black boots. What makes us rivet our collective gaze to Artur Tajber's performance of pure form and aktion?
LIVE BIENNALE catalogue suggests Artur Tajber may create some spontaneous actions during the festival. If he does, make sure you go.
... respectfully submitted by Margaret Dragu
LIVE5 Photos: Artur Tajber Photo Set
The Avatar Performance Stream is a new addition to the 2007 LIVE Performance Art Biennial. Named Second LIVE, this co-curated online performance-intervention event happened entirely in the on-line virtual world of Second Life. The two-day event showcased 10 performances by artists who are exploring virtual reality as a new medium for performance art. Performances were broadcast live at the Western Front on Oct 19 and 20, in conjunction with Western Front's event, Participatory Dissent: debates in Performance.
Artists who performed in Second Life for Second LIVE 2007 are:
[click on ++ beside artist name to read bio or visit this bio site directly]
++ Yael Gilks (aka Fau Ferdinand):
All n00bs are Sailors [video clip] / The Siren Act 2
++ Bea Parsons (aka Bea Box):
You want a piece of me?
(Guest curated by Skawennati Tricia Fragnito of AbTeC Network)
++ Bonnie Quaite (aka iheart Kura):
The Dream Never Dies (Just The Dreamer)
(Guest curated by Skawennati Tricia Fragnito of AbTeC Network)
++Tagny Duff (aka Eba Hax):
Skin Relations #1 [video clip]
++ Doug Jarvis (aka Tran Spire):
WoW! Tran Spire visits World of Warcraft
++ Patrick Lichty (aka Man Michinaga):
RGB (Events, 3 color score) [video clip]
++ Second Front:
Theatre of the Subliminal Front (new Ars Virtua sim) [video clip]
(Guest curated by James Morgan of Ars Virtua)
++ Real Identity: Classified (aka Nyko Nakamura):
14 Extra Open Slot Minutes (Courtesy of Nyko Nakamura & LIVE)
While Eating a Sandwich in Real Life
++ Tagny Duff (aka Eba Hax) and Margaret Dragu (aka LadyJustice Beaumont):
Performology Remix #2
LIVE has been developed by Jeremy Owen Turner (aka Wirxli Flimflam), in partnership with James Morgan (aka Rubiayat Shatner) [Ars Virtua] and Natalie Loveless (aka Loveless Finsbury).
A special curatorial initiative by Skawennati Tricia Fragnito (aka xox Voyager) is being developed with the 2007 LIVE Performance Art Biennale's support of Aboriginal Territories in Cyberspace (AbTeC) Network.
Wirxli Flimflam, LIVE Director of Avatar Development, shares his thoughts about the works performed as part of Second LIVE 2007, via this blog: [click on screenshot]
Excerpt from Micheal Morris's and Vincent Trasov's
multimedia media performance, Western Front, Oct 20/07
While Miles Black played mellow jazz stylings on the historic WFront baby grand piano, Michael (Morris) and Vincent (Trasov) showed still photos, film, and power point documentation of mail art/magazines/historic texts. They shared art-object-ephemera with the audience including The Hands of the Spirit, Shark Skin Caps, and a two dimensional shark fin that was passed vaudeville-style-person-to-person-&-row-to-row for some audience participation. Best of all, there was a quiet ironing aktion performed by Michael Morris; he brought out the ironing board, plugged in an iron and reverently ironed a little black cocktail dress. I have seen scads of documentation of his iconic ironing performances from Canada and Berlin but it was a treat to see this live.
Many seminal ideas and concepts were developed in that era about the nature of art, culture, glamour, representation, advertising, image-making, mythology, community, memory. [There is an excellent essay by Scott Watson on the Centre for Contemporary Canadian Art webpage reprinted from the catalogue. Click on Scott's name left and it should take you there or google CCCA.]
The evening was an emotional performance event because many of the artists shown on the screen have left our planet. Watching this "performing archive" was a living memorial to our art comrades who have died.
Film excerpt, detailing the The History of the Sharkfin Cap
from Micheal Morris's and Vincent Trasov's
multimedia media performance at Western Front Oct 20/07
Trasov/Morris balanced fun and nostalgia like two favourite uncles telling epic family stories including the best gossipy bits. Handsomely turned out in suits and Hand of the Spirit jewellery, Trasov/Morris nimbly followed Granada Gazelle's infamous advice "to capture glamour without falling into it".
... respectfully submitted by Margaret Dragu
LIVE5 Photos: Morris/Trasov Photo Set
Saturday, October 20, 2007
Paul Couillard // Activation: Gay
LIVE5 Photos: Gay Photo Set
Paul Couillard // Activation: Male
LIVE5 Photos: Male Photo Set
When it was my turn to visit Marilyn, she led me into the guestroom at the Western Front where she is staying. It's a clean, dimly lit room just big enough for a bed, a desk, and a sink. She asks me to choose a wooden disk after we bother mix a pile of disks up in the bottom of a glass. I closed my eyes and chose "candlelight". We do this ritual three more times and I chose "speaking", "laying down", and "your future." I light three candles. We lay on our backs next to each other on the floor and Marilyn gently invited me to talk about what I imagine my future will be. She will tell me what she wants her future to look like. I feel delighted to share my vision of a big flower and vegetable garden with my own apiary. She sees a garden in her future too, perhaps near the Atlantic Ocean. We drift off together, making observations on lobsters (our lack of them on the Pacific Coast), male performance artists (always torturing themselves for our entertainment), and we shareour love and fear of travelling the globe. I'll admit I was having such a good time with our intimate conversation I felt sad to leave and begrudgingly opened the door to let in another stranger who would visit my new friend.
Outside the room, the bar was in full swing. People were giggling and offering Paul Couillard reading material. Audience members were tasting bitter melon samples and tea served by the Bitter Melon Council, writing down their personal stories of bitterness.
During the 15 minutes I had spent with Marilyn, Jeff Huckleberry had made his way through over half the walls in the tunnel he and his friend had constructed in the gallery earlier in the day. I peered through the wreckage and saw his naked butt staring back at me. "Nice to meet you!" I thought. I looked up to search for the performer's face, but could only see his naked torso straining to punch through the side of the wall his head had already passed through. I moved up and finally saw his face and scalp covered with sweat and dry wall dust.
As he neared the end of the tunnel created out of pine two-by-fours and dry wall, the artist's assistant motioned for everyone to move away from the area in front of the tunnel. When the human steam engine finally broke through we all felt a palpable sense of relief and applauded his efforts. Humbling and inspiring, it was like witnessing the strong-man act at a circus, or the super-human feats of Andre the Giant.
Jeff Huckleberry's performance 16 feet
exhibited as part of Western Front's Participatory Dissent series, Oct 18/07
LIVE5 Photos: Jeff Huckleberry's Photo Set
I went back upstairs to eavesdrop on people filling out the forms created by the Bitter Melon Council. I heard an artist say she had started to write a bitter story, but then thinking it was too personal to share, she tore up the paper. I asked another woman if she would tell me the story she had written down. "My bitter story is about losing my most bitter story," she said enigmatically.
The evening continued with cocktail chatter and so I went to check out the aftermath of Huckleberry's performance. The crew was already busy dismantling the lumber structure and disposing of the broken drywall pieces. The artist sat resting for a moment in a tank top and pants looking calm, flushed, and transformed by his action.
Experience is an arch. Sometimes we pass through it with gentleness, humour, and grace, other times we scratch and bite our way through it. The things we do to meet people, make friends, seize the poetic metaphor of the day. Shop, drop and roll. Shit or get off the pot. Take ownership of your bitterness. Give until it hurts. Invite someone in, and listen to their quiet stories. Look out the window at the squirrel frolicking in the wet leaves across the street. Mourn the tree that used to be there. Above all, do no harm. At every cocktail party there are always casualties. Collateral damage. Wait on the stairs in an imaginary country and wait for the blonde celebrity to flash her bald pussy. Not a bush left standing. We are looking for intimacy in all the trite places. Once in a while something beautiful flashes in the distance, rumbles like thunder under the skin. Suddenly you have made a connection. Communication/art. Social(ized)(ist)/intervention.