Friday, October 23, 2009

to love - verb

I suppose that it was appropriate to experience Verb Woman through actions: to volunteer, to make tea, to rearrange chairs, to photocopy the newspaper crossword puzzle for the artist's props.

Margaret Dragu as Verb Woman was today concluding three days of "Performance-aktions about forgetting and disintegration of memory" at VIVO Media Arts Centre. I had the pleasure of assisting her with the final hours of these aktions and I managed to see a portion of her final performance. In it Dragu, assisted by Paul Couillard, performed the body's memorized, repetitive gestures, as those enacted by a body marked by advanced Alzheimer's Disease (folding, folding, stashing, petting). When I left, the two of them were sitting, making these motions, in front of the projection that Dragu had built over the previous days. In the video she was again enacting some of her vocabulary of verbs, this time in layers, beginning alone and then adding herself over top the previously recorded and projected image. For some of these videos, four Margarets were recorded, the latest one always a generation sharper than the previous, and most often more expressive (less bound to semantic meaning) than the last. Finally, a swirl of Margarets made a mockery (or a revelry) of the verb's demands. At times it called up for me the dance in the recreation room of the nursing home, after the feeding, the medicating, the bathing, the napping are done.

Curator Velveeta Krisp's accompanying text is an experiment in art writing that describes the development of Margaret Dragu's aesthetic of verb-based performance. In 200 (or so) short poetic lines, she works out some of the critical themes that have developed in Dragu's prolific past, including the arrival of Lady Justice and Verb Woman into her art repertoire and life.

So I sadly had to leave this site of loving remembrance and love for the gesturing body to hear about truth and reconciliation in the Vancouver art world. [Thank you Kika for reading those lovely bits about/by Spinoza while I drove us to Granville Island.] I have been surprised by freely offered references to love flowing through what I have seen at LIVE2009 [LOVE2009]. What a contrast to the urgent and uncomfortable talks this evening where artists were confronting and verbalizing a struggle to believe in the value of their work as artists (Speaking Truth to Reconciliation Forum). It makes all the more remarkable the joyful anarchic (see post re:Ferrer below) confidence that I have witnessed in these few shows.

And love is all over the meaning in The Politics of Romance, an exhibition of emerging artists at a new space, 221A Artist Run Gallery. This exhibition of three video installations curated by Debra Zhou opened last night with a set of performances curated by one of the artists, Francisco-Fernando Granados. The exhibition is fitting for LIVE2009 in that each of the three works picture the creators making performative gestures in front of the camera. It is romantic: Sarah Viscardi Harruthoonyan's Pure Fantasy is fresh beauty, a dream world fantasy; Francisco-Fernando Granados' The Dedication overlays desire and rejection with race-based anxieties; and then, Tara Arnst's Ocean Without a Shore materializes a slow transformation of a body shedding a socially-proscriptive identity. This show is an indulgence in a birth, death, rebirth drama, with subtle references to racialized subjectivity. I admire how integrated its politics are with the most personal of dramas. Each of the artworks in this small exhibit picture the body holding close, owning its experience of beauty, desire, and loss --despite histories of contested ownership, citizenship, emancipation, and power.


I managed to see a couple of the 221A performances, also by emerging artists.

Manolo Lugo performed a Margaret Dragu style of verb - he folded a mass of clean laundry, his and his partner's.

Zara Ackerman attempted a dialogue with more established artists through endurance bubble gum action.

Lois Klassen

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