Monday, October 19, 2009

Even though it’s nearly winter, things are pretty lively here in the heart of Vancouver.

Last week’s invitation for me to blog about LIVE2009 was just what I needed to get out the house, away from the books and down into the rainy town. So far the festival has made me laugh myself silly (at the post-recession, post-arts cuts, small-f fund-raising Gala Cabaret); kept me in rapt silence through a night of love & honour for the art of performance art festivals, from pasts into present; and (also a folding of past onto the present), it has allowed me to hear reflections from artists whose entanglement with this art form has extended 30 or 40 years.

Some highlights so far --

The crowd on Friday night was absolutely taken with the clown Booshmeeka (Pricilla Costa) as she set up the situation of a clown willfully rejecting her own props. Owing in part to the crowd’s high performance art literacy, Costa’s resentful clown made large the situation of being made to act something that is completely outside of ones self-understanding. Whose faces was she making?: an annoyed teen, inveigled upon to show up sober at a family dinner, in straight clothes?; or maybe we were seeing the look of artists being told that anti-celebratory messaging is now illegal, along with access to the downtown so that a couple of weeks of elite sports broadcasting can proceed? … gawd that was funny …

Joomi Seo and Heidi Nachtegaal’s first presentation of their experimental music-making was intriguing despite glitches (the projection was on the wrong wall). Again, I have the impression that the context made their work into something much richer than the thing they had rehearsed. It was an assembly of spiritual elements –synthesized organ, atonal singing and spoken word about a higher power or essentialist meanings about self (I think) with a flickering white orb projected to the side. Set within a raucous night of begging for arts money, cheezies & booze, flinging bras, boy-on-boy Cuidadito, and more, the Seo Nachtegaal composition was to me a very fresh experiment –an indulgence into a reflective aesthetic that perhaps folds minimalism over-top spiritualism.

And, I can’t tell you how great it was to see Velvis, the act resulting from **’s year or so of Elvis training. This King is lithe, smart and musical, born of her admiration and respect for well-crafted music, hard work and good looks (she features his early songs). Velvis, it is so great to have you back in action!!

[**October 21 - I should have know that the tribute artist's straight identity is never to be exposed... not even in blogs about performance art festivals. My apologies V.]

Everyone was impressed with Velveeta Krisp’s intervention at the Hastings Steam Bath on the opening night of the festival. She arranged to have the admission fee waved for women, a recognition of the restrictions of women in men-only saunas and bathhouses. [I missed it for the performance of taking my ethno botanist-wannabe son to hear Wade Davis give the Massey Lecture at the Chan Centre.]

This invitation to blog is offering me a new experience, that of watching a festival thoroughly. I have so far been a casual observer (and casual practitioner) of performance art. Shannon Cochran in her introduction to her Performance Festival Performance said that most people don’t have the experience of seeing more than a single night or event at a performance art festival. She aimed to demonstrate her love for the intense experience of following the arch of theatre within the whole event by re-performing choice gestures from last year’s 7a*11d Festival in Toronto. She described it as a ‘love letter’ to the artists and their art form.

That affection-inspired mimicry set up a (loving) readiness for the past that was needed to view Lee Wen’s The Rite of Spring (Le Sacre du Printemps). In this work Wen’s body, which now carries the marks of scoliosis and early Parkinson’s, was animated by Stravisnky’s once controversial ballet score. At one point he used his wise body in a girl’s bright red halter dress to propose to the audience that he would like to be part of our revolution. And then, he slowly conceded to the futility of that proposition by eating the paper on which it was written. The dialectic of Wen’s hopefulness and futility was woven with tributes for the past (iconic references to Nam Jun Paik) and materials gathered in this place and time (the day’s paper, fresh milk and apples).

The following day in his remarks at the round table talk, Wen described replaying performances from the past as “working on an archive.” He talked about how a re-staging or referencing of the old in a new work was a way to make an archive of the past alive. His words were something like: “If it sits in a drawer of photographs it is dead. It is only alive when people talk about it or re-stage it.” He was in conversation with veteran performance artists Esther Ferrer, Lee Wen, Valentin Torrens, Glen Lewis, Chumpon Apsiuk, as well as younger but experienced practitioners Paul Coulliard, Shannon Cochran and Randy Gledhill. Ferrer made the distinction of performance art being a presentation of an experience rather than its representation, which is the state of documentation (video or photographs) of performance after the fact.

See you at Esther Ferrer’s performance at the Vancouver Art Gallery tomorrow (October 20 2009) at 7pm!

Lois Klassen

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post, thank you.
Just wanted to add the 'e' to my last name...another nod to the past that my family would enjoy ;)
Shannon Cochrane