See more performance pics on my flickr page.
Cooking In Reverse, September-October 2018
At the invitation of the Body Landscapes Performance Art Festival, Cooking in Reverse proposed an infiltrating performative action in which I accompanied willing participants (residents of Copenhagen) on their grocery shopping excursions in a first instance, to then offer these same participants their favourite meal in their own kitchen. Inspired by yet another food-centred performance that I did back in 2015 called What The Interval Tastes Like (see below), the particularity of this iteration for the Body Landscapes Festival came from its multi-layered relational element. If the meal in question is of a culture that is still new to me I will inevitably become dependent on my guest, likely becoming their assistant while they instruct me on its preparation. This “reverse cooking lesson” thereby invites a “peformative of circumstance,” where food becomes the transactional object (par excellence) calling these encounters into being. In turn, this site of negotiation through which our performative action emerges engenders a project about hospitality: about receiving and being received. And as food/our relationship to it is also intimately connected to a sense of cultural memory, individual/collective experience and identity, it inevitably opened up a privileged space of intimate cultural exchange, where the personal, social, and political became overlapping strands to produce unexpected, and very rich, performative moments. (Photos by David Sebastian Lopez Restrepo & Ellen Friis).
What Goes Around Comes Around, April 2018
I have struggled with food and eating for years. Food is a complex system and I am convinced that how we relate to it as adults largely comes from our experiences in childhood. My mother, for example, being from a poor family had very little of it growing up. Now her fridge and cupboards are always full to bursting. I, on the other hand, had abundance but was surrounded by people who constantly “needed to go on a diet.” Food is there but is always threatening to do harm (or disappear). You can see where all this tangled spaghetti comes from. My stage-based and relational performance art practice has therefore visited this theme in various ways over many years. Inspired by my previous feeding pieces (see below for ESSEN & the Cake Feeding series – performances that took place over several iterations) at the invitation of the “Live Art For Kids” festival presented by liveart.dk at the Brandts Museum in Odense Denmark, I decided to come back to this work, moreover to the “ground zero” of the time in our lives when this complication starts to flourish. Asking kids how they feel about food (and eating), our conversation gave them the floor – but happened while they spoon-fed their parents, grandparents or a complete (adult) stranger. (Photos by Ellen Friis).
Seven Minutes in Heaven, October & November 2017
Two distinct performance situations brought me to the same conclusion, one that I had begun to experiment with a couple of years earlier: the need for negotiation in relational works in order to truly consider audience agency. This, combined with my own very real need for nurturing, brought me to make a specific request: “Can everyone in the room ensure that my feet do not touch the ground for the next seven minutes?” No expectations from me except that I be ready to take no for an answer, and see what happens if people say yes…
Situation 1: New Performance Turku Festival, Turku, Finland, October 2017 (photos by Jussi Virkkumaa and Julius Töyrylä)
Situation 2: Zone Cabaret Su’l’perron 2017 de Zone d’affluence, Mercier, QC, November 2017 (photos by Cindy Doucet)
The Waiting Room / La salle d’attente, September 2017
At the invitation of Folie/Culture artist-run centre in Quebec City, I invested the space of The a-Post Office, a portable structure set up in strategic locations in Quebec’s city centre. Taking inspiration from the idea of the Post Office, this two-day durational, and relational performance became an annex of research into another kind of Doing Nothing – that of Waiting. Standing inside my little kiosk, this Office on wheels transformed into a site of pause: A Waiting Room (Salle d’attente) where I considered what it means to wait, while demonstrating waiting (as we once did when, in a previous era, when we mailed letters and had to be patient about getting a reply). Spending this time thinking about waiting, I sat and waited, and invited people to come and tell me their stories about waiting…or to simply sit and wait with me. (Photos below by Fabien Abitbol, who wrote a nice little piece about the performance here).
The Sanctimonious Sect of Nothing Is Sacred, 2016-present
In May 2016, I embarked on a quest: I decided to make work about nothing. More precisely, I wanted to see if I could undertake to Do Nothing as an art project. But as soon as I began, I was immediately beleaguered by the question: What does that even mean? Does the phrase simply imply “not working?” (As in, “if I’m not working I’m doing nothing.”) Is it a form of resistance? Is it an assertion of Freedom? Is it a state of “pure being?” Is it necessary for our wellness? Pushing opposite impulses together into one pronouncement, Doing Nothing is clearly paradoxical – hence nearly impossible to do. Sitting with the intricacies of these questions – and desires – has become something of a goal for me, and I have taken it on as a lifelong Art/Life project. Not so much to be able to find/perfect a technique, or pinpoint one single definition (or eradicate its contradiction) rather, to acknowledge a multiplicity of ways we can describe/embody/inscribe individual (and collective) acts of Rest, Slowness, Stillness, Interruption, Disruption, of significant Pause. To performatively carve out spaces that create intervals in our daily lives, and, by their very insistence, challenge notions of “productivity,” and the value we place upon time: on how it “should” (supposedly) be spent – and therefore not be wasted. Juxtaposing two seemingly opposing aspirations, the Doing of Nothing pushes against accepted codes of conduct, thereby proposing an inherently political (and performative) act, one that affirms our spontaneity, creativity, and our very humanity. Visit the project blog here.
Year 1: A yearlong project that explored the complexities and im/possibilities of “Doing Nothing” through curated public conversations and collective non-actions, was supported through Montreal artist-run centre DARE-DARE’s 2016-2017 cycle of programming, “La Société des Rendez-vous.”
Year 2: The project was pursued under the title Resting, Walking, Place-Making: The Invisible, Liminal Spaces in Art, a multi-faceted experiential-based artwork spanning the academic year that identified three overlapping and key (though largely imperceptible) strands in the creative/making process. Supported by the P. Lantz Artist-in-Residence program through the Faculty of Education at McGill University in Montreal. (Photos by Rojin Shafiei, Maria Ezcurra and VS).
What the Interval Tastes Like, ORANGE – Triennial of Contemporary Art About Food, September 2015
For its 5th edition, ORANGE (LES VISCÉRAUX), a recurring arts event in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec that functions like a living laboratory to explore issues related to art and the agri-food industry, decided to create a dedicated performance residency program, of which I was a part. Within the same trajectory as my ongoing “Relationships in Residence” (see entry below), and my continued explorations of our individual relationships to food, I proposed accompanying willing participants (residents of Saint-Hyacinthe) on their grocery shopping excursions as well as offering these same participants the possibility of cooking their favourite meal in their own kitchens. I had the privilege of meeting with complete strangers who invited me into their personal, intimate space (whether indoors or out) to share a meal together. In this circumstance, food became a transactional object through which these encounters could take place. In the aftermath of the project, I realized, however, that food was in fact a kind of ruse. This was really a project about hospitality, about receiving and being received. And how we each have our own very distinct way of receiving (and giving). Working alongside three other artists (Céline Boucher, Éric Ladouceur and Arkadi Lavoie-Lachapelle) the residence was curated by Sylvie Tourangeau and culminated in a final performance during the opening of ORANGE in September, 2015. A round table discussion followed the opening, during which time I discussed the notion of food as transactional object within participatory performance actions.
The Listening Sessions, 2013-present
The listening session is an occasion to get together and spend quality time listening to music. The joy that I have known in this process is something that I have always appreciated sharing with others and I am curious to explore how this kind of non-verbal engaging can potentially create connection, even a kind of intimacy, among acquaintances, but especially among ‘strangers’. As music is so very evocative of other times/places and emotions, the experience of the music/listening, in an intentioned, quiet and focused setting, creates a particular zone of ‘communion.’ In this performance the audience is invited to bring a song of their choice which is played off mp3 players in a round-robin dj session. I sit with the audience and we stare at a blank wall, while listening to music together. Participants are invited to say something about the song they’ve selected (if they choose to) which turns into a second stage of presentation: performances of memory through spontaneous storytelling.
The Listening Sessions Performance History
- May 2015: Titled, The MTL Listening Sessions (#3) – MTL sessions d’écoute, presented as part of Centre des arts actuels SKOL performance programming in Montreal, QC.
- April 2015: Titled, The T.O. Listening Sessions (#1) – The ‘Drop In Session’, presented during the open house, RECESS at Artscape Youngplace in Toronto, ON.
- January 2015: Titled, The MTL Listening Sessions (#2) – The Birthday Edition, presented as part of The Link & Pin performance art series at RATS 9 in Montreal, QC.
- December 2014: Titled, The MTL Listening Sessions (#1), presented presented as part of The Link & Pin performance art series at RATS 9 in Montreal, QC.
- June 2013: Titled, The Mobile Listening Sessions, presented during The Works Art & Design Festival at Sir Winston Churchill Square in Edmonton, AB.
Relationships in Residence, 2010-present
This entry acknowledges the processes inherent, and hiding in the wings, of each residence I’ve been doing since 2010. Experimenting with “transactional performance” for some time, my recent experiences in residence have provided precious spaces within which to keep exploring an intentional embodying of “in-between” space. No matter what the final outcome is: whether photo, film, writing, drawing – or even a performance before an audience, the crux of this work is in the very encounters that take place between myself and another. Negotiating interaction in spontaneous encounters that don’t provide guaranteed outcomes. Meeting people and being fully present and available to the meeting. I realized how difficult it is to qualify or quantify such an invisible trajectory. How do you measure the experience? Where is the expertise? The art frame provides an invaluable context and a container within which to carry out this research – an extremely important, and delicate process of personalized social engagement. The joy comes from being able to push past the top layer of surface, to get to something that produces a profoundly consequential exchange. Something that can only happen through time – through having the luxury of time. Time spent doing. Time spent being. Time spent repeating. Being in a quotidian situation, over time, in a place with others. Being in residence. When time allows for the creation and repetition of a routine, the prospect of meaningful contact that is mutually exchanged and acknowledged becomes possible. Whether these are organically occurring routines, such as buying groceries, or consciously constructed encounters, such as inviting specific people to walk with me and share their stories of place. See more images of Relationships in Residence on my flickr page.
Relationships in Residence Performance History
- May – Oct 2013: Dépôt de mémoire (Human Encounters Map), extended residence with Praxis Art Actuel in Ste-Thérèse, QC. See project blog here.
- March – April 2013: This City, My Love (an unspectacular view on Saint John), a 5-week residence with Third Space Gallery in Saint John, NB. See more performance process photos.
- October – December 2012: Bottling Nostalgia, as part of a 2-month residence with FRONDA in Real del Monte, Mexico. See more performance process photos and photos from my final performance.
- November 2010 – March 2012: FatherWork – MonTravail, as part of a 16-month residence at 3e impérial in Granby, QC. See the installation section for more details and film stills and my flickr page for more images.
Stuff, March – April 2010
My first collaboration with sound artist Christian Richer in which we produced a live, participatory installation of drawings and ambient aural textures. Situated in Tenderpixel Gallery in London, UK, visitors were invited to bring an object to which to they felt an emotional attachment. Together, me and guest chatted about the object’s history and personal significance. We also sketched: individual and comparative interpretations of the precious object in question. No drawing experience was necessary! Perfect execution was not the purpose of this interaction – but moreover, about highlighting these fleeting moments of change and exchange. Christian recorded, and transformed these conversations into atmospheric tape loops, slowly building a soundtrack that accompanied the expanding collection of drawings. Connecting, recording, sketching, editing, broadcasting and affixing…constantly evolving and dynamic, our residency at Tenderpixel culminated in an immersive installation of playful images & evocative sounds: an eclectic collection of ‘stuff’. See the installation section for more details and my flickr page for more images.
Bank of Victoria, 2001-2005
As a life-art-corporate-subversion project, the Bank of Victoria was officially opened in June 2001. CEO Victoria Stanton randomly sets up shop providing consultation and cheques to those in need. In June 2003, the Bank inaugurated its official website, www.bankofvictoria.com.
As a relational performance, this project initiates individual encounters between “performer” and “audience.” Ensuing interactions last anywhere from 5 minutes to half hour in this piece that explores our expectations (ranging from what “art” is “supposed” to be to what we as children imagined ourselves becoming as adults), and our varied and difficult relationships to money. By playing the role of CEO (and hence a position of supposed authority) I am (de)positing a grey area between “real” world and “fictional” space while dealing with the concept of “money” as a point of departure into examinations of familial/societal expectations, perceptions of “choice,” the construction of desire, and self-definition.
As a website, the Bank continues to attract many curious surfers and potential customers, in particular for the Financial Partners Enterprise, a program seeking to match poor artists with rich patrons. If you are a rich patron, don’t hesitate to contact me. I have a long list of poor artists waiting to be assisted.
Visit the Bank of Victoria
Bank of Victoria Performance History
- March 2005: Toronto Free Gallery, as part of The Corporate World exhibition, Toronto, ON
- April – June 2003: Espace Vox, taking up weekly residence during Art Qui Fait Boum!, Triennial of Emerging Artists, Montreal, QC
- September 2001: Alizé, during the launch of esse Magazine #43, Montreal, QC
Menu/Please Choose an Item From the Menu/HOTEL, 2001-2003
An exchange for confined spaces as presented in three locations over a two-year period. Individual encounters between “performer” and “audience” occurred in a small tent inside a gallery, then in a hotel room. In each location, the “audience” (comprised of one person) was invited to choose from a selection of four possible topics. Ensuing interactions lasted anywhere from three to fifteen minutes in this piece that explored notions of intimacy, risk, trust and blurred boundaries between art and life; artist and spectator.
Menu… Performance History
- May 2003: The Holiday Inn, Edmonton, Alberta as part of the Visualeyez performance festival.
- November 2001: Gladstone Hotel, Toronto, ON, presented during Reciprocité, a three-city performance exchange between Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver.
- March 2001: Galerie SKOL, Montreal QC, as part of their annual fundraising event.
I have many food intolerances and I love to eat chocolate cake (number one on my “black list”). So, I eat it vicariously through feeding it to others – often from out of their own cupped hands. In this experience of feeding cake, I am interested in the immediate intimacy that is established, in having to navigate the potential awkwardness, in enacting a nurturing (and somewhat decadent) gesture, in negotiating the placement of a fork or spoon in someone’s un-accustomed mouth. This is a slightly cumbersome, yet fulfilling and playful task. The inherent awkwardness and playfulness of such a gesture produces very mixed responses: welcoming, open, laughing mouths, slightly closed, uncertain (resisting) mouths. The piece continues to evolve (with participants feeding each other and myself acting as witness with a video camera) but the intentions remain intact: proposing a quotidian, seemingly banal act as a site of negotiation, deliberation and even celebration in this performance that challenges the audience to let down their guard and temporarily renounce their control.
Weather (and context) permitting, the cake feeding performance is often dolled up with the beautiful “Cutlery Dress.” This chiming sound-costume-sculpture of a dress was created in 2001, and has made several appearances. See more images of Cake Feeding on my flickr page.
Cake Feeding Performance History
- November 2008: Titled, Eat How You Feel, presented during the annual Poetry Gabriola festival, on Gabriola Island, British Columbia. I wore the dress – to great effect – and for the first time, worked with cupcakes. Each cake had a little message pinned to it with a tooth pick. Afterward the eating parade, the “audience” went around reading their messages like the found poetry of a corps exquis.
- September 2008: Titled, Mange tes sentiments, presented during the annual Infr’Action performance festival in Sète, France (without the dress). A lovely fruity cake was served quite early in the morning to passersby in a fresh food market on the street.
- July 2008: Titled, Mange tes sentiments / Eat How You Feel, presented during the annual FIMA festival, in Montreal, QC. (without the dress). This time around, the 16″ x 20″ cake was cut into 2 x 2 pieces, each piece displaying a title, much like a “fortune” found in the centre of a Chinese fortune cookie (except on the outside, where guests could deliberately pick their message).
- August 2006: Titled, Eat How You Feel, presented during the annual Overload Festival, in Melbourne, Australia (without the dress).
- September 2005: Titled, Let Them Eat My Graduation Certificate, as part of the Concordia University 3rd Annual Juried Fine Arts Alumni Exhibition, Montreal, QC. In Let Them Eat My Graduation Certificate the cake (as indicated in the title) was a facsimile of my BFA diploma.
- February 2004: Titled, Ikh Gib Dir Eppes Tzu Essen – I Give You Something To Eat, as part of the Rethinking the Body, Self and Subject in Performance Conference, hosted by Columbia University in New York City.
- January 2004: Titled, Let Them Eat Cake, as part of the internationally web-cast event, Art’s Birthday held at Studio XX in Montreal, QC.
- June 2002: Titled, Evidence II, during the InterAzioni festival in Sardinia, Italy.
- March 2002: Titled, Evidence, during the Festival Voix d’Amériques in Montreal, QC.
- November 2001: Titled, (If) not for me, (if) not for you at Grunt Gallery as part of Live: The Vancouver Performance Art Biennale in Vancouver, BC.