19 October 2005


Marnie Badham

Envision endless miles of rolling hills and hidden coulees, where buffalo once roamed and SittinBull took refugeNow - picture dancers moving across the landscape, kites flying, a dance festival onmain street, an Aeolian Harp being played by the wind. Inspired by native prairie grasslands and thesocial and cultural history connected to it,Grasslands - Where Heaven Meets Earth - was an outdoor performance telling the stories and celebrating the community surrounding the Grasslands National Park in southwest Saskatchewan. It told the stories and celebrated the communities surrounding the National Park and their relationship to the land:ranching families, historical aboriginal settlements, the town of Val Marie, local artists, and the inspiration of many other professional artists from across Canada. ‘Amazing’, ‘transformative’, ‘empowering’, ‘community building’,‘thought-provoking’ describe some of the reactions of the more than 800 spectators,performers,and community participants who witnessed and took part in Grasslands.Common Weal Community Arts facilitated community-based projects and the creative vision of Montreal choreographer Bill Coleman that culminated in an outdoor site-specific performance. Visual artist Edward Poitras was the major visual collaborator in set, installation, and costume;Ontario based composer Gordon Monahan created original soundscape short band radio broadcast for the procession of 400 cars into the park; other dancer/ collaborators included: Margie Gillis (Canada’s National Treasure) ,Johanna Bundon, Katherine Oledski, Robin Poitras, Krista Solheim, Jennifer Dahl, David Pressault, Peter Trotzmer, Carol Prieur, David Earle, and Laurence Lemieux. Marnie Badham, GM of Common Weal, will show clips of the video documentary being produced from the event. She will discuss Common Weal’s artistic vision of Artist and Community Collaboration and its relation to audience development, or rather- engagement. Her presentation will speak to the development of community ownership and the promotion of cultural identity through artistic expression.Common Weal is a provincial arts organization that links artists with community to promote social change and provide a forum for voice. It has been Common Weal’s experience that participatory, community-presented arts projects involving collaborations between aspiring artists and mentoring professional artists make significant contributions to the broader arts community. We look to the communities with whom we work to provide us with their own definition of culture and their own understanding of the issues their community faces.These unique expressions of social values, beliefs, and attitudes are often communicated to the broader public through presentation of the work in order to create the forum for dialogue and hopefully, understanding.

Naomi Campbell
“Principles for a New Producing Paradigm”

Drawing on the practice of Mammalian Diving Reflex, I will address the challenges of producing theatre in a difficult financial climate when fairness, creativity and workplace integrity are essential to the philosophical principles of the company Mammalian Diving Reflex’s catch phrase “Ideal entertainment for the end of the world”expresses our desire to facilitate the end of thisworld – the world of outrageous disparity and despair,of greed and anger, and plain old bad moods.By extension, our work is intended to support and contribute to the beginning of the new – and finally equitable – world, through its form,content and methodology.While the work of Mammalian Diving Reflex can happily be described as political theatre,we have tried to come up with other ways of articulating that idea, so as not to scare our audience with the notion of something prescriptive, something good for you but not very tasty. Something more devious, more subversive is required, and a sense of humour about our own didacticism is more effective than infoladen polemic. By keeping the theatrical standards high we hope to sweep the audience into a new state of mind so that observers become participants and consequently implicated in our process. Theatre can inspire change in people, and it can drive them to act; at best it is catalytic, not only for our audience but for us too. If it changes us, not only by the content we choose to investigate but by the way we go about doing the work, then we are succeeding.Radical work practices make space for radical work, which makes space for more people, more ideas, more interconnectedness, more support, more art and, in the end, more hope.

David Garneau
“Do You really Want to Hurt Me?:the problem of feeling in the criticism of works of art”

Before and certainly after Kant, art has been seen as the domain of feeling. There is a tendency among the world’s greatest thinkers to exile all the messy bits left over from logic analysis and all the human made data that will not compute, to the island of Art. Even the most tough-minded get all mushy and Romantic when their attention turns to the arts. Art is the site of the remainder, the superfluous, the extra-rational and the marvellous, a place where reason is thought to be useless. And yet, there is a species of reasoning, an undisciplined discipline that attempts to make sense with art-criticism.It is a paradoxical and playful form of intellectual inquiry that perpetually seeks to order its subject and become disordered by it.My short paper will consider why intellectuals need art as an extra-rational site,why artists buy into the resulting role and why they have a love/hate relationship with criticism.I will examine both formal,critical writing and informal critique and why artists have such mixed feelings about these intrusions.The underlying subject of the paper is what degree art is play or work and, depending on the degree, whether it should be subject to critique at all.

Kathleen Irwin/Rachelle Viader Knowles
“Space and Subjectivity/Place and Presence”

Citing recent examples of site-specific performance/installation taken from their own collaborative and individual practice, the panelists will explore the notion of representation in space and how subjectivities are made complex when considered through spatial practice. In recent years,a rich body of expression has emerged to question conventional approaches to space. These works reorient the environmental fields that shape the work and the spatial relationships between the spectator, performer, and setting. Attempts to rethink space in performance have led to the creation of exciting new genres, including works that explore technological strategies of telematics and teleprescence and environmental, landscape, community-specific and site-specific work. Though different in form these experiments push against the boundaries of embodied subjectivity. Not only do they reorient the disembodied position that is normally accorded to the spectator-subject, but they also unsettle the subject’s self-conscious and fixed position in space. The panel asks how specific places and related practices can test the limits of performing self in our contemporary, largely urban world. Works cited focus strongly on the notion of subjectivity and the spatial relationships of both the work and the spectator to the site of the performance – specifically the way individuals trace their own paths through the urban landscape of functionalist reality. Much of the work discussed responds to the current ubiquitous focus on the legibility of the urban environment, its simultaneous interiority and exteriority, its intersecting private and public spheres and how the pursuit of spatial intelligibility stands as a dominant cultural activity.

Jillian Mcdonald
“Interventions in Everyday Life”

A version of this presentation was previously given at College Art Association’s annual conference held this February in Atlanta, Georgia for a panel titled ‘Contact: Works that Create a Community through Physical, Virtual, or Momentary Relationships’ and moderated by artist/curator China Blue.

I will present and discuss documentation of several related public performance interventions such as Houseplant, MileShare, and Advice Lounge. I will further discuss two works in progress planned for New York City in 2006. This work relates to a gift economy, where personal services such as homedelivered houseplants, mile-long walks, advice, messages of love, and video smiles are offered free of charge to strangers in urban everyday locations. Outside of the home contact is fleeting. Perfunctory conversations with the bank teller, the glances of curiosity in the subway, are two simple exchanges in which urbanites make contact with strangers. Our idea of contact is primarily a utilitarian one. If one would map these momentary gestures or actions the result would be a web of actions that formulate our social fabric and create the essence of a community. It is by constantly re-engaging these actions in our community that the social network is configured. It is a process that triggers a person to pay attention. Collectively my projects are part of an ongoing series of interventions in public spaces that attempt to arrest everyday activities from their usual associations. Meaning-making is an activity that is shared between participant and artist. As co-authors, the two parties are equally necessary for the project to occur and while the artist is not separated from the work, the audience is not in awe of it. It is entirely possible that the work may not be recognized as Art. I am interested in moving from neighbourhood to neighbourhood in order that I am always the stranger and that the audience is always new and primarily ‘found’.

During Houseplant, I invited strangers to choose a houseplant from a storefront installation and call me to arrange a delivery. I would then visit them in their homes and help them find a location for their new plant.Houseplant was performed for five months in New York City,sponsored by The Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and The Town Hall Gallery in Flushing, Queens. In MileShare, I invited passersby to walk or run a mile with me in their city.I asked them to choose a mile of personal significance, inviting me into dialogue about their socio-economic-politicalpersonal arenas. This project was performed at The Cleveland International Performance Art Festival and CAFKA in Kitchener. While some participants acted as tour guide, others took the walk as a free ambling adventure or an exercise. For Advice Lounge, a website and performance, I invite strangers to visit a URL online or via facing laptops on site, in order to seek free advice.

Advice Lounge has been performed in Saskatoon (Spasm Public Art Festival); Tallinn, Estonia (ISEA2004);Vancouver (New Forms Festival); and The University of Utah’s Symposium on Art and Technology. New York is notoriously unfriendly and anonymously cold. I will also discuss plans for my upcoming Free Smiles and I Love You projects. The first uses public video kiosks, handheld devices, and the web to gather smiles of passersby in an urban setting and offer free smiles on a busy street. These projects have received support from The Canada Council and Pace University. Thsecond uses purchased and returned items to distribute a message of love to random consumers. The work I have undertaken has created community through Physical, Virtual, and Momentary relationships. My intent is to show how the process of establishing relationships creates content in art production, the methods that are being used to create these relationships and how these methods create and reflect a sense of temporary community.

MJ Thompson
“From Stage to Exhibition Space: Remarks on the Afterlife of Performance”

There has been increasing interest in recapturing key moments of performance history within the context of museum exhibitions. Examples include the recent Trisha Brown retrospective at the New Museum-a show that included Brown’s drawings, choreographic scores, dance films and photographs of performance-and Norman Frisch’s “Show People”at Exit Art-which assembled five discrete environments made by American theatre practitioners, drawn from their performance archive of films, objects, notes and so forth.Focusing on my own experience as curator of Marking Dance:Documents from Judson Memorial Church,presented at New York University in fall 2002, this talk reflects on how the archive revises performance and performance history, and considers how museum display may memorialize original performance work.

Adrienne Wong
“Your Turn”

Canadians are hungry for the interactive experience. Not only that, we are ready for fun. No longer satisfied with passively watching characters and situations develop onstage, in movies or on TV, we demand participation.We dial in by the millions to vote for idols, idiots and fifty tracks.We yell out suggestions from the crowd.We watch for tongue-in-cheek references to current events. Anything that can connect our quotidian lives with the performance presented by the media.Yet the art form that has the potential to be most interactive, the medium that draws audience and performers together into a shared experience, is suffering from falling attendance and stagnant imaginations. It isn’t fun anymore. Vancouver-based, freelance theatre-maker and broadcaster Adrienne Wong has extended her practice into radio and in an attempt to cultivate interactivity and fun over the airwaves.

Seeking an immediate interface with the audience and a shared, real-time experience, Wong founded North by Northwest Games Day with host and producer Sheryl Mackay. North by Northwest is aired across British Columbia from 6:00 – 9:00 a.m. Saturday and Sunday mornings on CBC Radio One. Using the familiar medium of board games,Wong and Mackay created an interactive site for play that extended across the province. On Games Day, callers play games like Scrabble and Celebrities, jamming the switchboards and connecting across kilometers. In her paper “Your Turn,” Wong exposes the impetus for founding Games Day, successes and challenges of playing board games over the airwaves and imagines future directions for the initiative. Wong will also present archived audio clips from the Games Day events and may even try to play a game with whoever shows up to listen.…

Maiko Bae Yamamoto
“Tiny Thinking: Building for a very Small Stage. Box Theatre”

The Vancouver theatre scene is fast gaining national and international attention for its site-specific works. With this summer alone seeing two huge site-specific spectaculars happening in Stanley Park and Granville Island respectively, it made me ponder why these works do so well here. The answers were obvious to me, they combine two things we in the west love most: being outside in the summertime and a kind of contagious city pride; reinventing favorite spots we all know and love. I couldn’t help but get lured in by the other possibilities. If we can challenge our audiences and tell them to look up, across and around,we can certainly ask them to enter a small box and watch a play unfold one on one: that is, one actor, one audience member. Nose to nose.That’s not asking too much, right?

I first encountered box theatres at Cervantino, a huge international performance festival in Guanajuato Mexico. Part of the uniqueness of this festival are, funnily enough, its huge, outdoor, large-site works, which are equipped with such things as inflating castles, hot air balloons and pyrotechnics, and its street theatre.What interested me most about the box theatre is the uberintimacy it seemed to create between two people in the midst of these huge roving crowds. For the moment, you are confined to a very small space and you are undeniably engaged with this stranger performing in front of you.What’s more,from the outside,watching someone go through the performance is a show within itself. The performer is madly moving arms and legs to make things happen on the inside, and this is resulting in audible gasps and squeals. As much as I appreciate all the site-specific works being done here, I like theatres. I like the bells and whistles that come with performing in theatres, and I like the control. My company, Theatre Replacement, was commissioned to produce a show for the annual Powell Street Festival (a celebration of Japanese Canadian culture) and I proposed the idea of BOX THEATRE. This summer, I will be performing and directing 6 shows for the tiny stage. The boxes will be on stage at the Firehall Theatre and also on site at the festival grounds in Oppenheimer Park. Already, as I begin to build my box and my show, I am facing some interesting challenges. My paper will focus on the process of creating BOX THEATRE and the specific challenges inherent to working in such a tiny scale.


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