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Entries in performance (36)


Tanya Tagaq: Nanook of the North, 2012

Amid all the flurry of Tanya Tagaq's soundtrack to a re-issue of Robert Flaherty's 1923 silent film, Nanook of the North, here is an earlier video where she explains throat singing.  She appears to be in the British Museum, an interesting post-colonial meeting of ancient cultures, hers a bit older than the one in the background.

And here is a short excerpt of her performance at TIFF First Peoples 2012, accompanying the screening of Nanook of the North.

Flaherty's view of the north, based on laughing children and naive hunters bringing pelts in to a Hudson's Bay post, was famous and deeply patronising. 

Tagaq's soundtrack (composed by Derek Charke, with Tagaq and musicians Jesse Zubot and Jean Martin), the power of the voice, the chords, the sound of the wind and the animals, goes a long way to undercut the paternalism of Flaherty's gaze.  Tagaq's is a complex post-colonial project: to walk forward to encounter the colonial past and, while protecting, even feeding, the subjects of the film, to reveal the ethnographic expoitation of the filmmaker.  It is complex because although the Inuit in the film are real, this first film that showed how they lived was completely constructed by Flaherty. 

I saw Nanook of the North a long time ago, in the ealy 90s, and had to watch it in two minds: one saw the people, the other saw the ways that 'the people' were being made palatable to the film-going public through a sentimental narrative that goes, still, to the heart of attempts at reconciliation culminating in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report released this week.  The more we see the truly tragic little people sitting at their desks in their Residential Schools, being so good, and so sad, the more they seem to obliterate the images of their descendents who are still struggling: not as photogenic, more present as some work at keeping one's alleys free of bottles, others get their PhDs.  The great awakening of the Canadian public to Residential Schools (why they needed awakening is a mystery as almost every community in Canada knew precisely where the school was) has, I fear, awakened a sentimentality that does not lead anyone out of the woods. 

Here, in all its endless insult is Flaherty's Nanook of the North:



Llorando se fue

All right, it is late July, it is hot, it is almost the weekend.  Yesterday, the ice cream van tootled down the street playing Lambada, a great advance on last summer's Theme from The Sting, over and over and over.

I have a list here of various versions of Llorando se fue, the song first recorded by the Bolivian group Los Kjarkas in 1981.  Kjarkas taught Andean folk in both Peru and Ecuador and they and the music travelled far; in the 1990s a little Andean group could be found in most North American plazas or busy street corners:  the one outside The Bay on Granville and Georgia in Vancouver was a solid fixture, eternally good-humoured while playing on the grey streets in the rain. 

Llorando se fue was recorded in 1989 by Kaoma in Portuguese whereby it became the Lambada and a huge pop hit.  I first heard it the first morning I was in Barcelona where two gitanos (always up on the absolutely latest tunes) with an accordian and a guitar were playing it at triple speed under the balcony.  I was entranced.

This is an early video version of Llorando se fue, where Gonzalo Hermosa González looks about 15.

and then what happens when it goes French:  Kaoma and Brazilian Loalwa Braz and two rather brilliant child dancers. 

 Honestly. The eighties. They were fun.  in places.


Kidd Pivot | Crystal Pite: Dark Matters

A different take on dark matter, and its metaphoric corollary, dark matters. Crystal Pite and Kidd Pivot take the sense that dark matter, the 95% of everything that exerts force and gravity but cannot be seen or even measured, pushes us around in ways we often do not understand.  As do dark matters, those pulls and pushes of irrationality that have our rational selves, our known world, bouncing around in a kind of Brownian motion.  

Here dark matter is not visualised in an act of control, instead its own controlling force field is explored.  Dancers are particles busy, busy, folding and stretching, pulling and falling, seemingly random, in the end using dark matter as an analogy of free and unfree will.

Pite explains it thus: Dark Matters is structured into two distinct acts: Act One portrays the tension between creation and destruction through a decidedly theatrical fable; the players are manipulated by anonymous puppeteers who drive the narrative yet subvert its artifice. Act Two is pure dance, with choreography that aspires to the impossible purity and grace of a marionette, while grappling with the essential question of free will, and the conflict inherent in manipulation. The revelations of Act One inform the way we view the dancing in Act Two.

Max Wyman has written, Dark Matters does what great art always does: encourages conjecture, invites reflection on what it means to be human.  Thank you Max. 


the air that I breathe – Abdulnasser Gharem: Flora and Fauna, 2007

Flora and Fauna by Abdulnasser Gharem from Installation Magazine on Vimeo.

I would say this tree had been pollarded, pleached and trimmed. 


not safe, not suburban

Suzanne Moore wrote a good piece in the Guardian about how postmodernism put paid to the avant-garde which can perhaps only exist within modernist certainties.  She writes:   Reed's death has hit my generation because his presence anchored us into a time and a place when the avant garde was still meaningful. .. His death made us remember the music that made us want to leave our small towns and our small lives, a time when transgression was not simply a marketing technique.

Take a Walk on the Wild Side was all over ordinary radio in 1973, when I remember listening to it, in Nanaimo, during my year out from the AA.  It didn't shock, it seemed right, I got it, as did we all.  

It was reportage.

sorry, I didn't ad the ads, they just all of a sudden have started to appear.  damn. 

Marketing, the bane of contemporary life. 


Queen of the Rushes

Michael and Paddy Rafferty in Galway, September 1982. 

This is lilting, puirt a beul in Scottish Gaelic, portaireacht bhéil in Irish Gaelic: rhythm and tone, mouth music, coded messages perhaps, perhaps vocables.  Can't understand it, but I do like the ties, the shirts, the concentration, the relative immobility of the two brothers, the relentless beat.  This is a lovely thing.


Lisbon: two projects:: Zuloark, Toran and Kular 

The Universal Declaration of Urban Rights

Zuloark (Spain)

Universal Declaration of Urban Rights, Zuloark, 2013

The introduction:  'Between 1986 and 2002, the Portuguese Association of Landscape Architects’ rules, codes, ethics and mission were designed, written and conducted from within the walls of the palace.

Presented as an infrastructure for communal reasoning about the rights to the city and the rights of being a citizen, the intent of this project is to build a Universal Declaration of Urban Rights, aiming to reach a consensus about the methodologies that regulate the construction, legislation and use of public space. Every Tuesday at 19:00, there is a Parliamentary Session led by guest speakers, open to the public, that contributes to the making of one article. Based on a trial and error methodology, the declaration will evolve as the project develops, throughout the course of the exhibition, written in successive drafts, throughout the course of the exhibition.'


In Dreams I Walk With You

Noam Toran (US) & Onkar Kular (UK)

Noam Toran & Onkar Kular. Mário Castelhano, 1928 © Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal. On 31 January 1912, 620 anarcho-syndicalists were arrested in the then headquarters of the movement, located at Palácio Pombal. Expelled from the building at gunpoint, it was reported that the anarchists proudly sang “The International”, before being led away.The description:  'A theatrical piece inspired by the “Worker’s Theatre” of the early 20th century in Europe, whose remit was to depict the struggle of the working class with the aim of arousing social consciousness and collective action. The subject of the play focuses on the relationship between Mário Castelhano (1894–1940) and Manuel Rijo (1897–1974): railworkers, militant anarchists, and syndicalist organisers who shared most of their adult lives in exile or imprisonment. Set in a degree zero architecture, the prison cell, the piece depicts a series of daring 'escapes' in which the prisoners mentally construct varying utopias to imaginatively travel to.  The work is accessed in the form of a written script, facing a theatre set empty of actors. At once a commemoration of the humanist values of political anarchism and a reflection on the fragility of contemporary political culture, the work is a meditation on the inherent problems of, but necessity for, the desire and production of utopias.'


Frida Escobedo: the public stage is the quite confusing but graphically beautiful website for the triennale.

The Lisbon Triennale is launched, its theme: When do we produce architecture?  Frida Escobeda, who we published a long long time ago, issue 13 perhaps, has set up the Praça da Figueira as a stage. 

The intro says: 'What happens if a real-life public stage, a civic stage, is suddenly unveiled in our cities? What would happen if we reframe the tamed reality of public space into a theatrical site of exchange were can collectively perform our aspirations? Would fiction become real life and vice versa?'

The program, New Publics, has scheduled a number of performances and acts on Frida's stage, a floating disc, above, including City Acts, below, described thus:

'City Acts are three long-term city initiatives that address the domestic, the social, and the public space. Developed similar to ethnographic projects, they frame consistent dialogue and fieldwork as the main motor to create diverse and dynamic civic spaces. The success of all three initiatives relies on community support, which demonstrates the power of people working together.'  


Ground Floor Act, 2013 © ARTÉRIA. This group is made up of Artéria (Portugal), Daniel Fernández Pascual (Spain) and Unipop (Portugal))The triennale runs from September 12-November 10, 2013. 


Andy Plant: orrery, 1997

Andy Plant. Orrery built for the 1997 Stockton Theatre Festival. A 40′ high, temporary outdoor floating sculpture, where a rotating orrery, with planets, is operated by a performer inside the main sphere.


Vancouver Art Gallery

Much dismay that the Vancouver Art Gallery is going to move out of its present location, the classical Rattenbury court house on Georgia Street, and into a new building on the site of the old bus depot on Cambie.  The streets don't mean much to those who don't know Vancouver well, but the bus depot site is at the end of Georgia that is accumulating large cultural edifices: the CBC building, Vancouver Public Library, the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, and now the art gallery.  

The QE Theatre — an opera and ballet hall – is in its original 1959 Affleck building, the library moved from its 1957 Burrard Street location and building into the 1995 Safdie coliseum-referenced library on Georgia: Library Square with huge public spaces in and out, often used by the CBC as performance space.  The CBC is in a 1975 Merrick building on Georgia, expanded in 2009 (Dialog and Bakker) to include a 4000 square-foot performance studio and a glassy public face on the street.  The 1958 McCarter Nairne Post Office building, also on Georgia, its future very much in danger, has been discussed as a possible home for the Vancouver Art Gallery: right location, large industrial spaces, although its massive structure would make changes almost prohibitively expensive, plus it was sold in March for $159 million to a developer.

The Vancouver Art Gallery's first building was built in 1931 on a 66'-wide lot (the original CPR survey grid based on chains for residential plots) a couple of blocks away on Georgia from the Hotel Vancouver.  It looked like a bank vault, which says something about the way art was perceived, as a precious commodity meant to be safeguarded.
Vancouver Art Gallery under construction, 1931. Art Deco single storey gallery on a 66' lot in a residential area - 1145 W. Georgia Street. CIty of Vancouver Archives AM54-S4-: Bu P401.1McCarter Naire Architects, Vancouver Art Gallery, 1931The building was given an International Style renovation and expansion in 1950 by Ross Lort: a part plate glass front wall, part slab, all offset planes and classic white gallery space behind.  It had become a small, exceptionally accommodating gallery that under the direction of Doris Shadbolt and Tony Emery, was at the centre of the explosion of art and performance, from N.E. Thing Co to Gathie Falk, in Vancouver in the 1960s and early 1970s. 

Ross Lort, architect. Vancouver Art Gallery, 1950.

Then, in 1983, the Vancouver Art Gallery moved to the Erickson-renovated 1911 court house building, made redundant by the 1980 Erickson-designed Law Courts complex and Robson Square which filled the two blocks to the west behind the court house.  It seemed appropriate in the ghastly post-modern 1980s when protests on the Court House steps were over, and museums, opera companies and symphonies turned to block-buster shows for survival, that the VAG be housed in the pomposity of a building shouting out its authority.

Vancouver Art Gallery, 1983-present.

Art goes on no matter what the official gallery is, artists challenge and change; where they do it and where you see it is worthy of attention.  In the 1980s artists were like the punk scene occupying marginal and arcane spaces, they certainly weren't in the main spaces of the new Vancouver Art Gallery in the way that they had fluidly slipped in and out of the old modernist unpretentious gallery down the street.  The more we pull access to art out of the everyday, the more inexplicable it becomes to the everyday.  Much like the original 1931 vault-like gallery, the court house gallery demanded, simply by the architecture itself, reverence for the exceptionalism of art.

I'm not unhappy to see the Vancouver Art Gallery leave the court house building, but one does worry about the current civic support, all over the country, for Bilbao-effect galleries and museums.  By their very spectacularity they become objects rather than fabric, appropriate one would think perhaps for programs such as justice, or health, or governance.  Historically, art is deemed to be one of these important conditions requiring separation in a significant architecture.

Might we have something more wabi-sabi: a necessary anchor for history, retrospectives, biennials and curation, plus the infiltration of the rest of the city, starting from that block, with a rootless, opportunistic, transient architecture that reflects the kind of programming most major galleries are engaged with today.  There must be some place for a gallery architecture to constantly renew and reconstruct itself if it is to be an embedded part of the processes of cultural renewal and reconstruction, and not just the place where, after the fact, such changes are displayed.


Zoë Keating: frozen angels, 2011



Rebecca Horn: les amants, 1991

Les Amants, 1991, Photo: Attilio Maranzano © 2009 Rebecca Horn. Les Amants consists of two glass funnels, ink, wine and motors of some unspecified sort that must spray the liquids about. Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin

Donald Kuspit's review of Rebecca Horn's drawings, both by hand and by machine, indicates something of his desires, found in Horn's sexual subtext: all the machines are metaphors for the coming together of bodily fluids.  Well, maybe; it is called Les Amants —is it blood, or is it wine?  However, one might also see in the desperate, cross throwing of ink in the corner of a room, the fan of a musical score there but ignored, les travails des amants.

Kuspit does say 'her drawings are written by her machines': does the machine write, or does it make the marks it is designed to make?  In Alan Storey's drawing machines, below, does he build them to literally make the marks he already has written, or does he make them to make marks as an autonomous act?  He assigned up and down to wind force, not immediately a logical choice, so he must have wanted his recordings on the paper to register elevation, rather than planarity — biblical, this, every mountain and hill made low: the crooked straight and the rough places plain.  And then comes the wind.


Adrian Mitchell: tell me lies

The earliest filmed version of Adrian Mitchell performing his poem, To Whom It May Concern (tell me lies about Vietnam) at the Albert Hall, June 11, 1965:

And a film by Pamela Robertson-Pearce of Mitchell reciting Tell Me Lies just before his death in 2008.  He constantly adapted the last verse to pull the poem into the continual present, for about war some things never change. 


Edith Sitwell: poet, brick

The extremely generous Edith Sitwell, modernist poet, interviewed by the BBC in 1959:

And a younger version, in 1928:

Dame Edith Sitwell, 1928. National Portrait Gallery, London


Ann Hamilton: the event of a thread

at Park Avenue Armoury, New York, December 5 - January 6


Great Lake Swimmers: Your Rocky Spine :: land as love

We should make this the theme song for On Site 29: geology.

Great Lake Swimmers. Original album was Ongiara, 2007; here a performance from the neighbor's dog.

Call for articles for 29:geology here.


Bang on a Can: music for airports

Brian Eno's Music for Airports, in an airport, perfomed by Bang on a Can, 18 September 2011, part of the Altstadherbst Festival.


Värttinä: Kylä Vuotti Uutta Kuuta

Because, it is snowing today.


Kevin Harman: Skip 13

Kevin Harman's gallery, Ingleby Gallery, has emailed a link to the latest skip reorganisation, Skip 13, part of Frieze Art Fair 2012.  There is a nice vimeo; click on the photo to be transported there. 

Kevin Harman. Skip 13, York Way, London. October 6-7, 2012

These stacks of material remind me so much of the piles of construction debris found in Sudbury, which I wrote about last year in Destination Earth.  Is there some deep epistemological urge we have to separate, sort and re-present? Or does construction debris itself lead to this.  Unwillingly deconstructed, it longs to be a thing again. 


Kevin Harman: Skip 7

Kevin Harman. Skip 7. 2007 Mixed Medium Friday, take all contents out of skip, break down and place all debris back in skip for opening on Sunday night, leave.

Kevin Harman, Scottish sculptor, has a series of reorganised skips full mostly of construction debris. This is Skip 7, before and finished.

At once performance, community project, statement about density, found materials, deconstruction of the already deconstructed, reconstruction leading to a complete absence of inner space.  Rachel Whitread filled a small house full of plaster, then removed the mould – the structure of the house itself, leaving solid blocks of 'space'.  Kevin Harman takes the materials of a house and squeezes all the space out, leaving a small block of airless density.

The process is public and good natured. Here is an 11 minute 2009 film from Harman's website:

Below, Skip 11, a strangely romantic reorganisation.

Kevin Harman. Skip 11, 2011 Mixed Medium Friday, take all contents out of skip, break down and place all debris back in skip for opening on Sunday night, leave.