Selma Selman

October 22 2016

Written By Michelle Lacombe



PHOTOS by Henry Chan

We are told that Selma Selman, A young Roma artist currently attending University in the USA, is not at the festival. She was denied a travel visa from the Canadian government. Twice. Disappointed by the circumstances but wanting to nonetheless share her work with the public, Selman and the 7a*11d collective have agreed to screen a video of one of her performances, which will be followed by a participatory group action.

(I get it. I want to see her work. But a part of me also feels uncomfortable with this desire to make her present considering the political context that has lead to her inability to be in Toronto. I am torn. Is working around her absence a form of resistance, or a compromise?)

The lights are closed, the video begins. Forty-one seconds in, it freezes. Break to load it. I take this time to reflect on how the immaterial presence of a body is fragile, and how technology is generally unreliable despite the trust we have in its ability to simulate presence and proximity. It seems to always operate this way, reminding us that the body we seek is not actually here. Reminding us that distance is an obstacle and requires patience. Eventually, the lights are turned off again.

The video captures Selman in a beautifully embroidered dress I assume to be culturally significant, repeating the sentence “You have no idea” at the camera (and the audience) with varying intensity. She stands accusatory, or defeated, or disgusted. Held together by a very tangible anger, these emotional states fluidly blend into one another, becoming quite physical at times and totally banal at others. And, while there is nothing else to the action than the emotion of the repeated words, Selman avoids falling into the trope of the romanticized hysterical woman I am so familiar with. I deduct that it is because she remains in control and the anger she presents us with is real. I quickly recognize the layers of privilege I have that make this kind of rage something I truthfully, and perhaps thankfully, cannot relate to. The work becomes confrontational, at times uncomfortable and alienating because she is right. I have no idea.

You can watch the work for yourselves here.

The lights are turned back on and we are invited to participate in a collective performance in which we, choir like, will re-embody Selman’s action. Four people gather and, as a few people in the audience hesitate to get up, they begin.For the most part, the reenactment lacks the intensity and therefore efficacy of Selman’s work. Voices explore the sentence, attempting to settle into a rhythm, a tone, or an energy but nothing evocative comes of it. Then, quite surprisingly, a voice emerges from the choir and, with a point of the finger and some cussing, totally embodies it.

Let’s be clear, this is not the same work anymore. At this point, it has become Bojana Videkanic’s. But this return to the body, to a body who clearly does have an idea, brings valuable and important closure to the situation. And I am thankful that someone has managed to take on the weight of the work so resolutely, because between this live manifestation, which is charged and vulgar, and the video, I feel like I can finally gather some sense of what Selman’s performance would have been like to witness, had she been granted the right to come to Canada.

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Kate Barry

Written By Jessica Karuhanga

Justice (After Margaret Dragu)


Kate Barry’s Justice (After Margaret Dragu) is imbued with symbolism. Barry, maintaining a direct meandering gaze, leads us through a cycle of potent gestures. Her gaze is defiant and unwavering. Throughout these rotations there is a ritualistic pattern of sampling and allusion. She is looking back and onward through her sites of reference and toward the audience witnessing. The carefully titled work implies a riff. This piece is both a mirroring and an homage to one of Margaret Dragu’s most illustrious personas – Lady Justice. This role is something like a mask we employ when we feel less than fine, well, or victorious. There is a beautiful image I wish to return to over and over in my head. In the frame there is a rose in Margret Dragu’s mouth. Barry’s work positions itself in a historical lineage. This unwinding scroll reveals invocations of sexual violence, empowerment and intersubjectivity. This scroll is unending.

Kate Barry ascends before the audience dressed a white grecian gown and balaclava. The stage holds a tree stump as well as a table covered with a white cloth. We are waiting for something or someone to arrive. We are waiting for some meal or content to reveal itself. In the far right corner of the stage sits an enclosure concealing a string of objects. Barry steps behind the enclosure and emerges carrying a stack of fake paper mint from a game-board and a clock. She stands steps onto the stump on the opposite end of the stage. She is holding the clock and stack upwards and outwards. Her hand holding the stack is loose. Leaves invariably fall to the ground. She steps off the stump and places the clock and the remainder of the stack on the table. Barry emerges from the enclosure a second, third and fourth time. She is holding a pillow and a block of ice. She is holding roses and a bottle of wine. She is holding a my little pony and a measuring cup. Between these cycles she interjects her strides by caring a large piece of paper along the parameter of the stage. A rape statistic is etched on each sheet in blue marker.

“Studies of rapists state that rapist are ordinary or normal men.”

“The trauma from rape does not cause homosexuality.”

“Sexual assault within relationships has been illegal in Canada since 1983.”

“Only 6% of sexual assaults are reported to the police.”

“No one asks to be raped.”

Barry returns to the centre table. She shuffles the stack of money and begins to deal them into the measuring cup. She gently removes a rose from its bouquet. She holds in for a moment and continues to gaze at the audience. She pull the petals off the rose. Her grasping is firm and smearing them she lets go. The petals fall on top of the pretend mint. She re-presents the bottle of wine before opening it and pouring it down her arm, palm, and fingers. This elixir conjures a melange of meaning. There is blood, love, violence, birth and death.

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Brianna MacLellan

October 20 2016

Written By Jessica Karuhanga

Abandon the chicken but continue to dance


IMAGES by Henry Chan

Brianna MacLellan enters the stage. She is wearing a black blouse, black pants, slicked back hair and she is soaking wet in red heels. Her hair and her clothing glisten in the spotlight. She turns to face the audience poised and gazing into some distant horizon. She holds this stance. After a few minutes MacLellan calmly says, “Maybe it was like this,” then yells, “Hey Sam!” There is a pause.“It was like that.” Her lips close as she returns to her standing position. Her lips remain pursed and water falls slowly to her feet. A few more moments pass and she says, “Maybe it was like this,” and contorting her lips into a smirk she yells, “Hey Sam!” She returns back to her position, “It was like that.” The room falls silent except for the faint sounds of drips and breathing that are increasingly palpable flushed against her posture. “Maybe it was like this – Hey Sam!” She pauses. “It was like that.” She begins to wind her hips. She delivers an oral and visual pattern over and over. Each utterance and hip sway attempts to follow the previous moment but each delivery shifts in inflection, mood and tone. There is an implication of longing to arrive at some distant memory. Perhaps this memory is lodged somewhere before her gaze. There is a desire on the part of the audience to grasp this object she alludes to and to eventually witness her return to this site. For the audience witnessing her exclamations for the first time this potential moment is articulated more accurately as an arrival. But, as I contemplate this exchange of witnessing and performing further, perhaps return and arrival are the same thing? The water dripping off her body expands into a  foreboding puddle around her feet. Each phrase chases the tail of its predecessor and reveals a futility. There is humour, sadness and honesty is this revelation. Repetition is fallacy. “Maybe it was like this,” then MacLellan begins to do the chicken dance. This signals a turn. She repeats this poetry. There is something striking about this well-known choreography when it is displaced from its root. She has removed the dance score from an original context and site and re-contextualized the score as material and form. What does it mean to abandon the chicken? Is it to let go? Is it to admit and surrender to the futility of repetition? Do you let go and omit some or all of the elements? The puddle now envelops her. The water has whitened the wooden floor. When her movements expire she exits leaving the ghost of her dance.

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Randy Lee Cutler

Written By Jessica Karuhanga

SaltWalks: Two Movements


IMAGES by Henry Chan

A few memories of salt. There is an image taken by my sister of my uncle’s hand holding salt from a mine in Uganda. All the moments tears have streamed down my face and into my mouth. As a child when its winter I wipe the side of my Nana’s car with my vinyl mittens then lick them before my mum notices. I am gargling salt-water when I am ill. I throw salt on my wounds. I soak my sore parts in salt water to diffuse the aching. Let’s try to dig for a story of salt that doesn’t leave us parched with misconstrued notions of health. On an afternoon guided walk I found myself unearthing an alternative way of looking and seeing this mineral. Salt finds itself when it reaches our bodies. It is how we learn how to breathe. It is intrinsic to our muscle movement. It is used in making pulp for paper. To bind. To season. To bathe. To purify. Salt is mnemonic of the primordial oceans forming portals into history.

Randy Lee Cutler sees walking as a form that is always about site and how we move through space, time, and temporality. Every iteration of the performance is a new experience. No art experience or encounter is the same as the one before.The poetics, movement, and stride take care and time. When she leads a walk everyone becomes a performer, enactor, and mover. Based on my experience there is generosity in this exchange that feels integral to Cutler’s practice and methodology as a maker, marker and teacher. Together our movement feels everyday and primal and by extension these enactments draw audiences beyond those invested in art, theory and its frames and institutions. When you perform in public space it may look strange or curious to pedestrians who are not informed by art or theory. But, alternatively theory can cloud or hinder an art encounter.

Cutler is wearing an off-white suit and a matching canvas satchel filled with glass vials full of salt. She asks that we remain silent and begin to process our memories of salt. She begins walking and we follow in silence until we reach our first mark. I have never really intentionally thought about salt in this way. Her request was so specific, so direct and yet loose compelling us to thoughtfully re-frame our memories. Perhaps the salt was in the background on the table at dinner or maybe it was in the tub. As I and others delve back into our memory wells a partition falls. We slow down. We take care. Something is unraveling that is for us and beyond art. When Cutler senses someone is tiring or needs a pause she slows. She is a conduit. She leads. She orates, shares, listens. If anyone wants to sample salt at anytime they may ask. I hold charcoal and Himalayan rock salt crystals in my palm. I lick them. I reflect. I absorb their stories in a mirroring movement. 


Graciela Ovejero Postigo

October 19 2016

Written By Jessica Karuhanga

compelled to the unanswerable / before language there was the earth


IMAGES by Henry Chan

Graciela Ovejero Postigo poetically describes her work as a departure from the “in-betweens and peripheries”. As a diasporic subject myself I often describe my body as my homeland borne of the migrant sediment of my parents and embodying the salient splits between here and there. The diasporized subject or so-called “subaltern” is always envisioning a site where they are not denied their humanity. They thirst for an existence beyond the maladies of colonialism. They refuse any notion that they never breathed or pulsated before language formed and by extension the possibility of self-articulation. There is an urgency to connect to ancestry in some other place, perhaps deep in the wells of the earth, and yet everything is fragmented. Even if you feel memory in your bones when it is articulated it is often fractionalized. Ovejero Postigo began her lecture suggesting we consider notions of utopia as a necessary strategy for art production. Riffing off this notion let us return to my first witnessing of her movement.

A pulsating rhythm echoes from periphery of the room. Later I am told the earth was being live-streamed from Germany. Postigo is seated on a suitcase. She is preparing for some symbolic and physical departure. The rhythm of the sounds feels as though it is building momentum. She doesn’t rush her gestures. She takes care. She carefully ties small strands of her hair beneath her chin. She carefully adjusts her goggles. She undoes the suitcase and pulls out white gloves. She puts them on then takes out plastic garbage bags filled with potatoes. She carries these bags in pairs and carefully places them in the centre of the room. She does this over and over until there are rows of bags. Three by seven. She returns to the suitcase and pulls up a roll of burlap. She carefully places this roll at the head of the rows of plastic bags. Burlap may be used for sandbags and as a medium for transporting goods.

She takes off her platform boots and carefully places them by the roll of burlap. She lays on the bags of potatoes. Relaxes. She is breathing meditatively. She begins to roll on the bags. She rolls and changes their form. They become heaps, they become sculptures, they prop her up, and she is holding them. She arranges and undoes and rearranges. This movement  and its progression is determined. There is urgency. She is pushing their form to the furthest corner of the room. Her back is mostly towards us. This is a kind of partition and yet I feel completely engaged in my observing. She grabs two bags and begins walking back toward us. This signals a turn in her movement.  Through her goggles you can see her gaze is directed toward whomever she wants to participate. Her chosen collaborators mirror her specific gestures as she guides. Place the bag on top of your head and tear the bag. Potatoes fall along the contours of their bodies and roll on to the ground. She repeats these steps over and over. Potatoes are strewn throughout the room and in between the seats of the audience. The partition is split. We are there with her.

Returning to the centre of the room, Postigo unrolls the burlap to reveal they are several single bags stitched and pinned together.  She spreads them out. They have black circles painted on them. She places a white chalk marker on each square. She begins to draw on her face. She marks one of the bags. She dresses herself with the bags. These gestures much like her gaze and signals earlier suggest a desire for further participation. There is immense trust from her position. Audience members assist her in shoving potatoes in to burlap bags. They hold on the straps she gives them. They draw markings and messages on the black circles. Among them, “Love Earth” and “Earth belongs to Indiginos”. Potatoes continue to fall from the futile burlap bags. She is like a bird that is ceaselessly reaching up while grounded, rooted, buttressed and held up by her collaborators.


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