Residencies of Resistance; Or, Performatively Flexing for the ’Gram

August 31 2018

Written By Delilah Rosier

Ever wake up, stay up, petrified by a good thread? Roll out and lol out to a bend in a trend? In a trance to a dance craze? Stuck in bed on the bad daze?
https://www.instagram.com/p/BlRTn5NlP8h/?hl=en&taken-by=twosaskatoontrexs

*deletes app*

When asked to write about the 7a*md8 On-Line residency series, I thought about my relationship to Instagram, how I addictively turn to it for a multitude of reasons: for art, for opportunities, memes, slapstick fails, flexes, callouts, for call-ins, to drag, to shade, to share, to shame, to comment, to like, to lurk, to learn, to listen, all going down or around the DM. She might collectively follow the trend of the meme, watch it deviate and distort; plucked out of context, at its height resembling an amalgam of subculture, shining with potential for further corruptions. What interested me about this project was how the participating artists might challenge and subvert our business-as-usual use of the app as a means of performative intervention. Sure enough, they offer up a shift in perspective. Existing simultaneously as archive and as a form of resistance, the project reminds viewers of how/when/why the camera and lens are un-neutral, and how online technologies inform our role as viewer, as spectator, as ally, as friend, and as participant.

*redownloads*

On this virtual platform, the barriers shift. There is an obvious immediacy inherent to the medium, where the intimacy is twofold: the artists capture themselves and disseminate their perspective without mediation from institutional forces. While the ’gram exists as an institution in itself, with problematic regulations and censorships, what is important are the ways the artists use this context to explore and share their practices. Given the nature of Instagram and our everyday interactions with it, we can’t overlook the comment section!
https://www.instagram.com/p/Bb0mLjJgXgh/?hl=en&taken-by=7a11d
https://www.instagram.com/p/BaWzoe-AmSt/?hl=en&taken-by=7a11d
https://www.instagram.com/p/Bb0JQ1cAZYv/?hl=en&taken-by=7a11d
https://www.instagram.com/p/BcKzPL_A-C7/?hl=en&taken-by=7a11d

Here, pals and other participants (past and upcoming at the time) praise and hold place for camaraderie, a performance for one another. A term coined by the late José Esteban Muñoz, ‘disidentification’ is a practice of performance and production that involves intervening in dominant narratives, and practicing (occasionally dangerous) subversions, so that a queer audience is considered and made space for, by another, for another.

In Coco Fusco’s fundamental 1994 text “The Other History of Intercultural Performance,” Fusco maps a history of the exhibition of human beings for the entertainment and analysis of European audiences. In a critique of the French-Romanian Dadaist Tristan Tzara’s appropriative practice, Fusco writes: “In the case of Tzara, his perception of the ‘primitive’ artist as part of his metaphorical family conveniently recasts his own colonial relation to his imaginary ‘primitive’ as one of kinship. In this context, the threatening reminder of difference is that the original body, or the physical and visual presence of the cultural Other, must therefore be fetishized, silenced, subjugated, or otherwise controlled to be ‘appreciated’” (9). This raises the question of who has been holding the camera and why the widely accepted and encouraged practice of fetishizing, marginalizing and colonizing bodies is important to consider when we investigate the construction of the gaze in art history and popular culture. Keeping these interventions in mind, the intimate gestures of regaining control of the camera and lens, the artists in 7a*md8 On-Line assert their agency, breeding space for exploration, for questioning, for workshopping and sharing. They unveil and showcase works in progress, impulsions, meditations.

sab meynert brings us into the calm flow of their process. Brisk strokes, interwoven with landscapes, hands drawing hands, hands pulling handmade paper taut, bodies of water and poetry; they ask us, (kin) “what amount of labour is required for growth?” They reassure us: “You may be feeling alone, but you are not – your company is just unrecognizable, for now.” On july 16th, sab tattooed a chrysanthemum on my shoulder.
https://www.instagram.com/p/BlT4F1Unb25/?taken-by=sabmeynert
my forever derma-loot-bag adornment, beautifully steered, matching, intimately executed.

These notions of intimacy are likewise plentiful in the residencies of Jessica Karuhanga and Bishara Elmi. In Elmi’s “Everyday rituals” lit by candlelight in their home, we are invited to view these rituals of cleansing and purification, interspliced with a meme on D.W.G.
https://www.instagram.com/p/BcOIMrxAHFi/?hl=en&taken-by=7a11d
Elmi washes, hands helping hands wash, and clean, let’s wave back at Sally who assists amongst mangoed fabrics.
https://www.instagram.com/a.s.craigg/

Karuhanga is introduced to us as Kelela’s “Bluff” accompanies her movements; soft rotations in her bedroom, disoriented by the stripe of her pants, ring fittings, shadow play against bedroom wall mirrors. Karuhanga moves as if she were tracing herself. (A virtual dance is a joy and a half but the real thing is a privilege
http://www.thebeavertoronto.com/events/

Follow through and call back when jes sachse treats viewers to vignettes of gleeful,whimsical absurdities. Take the pickle tub post, where the artist sits comfortably in the tub, a metronome propped up in the soap dish. Garbed in bubble- proof Laurier pasties and a bath cap, sachse bounces a wand-baton while snacking from pickles stacked inside a glass. They let us sit with them, sipping outta trophies, settling for “a good crescendo” unwound gentle contemplation (styll), steeped in jest.

Jessica Chalmer’s 2008 text “Marina Abramović and the Re-performance of Authenticity” explores the phenomenon of re-performance. She states “re-performances are performances from the past […] brought to life again with the intention of rendering homage to their original context. Rather than comparing them to a theatrical revival, which implies mere repetition, performance scholar Peggy Phelan has compared re-performance to the musical practice of ‘covering’ the works of others” (25). Both Abramović and re-performance run rampant in the work of Mohammad Rezaei, predominately in meme format: the hauntings of embarrassing past works, starter packs, munchies and the potential for a fictitious art star writing career of Carrie Bradshaw.
https://www.instagram.com/p/BZ_23HugGCv/?hl=en&taken-by=7a11d

Keira Boult’s residency serves us the tea of too-glam-to-call-mundane suburban life, peppered with neighbourhood shootouts and gentrification reads. Rezaei’s and Boult’s works are in conversation, and in playful competition, most notably in Boult’s humble brag screenshot of a follow from Ryan Trecartin.
https://www.instagram.com/ryantrecartin/?hl=en

Before her residency began, Boult and I contemplated trolls, bait, and red herrings. “Allen Carfac” was a character I proposed to lurk in the comments, a hybrid of the former chain smoker Allen Carr and the Canadian artist fee lobby. “No one is more qualified to speak on behalf of artists than artists themselves” (Jack Chambers, CARFAC founder). This tanked in comparison to the highly controversial touque-shade gate clap back. See:
https://www.instagram.com/franfergra/tagged/?hl=en
https://www.instagram.com/p/BadSzp0D3b8/?hl=en&taken-by=7a11d
Category was: homage witty realness. (Winter edition)

Tongue-in-cheek in masking and revealing, Natasha Bailey illustrates the dynamics between audience and performer. Evolving from alt duck face to full-on crow realness, the piercing blue gaze of the artist confronts the viewer in an alarmed, frozen glance. She maintains this stare, fragmented, steady, across all of her posts. Yarned, darned, hidden and fragmented, Bailey’s peekaboo mix masks the mediums, the messages.

In Yolanda Duarte’s work, the artist shows us what she calls “visual epiphanies,” in which her students perform for her, for us. Bodies in black and white, fragmented points of view, collectively assemble to document traces of touch. Collective gatherings, stages of teachings, of learnings, of lessons. Markers dragging, guiding, gliding.
https://www.instagram.com/p/BbOG7y1gjza/?hl=en&taken-by=7a11d

Staring back now, Nadège Grebmeier Forget’s work is rooted in the power and repercussions of the gaze. Well suited to the medium, the artist presents reflections, revisitations, revelations, summer-camp cacti mornings. The grain of the screen cap, baby wash and all the hands, cradling, render her reflections on anxious mornings.
https://www.instagram.com/p/Bal1xiJj__j/?hl=en&taken-by=7a11d
She’s between it seems, the grass is greener, grainier, meaner on the other side of things. Split screen.

The final resident, Syrus Marcus Ware, offers an intimate gesture by reading to us. In his videos, he invites us into his research and practice, revealing the solitary, meditative methods behind the hand-drawn lines of his activist portrait series, educating viewers on black trans history through the vehicle of #blacktransselfie
https://www.instagram.com/p/BcVORo1AdC_/?hl=en&taken-by=7a11d
needed reads: “Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party” and shout outs
https://www.instagram.com/justseeds/
Ware sends us off with a finished drawing, a portrait of “M” who smiles back at us from behind him.

Muñoz wrote that “disidentification is a step further than cracking open the code of the majority; it proceeds to use this code as raw material for representing a disempowered politics or positionality that has been rendered unthinkable by the dominant culture” (31). Here, he suggests that artists can achieve this through the process of borrowing from prefabricated structures. Given the diversity of our platform, i suggest that we might bridge Muñoz’s musing with those of German artist and filmmaker Hito Steyerl, who writes in “In Defense Of The Poor Image”: “The poor image is no longer about the real thing—the originary original. Instead, it is about its own real conditions of existence: about swarm circulation, digital dispersion, fractured and flexible temporalities. It is about defiance and appropriation just as it is about conformism and exploitation.” While the images and videos of the residency seemingly suit the classification of “poor” given their means of being captured, posted and/or reposted, we can look to how notions of circulation, remixing and revisiting are at play in the works of all the participants. What I take away as most striking, is the ways in which we are invited to peep this temporal tenderness: be it coy, poised, posed, staged. These impulses and impressions, from self-referentiality to quotations, through memories, works in progress, this archive and what I’ve written here are left open for reinterpretations, for revisitations, for resurrection.

Works Cited

CARFAC History.” CARFAC. N. p., 2018. Web. 4 June 2018.

Chalmers, J. “Marina Abramović and the Re-performance of Authenticity.” Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism 22.2, 2008, pp. 23-40. Project MUSE.

Fusco, Coco. “The Other History of Intercultural Performance.” TDR 38.1, 1994, pp. 143–167. JSTOR.

Steyerl, Hito “In Defense Of The Poor Image.e-flux Journal 10, November 2009. Web. 4 June 2018

Muñoz, José Esteban. Disidentifications: Queers of Color and the Performance of Politics Vol. 2. U of Minnesota Press, 1999.


Delilah Rosier is an artist working and living in Tkaronto. Her practice consists of collages, drawings, photo manipulations and generating criticism and theory pertaining to queer theory, race politics and intersectional feminism within the landscape of popular culture. She is a graduate of OCAD University’s criticism and curatorial practice program, is one half of Masking Collective, has been profiled in C Magazine, Formally Known As Magazine and was the 2016 Recipient of the Won Lee Fine Art Award for her written thesis project entitled “Sissy Those Subversions: Disidentifications and Institutionalized Performativity.” She is currently pursuing her MA at York University in theatre and performance studies. 

In Memoriam: James Luna

August 15 2018

Written By Johanna Householder

American Indian Study’s 7a*11d 2000 PHOTO Andrew Pommier

James Luna | February 9, 1950 – March 4, 2018

James Luna had a long and deep connection to Canada and he was a pivotal influence for many indigenous and settler artists, writers, thinkers and curators. His enormous legacy is evident—alive and well today in Toronto. We remember him as the Shameman who sold wetdreamcatchers. The angel with wings made of crutches and feathers in tribute to the many on his own reserve who had lost their legs to diabetes, a disease caused by a steady diet of colonialism. James Luna was the change that the art world needed. His conviction was that the art world could change, and that in turn could change the way people see. He was the change.

American Indian Study’s 7a*11d 2000 VIDEO STILL

James Luna was born in Orange, California of Payómkawichum, Ipai and Mexican descent. When he was 25 he moved to the La Jolla Reservation where he continued to live and make work, while he taught art at the University of California, San Diego and was an academic counselor at Palomar College in San Marcos, California.

In 2000 James Luna performed American Indian Study’s (with its deliberately provocative misspelling) at the Joseph Workman Auditorium in the 3rd 7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art. He also gave an artist talk at Innis College that was co-sponsored by CIVME and A Space. He returned for the 8th 7a*11d Festival in 2010 with Guillermo Gomez-Peña in La Nostalgia Remix, presented by Red Sky Performance and Toronto Free Gallery.

Meditation on Mediation as Medium

April 12 2018

Written By Jenn Snider

In lens-based practices, and specifically performance art made for the camera, the lens is many things. Both a willing collaborator and stoic informant, the camera is an intermediary, bridging artist and audience. The camera is also a subject, elicited to act as an extension of both the image creator and the viewer. As a boundary-maker, the camera demarcates a site for the testing and breaking of limits: physical and conceptual limits of the body, of the frame, of the artist’s relationship to an audience, and of the audience’s awareness of life extending beyond the image—an image that is constructed by way of the gaze as both whole and partial.

Over the course of Fall 2017, the 7a*md8 series presented by the Toronto Performance Art Collective (producers of the biennial 7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art) offered audiences a prismatic look at lens-based performance practice mediated by social media platforms. A unique departure for a collective with a history of presenting critical, live/in-the-flesh performances, 7a*md8 unearths fresh prospects at the intersection of performance and new media forms, in a context of remote access. The works, curated by 7a*11d collective members Golboo Amani and Francisco-Fernando Granados with the assistance of Shalon Webber-Heffernan, shimmer with histories and gestural patterns, echoing actions, words spoken, and images alive with the hum of engagement through the access provided through online platforms. The variety in the artists’ approaches, the urgent and raw nature of much of the production, and the vastness of a potential ocean of followers are just a few of the many facets of this series that extend beyond the lens.

Asked to write a parallel piece to comment on the curatorial framework of the 7a*md8 project, my approach has been experiential—to think through the elements of an experience of the collected works by revisiting them again as a leisurely viewer in contrast to the avid follower I was during their initial delivery. With much of the series now available away from the live streamed or otherwise time-ascribed context of their presentation, after review I’m re-convinced of two things: one, the collection presents a weighty and eclectic medley of works that together strike a discerning yet hopeful chord for a future of interdisciplinarity in performance; and, two, mediation is the key component when considering the interventionist and productive ethos of this series.

To mediate in the context of performance art is to act both generatively and disruptively. As a process of extending, connecting, relating, and intervening, mediation in performance art transmits and influences and augments elements through action and the body. Whether these elements are conventions or contexts, themes or ideas, objects or audiences, the alterations and maneuvers made along the way generate an essential tension that lives at the heart of the mediating process: a cascade of potentials between what was, what is, and what could be. The artists who use this tension can transcend or at the very least transform the immediate constraints of the medium/media they’re working with, such as performance for the camera shared on Instagram and live streamed/uploaded to YouTube. This use of tension as a bridge provides opportunities for artists and audiences to engage with unfamiliar and thought-provoking work in new ways, in this case the appropriation of the ubiquitous, often noisy, proprietary platform of social media.

By positioning 7a*md8 within the social media space, and linking production to the tools and technologies inherent to these platforms, the curators have invited the consideration of a politics of access—asking what it means for artists and audiences when any space becomes a venue, any time offers a performance, and distance away becomes no obstacle to engagement. By freeing the bounds of performance from time and space, as well as the cumbersome weight of the camera thanks to the technology of a smartphone, accessibility takes on a malleable character. Opening up to alternative arenas of practice and new experiences for artists and audiences alike, the politics at play here are also altered by the expectation that the additional layers of complexity will modify how artists and audiences approach the negotiation of creating/viewing the work.

But is it enough to suggest that the mediation processes in performances made for the social media-connected camera are contending with overlapping influences alone? Or, does the way that the lens, the performing body, and the sensory/social points of access for audiences intersect open up potential new avenues of creation and meaning? And furthermore, where the artist’s performance is mediated by their body, their environment, and their use of the lens, how significant is it that the technology behind the lens mediates so much of the view of the artist and the performance, the material, and the sensory experience for the audience? What is being altered, and what is staying relatively the same?

If there is a potential future for performance art that desires to disengage from the “pure form” of its origins and embrace new spheres, this intersectional, interdisciplinary approach to contemporary practice will need to address how critical intuitions can manifest amid the throng of mainstream commercial distribution streams. The distribution style of the online platform, and the scheduling of posts or particular algorithms determining the feed, mediates both the audience’s access/engagement and the artists’ realization of the work. These factors are already a hazy collection to theorize upon, let alone accounting for the complexity of the internet’s invisible borders that censor and filter for political control and/or economic gain. The impact of a global scale of mediation and its panopticonian entailments on the artists’ and audiences’ engagement is inherent here and must certainly be a factor to contend with in the wake of a post-social media, post-performance-artist-as-celebrity world.

With so much that is new, there are at least two facts that we can safely suppose will remain: one, once it reaches them, an audience will always internally mediate the work through their experience of it, who they are, and their understanding/what they bring to the moment when the work is viewed; and, two, all the active mechanisms and points of leverage of all this mediation will always be brought to bear on the artist. It is still the artist at the centre, and it is their decisions and their work which generate the engagement offered to their audience, and ultimately, the meaning and expression available for interpretation and negotiation. Regardless of the form of dissemination the artist is always the central factor of any contention. This is perhaps something that remains of the critical intuitions of the history of performance as it transforms in this mediated context: the possibility of an artist action as an arena of subjective articulation and representation that supplements and politicizes available images of bodies.

For audiences of performance on social media, versus live performance audiences, the artist’s performing body is simultaneously farther away and more available. Through social media, it is possible for audiences to situate their experience of the artist’s performance in ways unavailable in a live performance. Audiences are afforded new powers over the ways in which they interact with these works of art: a viewer can fixate, replay, and obsess over details with an abandon enabled by the fact that no one is watching them watch the performance. Emboldened by anonymity, they can comment, offering praise or criticism with a certain abandon. And of course, with an availability unencumbered by scheduling it is possible for a viewer to experience, engage, and interpret the works within this series no matter where, or when they are. One moment can be played in infinite repetition, or scrolled through. Yet, as that capacity for interaction is bound by the mandates of the software, all access remains mediated. Performance becomes content, content creates engagement, and all engagement becomes data tethered to the dynamics of the mysterious algorithms at play.

Forces of mediation move upon individuals making performance for the camera as acts of heteronomous negotiation to achieve an autonomous expression. That autonomous expression is multiplied and variegated by the distribution network of idiosyncratic, individual nooks of interpretation and replication that hibernate in the devices of each active participant. This perspective—or rather, the view that social media brings an interposed medley of perspectives—disrupts attempts to define human experience as one thing, one kind, or one way to be. In performance for the social media lens, if only one thing is certain, it is that meaning is aggregate. Everything else remains to be seen.


Jenn Snider ​is an arts administrator, curator, writer, facilitator/organizer, and multi-disciplinary artist. She holds an MA in New Media Art Histories from OCAD University where her research explored administration in artist-run culture as a practice of institutional critique. She is the Executive Director of the Toronto Animated Image Society (TAIS), and sits on the Board of FADO Performance Art Centre, MANO/RAMO, and IMAA. Info on Jenn’s arts-based practice is available at sympatheticnervous.com.

7a*md8 Live Stream archived compliation

December 21 2017

Written By 7a*11d

We are pleased to announce that an archived compilation of the 7a*md8 Live Stream event can be viewed below. Captures of individual performances can also be found on each featured artist’s information page (follow the links below).

Maryse Arseneault (NB)
Ali Asgar (Bangladesh/USA)
Ivanie Aubin-Malo (QC)
Jef Carnay (Philippines)
ee portal [Elyse & Emilio Portal] (ON)
Maggie Flynn (AB)
Romi Kim (Canada/Korea)
Russell Louder (PEI)
Freya Björg Olafson (MB)
Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara (Cuba)
Camila Salcedo (NS)
Selma Selman (Bosnia and Herzegovina/USA)
Liz Solo (NL)

 

Live Stream archived compilation; project made possible with the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Toronto Arts Council

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