Francesco Gagliardi

October 24 2016

Written By Jessica Karuhanga

Some Reconstructions


IMAGES by Henry Chan

The room is book-ended by two boards on wheels. Stacks of vertically placed card-stock lean against these dividers. These piles are organized by colour or shade. Their surfaces are black, cream, grey, brown and blue. Francesco Gagliardi emerges on the stage and begins an elaborate and thoughtful choreography of spatial and aural cuts, divisions, reorientations and displacements using the objects staged within the space. He begins a poetic mapping. He arranges and re-arranges. He slides the card-stock across the desk. He flips this form to its side to reveal a new shade. The sounds are dragging and swiping. He opens the top of desk and props it up. He closes it. He feels beneath the table and removes a sheet of paper. He holds out the sheet that teeters between fingers forged together. You think the sheet may drop but he has full control and it does not. This teetering is orchestrated. All gestures are an exploration or staging of balance and precarity. He procures a stack of paper and lifts leaves one by one to reveal text. He orates their contents before gently placing each sheet on a tilting display. Each action imitates the previous activity. There is play with the aesthetic of surface and form and frame.

Some reverberations I could discern and still recall:

Sunday begins with food and bath and man and the obstructed line view. Sunday begins with garden, sage and parsley. Sunday begins with kitchen cloth, bread cheese and spoons. Sunday begins with waiting months, weeks and years…

It could have been memory loss described. It could have been restaurant, fish and fresh soup. It could have been eating ice-cream. It could have been oil and salt. It could have been sunny and then suddenly sad. It could have been nerves as mouth and temper…

Was also wearing makeup at home. Was also migraines forcing white silk over hats. Was also taking the bus and fearing gunpowder. Was also older women and racial preferences. Was also diagnosis. Was also certainty.

A steady progress to winter. A steady progress to paint and paintbrushes and safety pins. A steady progress to the heart of the matter. A steady progress to brother and sister. A steady progress to gardens and being stolen and to no return. A steady progress to health and knowing things. A steady progress toward death.

The sheets of paper now begin to slide as they accumulate with each successive addition. They slip under each other’s weight, impression and thrust until the last sheet is placed on top of this tower. All the  lines refer to its predecessor. They all begin the same until there is a rift marking a new sequence of poetry. Gagliardi proceeds toward his final station where there sits a pile of folded and patterned sheets. He lifts the first and undoes its meticulous folds. Then grabbing the corners to join them at the centre he reconfigures and manipulates the cloth into a new form. He tosses the new construction onto the floor before moving to the next sheet. He continues these manipulations a second and third time. With each successive unfolding and remodelling a new form emerges until all three folds sit side by side on the floor and Gagliardi is bowing and leaving us and the space marked differently.

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Serge Olivier Fokoua

Written By Jessica Karuhanga

To dare is to do


IMAGES by Henry Chan

Serge Olivier Fokoua has stated the objects he uses in his performances are diverted from their original context to achieve the effect of collision. After witnessing his utilization and re-framing of materials it is clear this process of assembly and disassembly are gestures which hope to invoke new and affective meaning.

A concrete block rests in the centre of the space and a suitcase is placed to the side. Fokoua, who is dressed in white undergarments, draws a blue comforter and spray-bottle from a suitcase and places them behind the block. Perched on the concrete block he then reaches into a bowl and proceeds to knead and pull out dough. The dough is wet enough to stick and each tugging gesture is both considered and exaggerated. He presents a ball before the audience and then continues to knead, stretch and pull its damp form over his hands, palms and finally his forearms. The dough becomes a shield like a hood or second skin. Fokoua then stands and walks along the perimeter of the stage several times. His pace is slow and steadfast before he returns to the blue comforter where he begins to cover his dough-covered arms with green liquid from the spray-bottle. He returns to the block or stool. He tells us he needs the pots and within moments three assistants procured steaming pots and placed them at his feet. He insisted they move them closer to his body. The assistants retreat back into the audience and Fokoua then reaches behind him, while his eyes remain fixed on the audience, to begin tugging at the blanket. He pulls it over his head and covers all that remains, the objects and his body.

We can hear him remove the lids and we witness wavering moments where slight protrusions poke through the blanket. His inhales and exhales are incessant and their intensity increases with each breathe. Faster and faster still. It is hard not to cringe and witnessing you loose yourself and are swept up in his breath. The pace of these sounds are distressing but I trust he is in control.

The sheath is removed. He emerges and his arms are now bare, body is red and sweating. The cadence of his breathing is heavy but it slows and he soon departs. We are left with the collision of his exhale against our inhales and they are meshing with the rising scent of pineapple and lemongrass. Members from the audience rush to the centre to investigate the refuse of his conjuring.

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Annie Onyi Cheung

Written By Jessica Karuhanga

How I can-well-enough (or showing my work)


IMAGES by Henry Chan

Every. Every time. Time. Overtime. Overtime I plan. Overtime I plan to go home. Plan to do. Plan on. Plan on returning.Your precious daughter. Your darling daughter. Precious jewel. Only jewel. Valuable. Daughter.

Annie Onyi Cheung has reconfigured the performance space. I have been noticing the ways the artists have been addressing the stage and its weight. Cheung’s installation seems to be one of the most direct or defiant cuts into the space. There are two rows of chairs which curve on either side of her multi-media installation. She is seated at the first of several desks assembled together and supporting a long scroll of paper. A wooden configuration is raised slightly and designed to slide along the edges of the table. This instrument supports a laptop, tablet and two projectors. The first projection is open to her iMessage account. The second projection is open to her desktop where we see Google-translate is open as well as a word document filled with random sentences. These lines are prototypes she copies and pastes. These lines move between the window and page. They do not form something discernible yet. But I know it is poetry. I know there is melancholy, loss and there is humour.

In Google-Translate she repeatedly inserts, copies, translates, deletes, and rearranges all the content she is attempting to say. She undulates between these computer notations and writing marks on the scroll. The scroll is a graph and she has been filling the squares with Bopomofo, phonetic notations she also occasionally sounds out, which materialize along with her transcriptions, marker and pencil marks. I walk up closer and lean in to see the symbols and notations. These notes hint and reference the performative enactment we are currently observing.

Opposite where she is stationed a small cardboard box, bound repeatedly by string into a bow, emits sound. This box is a vessel emitting noise that is like television, static, and radio. I occasionally observe individuals walking up to this small box and hovering they place their ear upon it. The placement of the rows of chairs suggest that anyone and everyone is permitted to inch closer to all the elements. When I move toward the box the sounds become clearer and looking into a peep-hole I see an older couple in a kitchen leafing through newsprint. They occasionally speak to each other. In my second visit I see a residential street, a highway and then a gated driveway from the view of the dashboard. In my third visit chicken-wings are caramelizing on a grill. This box is a container with contents that remains out of reach. But we are curious and look down on and into this private space thirsting for more.

We’ve never spent. Never ever. A work. Write a letter. Related to you. My work and my artwork.

*All italicized text in this entry were observed and recorded notations from Annie Onyi Cheung’s performance and installation.


Kevin McKenzie

October 23 2016

Written By Michelle Lacombe

The Nihilist


PHOTOS by Henry Chan

Please play while you read.

Like many of the other performances, before Kevin McKenzie enters the space, a stage (for lack of a better word) is set. Most prominent is a freestanding wall that has been there all night. On it, three metal frames have been added and the installation materials, which include tools and a few piles of additional metal pieces of varying lengths, have been left behind. To set the mood, a clip light fitted with a blue filter illuminates the wall and Bauhaus plays through the sound system.

When McKenzie comes out, he has a glass of wine in his hand and is wearing a black suit paired with running shoes. He reads more as an adolescent than as the businessman archetype and, as if to confirm my reading, his first action is to ask that the music be louder. Teenagers. I await his rebellion before he even really begins.

Pockets full of screws, McKenzie takes the hand drill and adds more metal pieces to the frames, which become windows, then barred windows, then cages. But really they are sculptural paintings, symbolic artworks constructed through manual labor rather than through artistic craft. He pauses punctually throughout the action to take a drink, to refill his pockets or to dance a bit to his soundtrack, a catchy playlist of industrial goth music’s greatest hits. As his objects find form, he is slowly breaking down. Pauses become longer, sloppier. He stumbles a bit and crouches on the ground. At one point he accidentally steps on his glass of wine and I can tell the rebellion is approaching.

I’ll interject here to explain that I appreciate work that touches, in any way, on the typically invisible labour around art (shout out to the amazing 7a*11d technicians who poke projectors with brooms, cue music and calmly fix fragile video connections). This is probably because I worked as a gallery technician for years. During this time, all my colleagues were men about 15-20 years older than me. They taught me a lot, including how to build a wall just like the one in front of me and, while we worked, we often listened to this same kind of music. The character that McKenzie presents us with is therefore familiar and pleasant to me, a socially-rebellious-working-class-arty-alternative type I know well and have a soft spot for.

As predicted, McKenzie eventually drops the tools, puts on sparring gloves and proceeds to punch the objects he has created. However, the work avoids any real violence or aggression because, while the objects shift in shape and lightly buckle, no major damage is achieved. Even when he takes off the gloves and uses some of the remaining metal pieces to attack their formally arranged brothers, the work is void of any real anger. Instead, the whole thing is characterized by an angst-y and casual fuck-the-man type of attitude that is ironic because McKenzie, as the creator of the metal frames, is also the man. It is cliché, but also totally coherent.

Eventually one of the three frames comes crashing down and the performance ends. McKenzie has not succeeded in destroying much yet it is precisely this gestural impotence that I enjoy most in the work. His is not a demonstration of masculine force but rather a playfully dramatized display of the contradictory position of the male artist rebel, the nihilist.

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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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