13. A negotiated interaction: Body Atlas by Margaret Dragu and Fiona Griffiths (Description, video recording, “dead” livestream)

As noted in the previous post, the KinesTHESES project included a series of negotiated interactions that paired local and non-local artists. Distinct from the artists’ individual projects, these events were an opportunity for the invited artists to contextualize—on their own terms and in dialogue with each other rather than with me as the curator—their artistic concerns and ways of working.

Bringing together Fiona Griffiths and Margaret Dragu was perhaps the most obvious of the KinesTHESES pairings. Both are senior artists who come to performance art by way of dance, movement and choreography. Both integrate their performance practice with professional credentials and teaching experience in traditional and alternative body awareness and health practices. Each of them is something of a pioneer in the way she has carved out a discipline-defying niche by finding unique intersection points of dance, theatre, visual art, performance, and body fitness/wellness training and treatment.

Margaret, for example, is a British Columbia Recreation and Parks Association (BCRPA) Advanced Group Fitness & Yoga Instructor as well as a personal trainer, with more than 45 years experience working with beginners, athletes, dancers, seniors, and clients with clinical conditions. In her BCRPA Directory of Fitness Professionals listing, she describes herself as specializing “in keeping active Baby Boomers active.” Since the coronavirus pandemic began, she has not been teaching fitness classes in institutional settings, although she has kept her professional credentials up to date. She continues this area of her practice by leading personal fitness sessions, working from home via videoconference.

Fiona Griffiths’ health care history includes working as a registered nurse for cardiology intensive care and emergency I.V. teams, acting as a nurse consultant and patient advocate, and more recently training health care workers in the proper use of personal protective equipment. She has also maintained an independent practice in various healing and experiential awareness teachings over the past 30 years, providing craniosacral therapy and Reiki sessions, designing fitness and rehabilitation programs for athletes, performers, cardiac patients, seniors and people with special needs, and conducting classes and workshops in various body awareness practices, including Bodymind Ballwork and the MELT Method. She is currently offering online classes that guide participants using her own hybrid approach to kinetic awareness.

Bringing these two artists together was especially easy because they already had some familiarity with each other’s work and were eager to collaborate on a project. Fiona and Margaret chose to present a hybrid (live streaming along with an in-person audience) performative lecture in which the artists took on the trappings of medical professionals—self-identifying as “doctors,” and also encouraging the visiting audience members to introduce themselves to one another as doctors—to share some of their extensive knowledge about body movement and health. Body Atlas featured four separate modules, interwoven with interactive components, focusing on different “body parts”: hips, hearts, shoulders and brains. Their lecture format included explanations of their process, and so requires little additional commentary or context provision here.

There are two sets of documents from Body Atlas provided here. The first is a video version of the performance, edited by Margaret Dragu, that combines material from the livestream feed, material shot at the event via a mobile second camera operated by Golboo Amani, and additional “pre-roll” material created by Margaret before and during her residency in Toronto as part of the project. This video, distilled from multiple sources, focusing on highlights from the event, and specifically crafted for post-performance consumption, can be considered the artists’ “official” record of the event.

Margaret Dragu’s and Fiona Griffiths’ Body Atlas VIDEO Margaret Dragu ©Margaret Dragu and Fiona Griffiths 2019

The second set of documents is a recording of the original livestream—a “dead” livestream as Margaret sometimes refers to such documents. While Margaret has been hosting livestream events for some time, beginning well before the Covid pandemic ushered in an era of livestreamed and hybrid events, her feeling is that a post-event recording of a livestream has considerably less appeal than an actual live feed. Hence her fealty to carefully edited post-event documents. For those with the patience or curiosity to sit through the longer, single-perspective and single-microphone recording, this dead-livestream has been broken into three parts, arranged chronologically, due to file size concerns. I have removed the first 18 minutes of the broadcast, which began as audience members were still arriving before the introduction of the performance, as well as several minutes at the end after the performance concluded.

Margaret Dragu’s and Fiona Griffiths’ Body Atlas (part one) LIVESTREAM Margaret Dragu ©Margaret Dragu and Fiona Griffiths 2019
Margaret Dragu’s and Fiona Griffiths’ Body Atlas (part two) LIVESTREAM Margaret Dragu ©Margaret Dragu and Fiona Griffiths 2019
Margaret Dragu’s and Fiona Griffiths’ Body Atlas (part three) LIVESTREAM Margaret Dragu ©Margaret Dragu and Fiona Griffiths 2019
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