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

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?

*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.


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!

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.
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.
Elmi washes, hands helping hands wash, and clean, let’s wave back at Sally who assists amongst mangoed fabrics.

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

Follow through and call back, jes sachse treats viewers to vignettes of gleeful, whimsical absurdities. Let us witness them sipping outta trophies, settling for “a good crescendo.” Take the pickle tub post, where the artist sits comfortably in the tub, a metronome propped up in the soap dish. This bath time, a time for gentle contemplation, (styll) tender moment of mourning. The artist bounces their wand-baton, snacking from pickles stacked inside a glass, blue bath water, and briny bubble beard, an ode to the beard they’ll never have & always be.

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.

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.

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:
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.

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.
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
needed reads: “Black Against Empire: The History and Politics of the Black Panther Party” and shout outs
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. 

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