Nearing the end of June, I am am reminded that this tour is about 1/4 completed. Still a beginning, really.
The first four days at the Performance Studies International conference (Ontario College of Art & Design) seems like it was a long time ago, though a few lingering memories are supported by pages of notes and a fist of business cards. Shannon Jackson in the first plenary made probably the bravest reflection on the theme of "Performing Publics". She challenged artists to notice the odd coalitions developing between art productions that resist state involvement and conservative political movements that advocate cuts to state services like education and art. She suggested an alternative for art production to take a position of "infrastructural avowal." One example she described was Paul Chan's Waiting for Godot in New Orleans. This work avows that autonomy in the face of collective disaster will result in a whole lot of waiting, and suggests that the state apparatus is so far our best response. This conference discussed many approaches to activism in performance art as well as public actions. It seemed that many thinkers were preparing to really interrogate the theater of resistance, though of course few activists or even practitioners of activist theater appeared.
Meanwhile the city was busying itself to host the G8 and G20. I looked hard for signs of spending. I had heard that the security for the event would equal the cost of security for the Winter Olympics (nearly a billion). I saw very little evidence of that spending... just a chain link fence going up around the convention centre and CN Tower downtown.
Mary Oliver & I began our residency with quality time on West Queen West. Good eats and excellent company, day after day after day. Thank you to Cheyanne, Eric, Willy and the Gladstone for hosting us. Favourite eating spots, for the record: Beaver Cafe, La Brehandaise Creperie, Le Select Bistro, Julie's Cuban Resaurant.
Like the area and the city in the midst of festival (Luminati, NXNW, a performance art conference, a media art conference, and more) and spectacle, the latest collaboration by Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller, Ship O' Fools was pretty delightful. It was installed by the Luminati Festival in a very well used city park on Queen Street West, near the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art and lots of other action. Delightfully, it refuses any of the nanny-ing that a large spectacle takes up: no declarations of danger or liability, no warnings about pieces malfunctioning (which they did, and which did not seem to matter much), no instructions... it is a foolish ship that is jammed with kinetic sculpture and gentle noises. Some odd narratives and personalities seem to emerge from the objects like ghosts: could they have taken space in such tight quarters?, so then where are they? Mostly it is a toy that, in contrast to all of the public toys that we are used to seeing and using (play structures or amusement parks), makes evident through sight, sound, smell and feel the skillful, inventive, generous and brainy work of its creators.