um ah

I was asked recently about my most recent performance work for BLiNK.

– What was the message of “Pleasant Sexual Sensations,” the 1-minute piece you performed at the BLiNK Festival? What was it about?

Yes, the message of my BLiNK piece, which I’ve chosen to title um ah…I hesitate to assign it a message.  It feels to me heavy handed to tell audiences what I think they should take away from my work.  Partly I’m figuring it out as I go.  And I believe that each person should be free to engage with a work freely and without expectation.   What is the piece about?  What performance curiosity was I exploring?  These I can speak to.  um ah  Is about sex, intimacy, and violence.   All my work seeks to find human connection, I hope fueled by dignity and compassion.  The more I create work the more I become interested in stripping myself bare in performance and bringing a true self.  This does not always mean my work is autobiographical.  Nor does it mean that I’m not interested in artifice.  In um ah there purposely wasn’t a style heavy aesthetic to the piece, no artful costumes or considered lighting.  There was just a woman in a long nude coloured slip standing in a pool of light.  I wanted it to feel almost confessional in its simplicity.  1 minute isn’t a lot of time, I really wanted to let the audience into that 60 seconds.

The recording for um ah is excerpted from my Pure Research Vancouver collaboration with sound artist Emma Hendrix.  I had 4 excerpts I was working with from various sources when I began conceiving um ah.  One track was completely inappropriate because it was so dark and confusing that I couldn’t find a way to take an audience there and bring them back in such short time.  The other two tracks were created by other artists.  I decided I wanted to use my voice for this piece and chose the excerpt from a larger track about pleasant sexual sensations.  It is a confusing track that is both erotically expressive and breathy, while also having a strong shock of violence and danger.  In the track there are sounds of a belt being slapped and the faint jangling of a metal buckle.  In um ah the nearly nude woman fastens a belt around her mouth and head like a gag, a form of bondage.  Each belt slap is a pull upward of her slip hem.  Otherwise the face and the body are neutral.  There is no judgment.  There is only revealing.  Should the audience be disturbed or turned on?  I don’t know.  That’s up to them.  There’s no time in one minute to build context.  Which is partly why this piece felt so risky.  Is it about abuse?  Is it erotic?  Is it masochistic?  Is it confessional?  Is it exhibitionist?  Is it a cry for help?  Is it an act of liberation?  It’s slippery and evocative.  Dangerous and searching.  I can’t begin to unpack it all in one distilled moment.

girl with tousled hair

Moses Soyer

Men's Leather Belts - BlackThe Moses Soyer image was lifted from The Walker Art Center collections webpage.


Refuse Refuse

Second Life: Runner Up
Port Moody Wearable Art Awards 2013
Exhibiting at Port Moody Arts Centre February 23 – March 14


Photo above by Darla Furlani
Link to the original image on the Port Moody Wearable Art Website.

View images of the 2013 Port Moody Wearable Art Awards, including Refuse Refuse, on the Pedersson Storyteller Photograpy blog collage.

Refuse: verb. Indicate or show that one is not willing to do something.

refuse refuse 2
Refuse: noun. Matter thrown away or rejected as worthless; trash.

refuse refuse 3

Materials: polythene sheeting, plastic bags, plastic bottles, other found plastics

Artist Statement:
Plastic has been called the lubricant of globalization because it’s a vapor and moisture barrier that enables the safe shipment of products around the globe. It is these very same qualities that make it virtually indestructible. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade, it photodegrades. Ultraviolet rays from the sun brittle it, cracking it and breaking it into little chips, these individual polymers, or micro plastics, are then ingested by marine life from the smallest feeder up the food chain. Some scientists upon analysis have found more plastic than plankton in some oceanic areas, some say a ratio of 6:1 and others have claimed 40:1 and ever increasing. In and around the garbage gyres, the most publicized being the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, there are exceptionally high concentrations of plastics, chemical sludge, and other debris that have been trapped by ocean currents. It doesn’t present as the mythical island dump floating on the ocean, rather there are tiny pieces of polymer everywhere, thinly distributed, and extremely impractical to clean up. There are high concentrations of toxins in plastics. It is not hard to believe with the ubiquitousness of plastic, that every currently living creature inhabiting this earth has plastic chemicals in their bodies. We have all heard the reports of plastic toxins leaching from containers into food and affecting human hormone levels and animals dissected after death revealing stomachs clogged with plastic parts.

I am not a plastics expert, but I am aware that practically every product I buy comes wrapped in plastic. Making these garments has not only become a method of recycling plastic waste, but it is aalso a medium through which to draw attention to the issue of a land and waterscape that is becoming increasingly choked with non-biodegradable consumer wastes. This act of creation is a resistance to globally based industries of waste and a consumer lifestyle that is threatening natural ecosystems and people’s ability to live in harmony with their environment. The inspiration is simultaneously drawn from nature itself and is influenced by the appearance of organic matter, such as the movement qualities of a jellyfish. The polyethylene plastics have been ripped and pulled to float through the air as if through water. Simultaneously, I looked to the nature of the material itself for inspiration, incorporating the longevity and durability of plastic by enhancing it with construction techniques such as weaving and tying. Aesthetically I am drawn to juxtapositions and opposing tensions. When Michael J.P. Hall approached me with the concept of working with plastics, which upon first appearance presents as organic, I was intrigued. There is an inherent ugliness in the plastic problem. With human adaptability and the drive to survive and thrive, might we find solutions to a disposable synthetic culture through a creative envisioning of our future? A look at a culture wrapped in plastic is a call to reconnect with the natural ecosystem of which we are a part.

note: photos edited by Nita Bowerman

note: photos edited by Nita Bowerman

These garments have been commissioned by Michael J.P. Hall of FRAMWERK PHOTOGRAPHY + DESIGN for a photo series entitled Entanglement. The Entanglement is a series of large-format photographs that speak to the intertwined relationship between human life and waste. Link to my Entanglement webpage here.

There are deadly consequences that result from a disposable culture dependent on plastic.

Midway – a film by Chris Jordan

I have no affiliation with this film, which is scheduled to premier late 2013. I do, however, believe it is an important work that deserves to be deeply considered and shared.

Capt. Charles Moore on the seas of plastic: Ted Talks

Do You See What I Mean? – a guiding response

I had the great privilege of participating as a tour guide in this remarkable experience,
a 2.5 hour blindfolded tour of the city…

Do You See What I Mean? by Projet in Situ (Lyon, France)

do you see what i mean?

Presented by the PuSh International Performing Arts Festival, and Urban Crawl, Sponsored by Terra Breads

Project Description:
Do You See What I Mean? invites you—the spectator—to experience Vancouver in a radically new fashion, turning the routine of daily life into an extraordinary journey of heightened senses and transformed perceptions. Created by Lyon-based choreographers Martin Chaput and Martial Chazallon, this captivating piece of one-on-one theatre is a 2½ hour blindfolded tour into the streets, storefronts and secret spaces of our city. Do You See What I Mean? is a deeply transformative work wherein spectators’ everyday worldview is radically re-positioned in an emotional and interpersonal manner.

Tour Guide Response:
This has been a beautiful experience. When my first blindfolded companion and I set off she was nervous, as evidenced by her firm grip on my elbow. This point of touch became our greatest communicator. It was through the tightness of her grip and the eventual, and remarkable, release that I could gage her comfort level. At one point I was conscious of how light her touch was and how willingly she had surrendered to the moment. What an honour to be gifted with so much trust, and to witness such curiosity, confusion, discovery, and surrender.

The tour had many stops along the way, each memorable in it’s own right. I was particularly engaged by my final two home visits to the same home. In the first visit we were guided through a rowing lesson, complete with rowing machine. In the second visit, with a new blindfolded companion, the homeowner guided through an intellectual and physical activity that involved building chair he had designed. In both cases, the generosity of the person who opened their home and the willingness of the blindfolded participant were remarkable. I am curious about the relationship of moving and tension release in these walks. The blindfolded participants seemed changed after these encounters. I sensed that they were more comfortable in their bodies. More trusting.

There’s more I’m formulating about physical contact as a form of authentic communication. And there’s also something about the transference of experience, about empathy and listening with the whole body to the moment as it unfolds, in relationship. Each participant of the tour was different, the routes and stops changed from walk to walk, the weather varied, yet certain things stayed constant such as an opening to the experience of being in a new relationship with familiar surroundings made unfamiliar. As a guide it made me listen more, witness more, and engage more than I usually do as I walk the streets I inhabit.

There is something profound about having someone in my care, and negotiating the curious balance of who was leading and who was following at any given moment. Usually I had to earn the trust of my companions, which was negotiated through shifting who set the pace. Interestingly, I found it was my physical gait, the slight bounce in my step and the natural swaying of the guiding arm that seemed to most elicit the release response in my companions.

The walk was beautifully crafted so that by the time we were in the final outside stretch of the tour, the silent, smooth, and swift glide was comfortable and relaxed. It proved a fantastic primer for the near final and most beautiful part of the tour, which I won’t spoil for those who hope to take this tour as it travels to other communities around the world.

Thanks Projet in Situ and PuSh for an utterly unique and most incredible experience.

PuSh graphic 2

* the graphics and project description are from the Push Festival online program*