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The weather—like music, like traffic, like relationships and families and careers—is a landscape of noise that sometimes coalesces into something that feels like something: a movement, a-quiver. In this work, I seek to document the various ways that we attune to these atmospheres.
50 days of atmosphere is a two-channel, 114-minute video installation that as made in collaboration with Jonathan Inksetter. It was presented at La Mirage as part of Studio Libre in May 2015.
excerpt (sound): [vimeo 111710702]
My video documentation work, Suite canadienne (2015), is on view at the Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery as part of the show IGNITION 11 until June 6, 2015.
More info: http://ellengallery.concordia.ca/en/expositions_ignition2015.php
Photos by Emily Gan
For two days in April I danced in the public and private institutions of the city: city hall, the courthouse, the stock market, the arts council, the investment banks, the trade buildings and the convention center. I danced a minor part from Ludmilla Chiriaeff’s folk ballet Suite canadienne, choreographed for CBC television in 1955. Presenting an originary work of Quebec ballet danced by a largely untrained body, the performances raise questions about belonging, permission and the re-performance of cultural fantasies.
Usine C Love You, Porgy
10 minute excerpt with Fred Basil, Mike Bjella, Ted Crosby, Erik Hove, Micah Langer, Etienne Lapierre, Averil Parker, Liam O’Neill & Stefan Schneider. Video by Samuel Trudelle-Gendron
In March 2014, Usine C asked if I wanted to make a musical performance for the lobby of the theatre. I’ve always loved and hated that lobby. It’s both beautiful and imposing and it has a way of suggesting that, no, the party is not for you, it’s for someone richer than you. To counteract the feeling of not belonging, I filled the space with my people: saxophonists and other musicians in the city who I know and love.
The space is too big for a performance, but we tried to use it all. My plan was to disperse 10 musicians around the sprawling lobby and choreograph a dance of melody that moved between us. Meanwhile the audience had to perambulate in order to actually hear the concert, as the music seemed to always be moving slowly elsewhere.
We used the Gershwin tune “I loves you, Porgy” as a shared ground because I’ve always wanted to hear that song coming from everywhere at the same time. The song is a kind of currency, a way of being in a space together.
Jacob Wren and Adam Kinner performing Music And Theatre Must Learn To Disassociate in January 2014. This was part of the exhibition “STAGE SET STAGE: On Identity and Institutionalism” at the SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art. Curator: Barbara Clausen.
Courtesy of SBC Gallery of Contemporary Art. Video credit: Risa Hatayama
An excerpt of The Weather In Times Square, Today in which Devin Brahja Waldman surprises us all.
[vimeo 100770765 w=650 h=350]
A new piece called The Weather In Times Square will premiere at Tangente on May 15th to 18th in Montreal.
Tickets and more information here.
[vimeo https://vimeo.com/93300290 w=670&h=400]
How to dance the weather, and why? This impossible task brings us again to the limit of representation and to the infinite capacity of the body to hold abstraction. In The Weather In Times Square, five dancers access the rhythms, relations and movements of the weather. They are a rolling cloud slowly traversing the sky; they are the rain pattering on the roof. The literal attempt to dance the weather transforms them into a non-human group, a slowly moving sculpture. And yet, they insist on language as a tool to describe and to discuss the weather. Abstraction is transformed into words and words are exchanged. Eventually we see the weather is a way of looking, a way of feeling, an encounter with the other—something beyond us, continuously undoing us. As we converse, as we come together in the theatre, as we move through life, we are moving with, and as, the weather.
[with Jana Jevtović, Kelly Keenan, Simon Portigal, Noémie Solomon, Devin Brahja Waldman, & Jacob Wren; video shot and edited by Emily Gan.]
Below is an interview with performer Kelly Keenan on the topic of her participation
in the performance We can make this work.
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/83640142 w=670&h=400]
AK: First of all, I wonder if you could just tell me what made you decide to
participate in We can make this work?
KK: As a friend and colleague, I was already inclined to participate but essentially
your writing on the website, which helped me to understand your motivation in
more depth, excited me to accept this invitation to perform with you. I wrote the
AK: When you decided to participate, did you find it difficult to resolve to
actually send money?
KK: Yes, not because of lack of trust but because of my account being deflated and I
was waiting for pay to come in. If you remember, I told you to wait for my “cue” to
cash the cheque.
AK: What was it like to participate?
KK: It was fun. I made a sub-performance out of it where I filmed the writing of the
cheque from photobooth. Photobooth (Mac Software) films backwards so it then
became funny to me that the cheque I wrote appeared to be for $001. In any case
the amount seemed irrelevant. The participation, action and transaction seemed
to be the important matter.
AK: I assume that you frequently send money to various people. Did this
instance of sending money seem or feel different? Why?
KK: It was different in the sense that I knew that 99% would come back and I don’t
normally get money back after I send it unless I request a refund. The return of
the money, the collaboration, was in fact what I was purchasing.
AK: Describe the feeling of receiving the return cheque. Did it feel different from
a normal instance of receiving money?
KK: There is a certain pleasure in receiving a cheque. It’s like getting a
postcard or a tax credit you forgot about in the mail. It’s a pleasant moment in the day.
There is another pleasure in cashing a cheque. As a resourceful person I see a
lot of potential in $99. I did nothing extraordinary with the return cheque. I must
have paid a bill and the rest got lumped with my previous account balance. In
retrospect I wish I had done something a little special with this cheque.
It’s art isn’t it? Should I have framed it? You are very likely to be famous one
day. Maybe that cheque would be worth $9900 in my lifetime.
It was a unique and special exchange with a dear friend. Maybe I should have
put it in my box of mementos.
Not cashing it would have maintained my cheque as a donation to your artistic
practice which in turn is my profit as I enjoy your work so much.
Or perhaps it would enable you to engage collaborators like me. However, I cashed
it, and like a dance, the choreography ended and is now in the archives of
reminiscent memory in the ephemeral.
AK: Has your participation had any lasting effects?
KK: Hydro Quebec still likes me.
AK: Do you feel that trust was an integral part of the piece? Why or why not?
KK: I already trusted you and had no doubt of your reliability. However, this existing
trust was already based on your performance in our previous interactions. I
imagine for those that don’t know you there would be more consideration of
whether you were trustworthy, whether the 99% would actually be returned. In
that case, are your collaborators participating for the thrill of risk entailed? Or
jumping at the invitation to trust others?
To be honest, had I not known you, given the low balance of my bank account at
that time, I likely would not have participated. There are appropriate and
inappropriate times to gamble.
AK: Part of the idea of we can make this work is to rob money of its
performative power—that is, its power to create social reality. Can you
reflect on this intention having participated in the piece?
KK: In my role of giving you a cheque was an act to willfully engage in a creative
social proposition and exchange. In your case, the invitation actively seeks social
exchange with a limitless and indiscriminate number of participants. Maintaining
your performed promise by handing me a return cheque of 99% was an act that
affirmed your social credibility and reliability from my perspective and, I presume,
also of the other collaborators whom you honored your agreement to.
So, I am not yet convinced the money was robbed of its power to create social
Can it be that “we can make this work” in fact suggests a social reality? A positive
and creative social reality encouraging exchange, honorability and no one
Can it be that “we can make this work” infact builds your personal social reality?
However, in the sense that due to the almost exact equal amount exchanged the
transaction becomes trivial and thus, yes, powerless.
I would like to fund my work with the money of the dead.
We have an idea of freedom. But in the arts there is very little freedom. And perhaps one reason for this is that we all need to eke out an existence, begging, fundraising, applying. We look to those with money – institutions, individuals, businesses – to raise funds, and we are presented with two problems: first, through the concrete social interaction that is the exchange of money, we enter into a political system; and second, through the exchange of money we enter into relationships that persist over time, inhibiting our ability to alter identities.
At the nexus between the individual and the society-at-large, the exchange of money is a particularly political site – and this is the primary problem. Only without money and without a need for money can we approach something like an apolitical existence. Money is what ties us to each other and what ties us to a hierarchical funding system in the arts. Art is political too. More specifically, its creator moves in the direction of the apolitical (above, smooth) and the work (object or experience) moves in the direction of the political-poetic. It is embedded in politics through and through, though it is slippery until society settles on what it means, and owns it. Artists create objects, histories and experiences that can enter politics (ambiguously) on their behalf, precisely so they don’t have to. That the artist is tied to politics through money is an unavoidable problem. Just as we hope our works never have a settled meaning, so we wish that we did not have to be in politics to make art. Unfortunately, there is no escape. Society consumes us and owns our work.
The second problem concerns the temporal aspect of politics and funding. We find a source of funds and through this exchange we develop a relationship that persists over time. The course of this relationship shapes and stabilizes our identity. We build loyalties. A stable identity is more efficient than an unstable one. Loyalty, in this way, always constructs continuity and aims at the boring side of progress. Conservative identities in the arts are killing us, and killing art. It’s not “out with the old,” it’s out with relationship that makes you old, that turns you old right before your eyes, just because you have a mistaken conception that being an artist is also a possible career path.
I propose that we fund our work with the money of the dead. I propose that we source our project-funds from those living, on the premise that the work will only be made public after the person who gave money is dead. The terminally ill can give money knowing that there is no chance they will see the final production. Healthy people could give money knowing they are investing in a distant future they will never know and not be a part of. This bridge between life and death may be the only place where money can exit politics.
But we have loyalties with the dead just as we do with the living, you say. Yes, but there is an important difference between loyalty relationships with dead and political relationships with the living. Loyalty with the dead is productive, it is poetic, it enables change, it is smooth and adaptable. We move on, and they stay dead. Our relationship with the dead cannot be political, it can only be poetic.
We used to nurture relationships with the dead. The dead would be present to us, aiding us, guiding us, ambiguously. That we cannot sustain a relationship with the dead is a sign of how literal, how unpoetic we’ve become.
It would be best if we found money on the ground and picking it up, thought, “This money belongs to no one, apparently. Perhaps I should make art with it as a way of sublimating it, using it produce ambiguity and to make the world more complicated, more beautiful. Perhaps with this money I can be free to create, not out of duty, but as a return gift to an entity I will never know.” This will never happen, save the odd $20 bill. But perhaps one could convince a living person to give money knowing that this money will enable life and art after her death. I would like to think so.