For Feats, Might, curator Alissa Firth-Eagland asked artists known primarily for their video works to “unplug” their performative ideas, stepping out from behind the camera and onto the live stage.
Brian Joseph Davis
Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay
Performance art vs. video? by Paul Couillard
Perhaps more than any other genres, performance art and video have set the stage for visual art developments in the 21st century. Fuelled by—and also fuelling—the conceptual and technical breakthroughs of art activity over the past several decades, these two time-based practices are at the forefront of changing ideas about what art can and should be. They are also forms in which Canadian artists have consistently excelled. While the formal communicative strategies of these two media are, on the surface, almost oppositional—the obsessive detail of the close-up vs. the immersive composition of bodies in a shared environment; the fragmentary distillation of editing vs. the immutable pace of real-time; the magical layering of audio and visual tracks vs. the immediacy of live presence—both are instrumental in an evolving debate about our visions of ourselves and the universe in which we live. Both serve as reflective facets for exploring our everyday behaviour and for influencing social dynamics. Both offer compelling possibilities for expression.
Curatorial Statement by Alissa Firth-Eagland
Daniel Cockburn’s videos are cleverly self-referential without being didactic. They are deliberately sleek and crafted, even produced, but it is Cockburn’s performances within these productions that intrigue me most; his personae are disconcerting in their honesty and familiarity. I find there are many blind spots for me in all his onscreen characterizations. A notable mutability of portrayer and portrayed is evident in particular in his work, The Impostor (hello goodbye): there’s a mysterious blurring of fact and fiction. I am always left wondering how much of his onscreen personalities are, in fact, him.
For his work We Are Made of Stars, Brian Joseph Davis interviewed people who believed they resemble celebrities. The work reveals complex character layers within each individual who applied. Some look nothing like their doppelgangers. Some brandish their celebrity look-alike’s gestures and mannerisms. While Brian is not physically present in his work, his performance is evident in his orchestration of the interview scenario. His concept management is that of a devil’s advocate—neither the interviewees nor the viewer are privy to all the details. And of course his editing is very personal—gently culling their tics, speech patterns, and their very human traits while also revealing their learned celebrity mannerisms.
Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay’s work struck me a few years ago when I watched the two new titles he had created during a residency in Banff and after his first stay in Berlin. I was blown away by how much they both played off of, and expanded on, the previous title of his I had seen at New Toronto Works in 2002, Je Changerais D’Avis. Live to Tell felt newer than itself, slick and plastic, its aesthetic deliciously euro. But it also felt intensely sincere. It aroused questions for me about the possibility for artists to use references from popular culture without appropriating—forging something instead of just deconstructing. Nemerofsy Ramsay’s work doesn’t take from pop culture and mainstream media any more than it gives to them. These three artists’ work hinges on each of their own personal dwellings within the ephemeral medium of video, rendering it tangible through varied manifestations of presence and absence. Whether in their lack of physical appearance or their charismatic inhabitation, we witness their emotional restraints and emanations. We see poised spectres haunting the video signal and frame with impeccable timing. They’ve each inspired the question: “What kind of work would you make if you were to perform live?” These are their responses.
Co-presented by MOCCA. With thanks to V tape and The Great Hall.
Video screening @ 8:30pm
We Are Made of Stars, Brian Joseph Davis, 2004, 11:00
The Imposter (hello, goodbye), Daniel Cockburn, 2003, 8:48
Live to Tell, Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay, 2002, 6:00
Performances @ 9:00pm
Report on an Unidentified Art Event Audience by Brian Joseph Davis
Visible Vocals by Daniel Cockburn
Constellation by Nemirov and Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay