Chuck Varga is a founding member of GWAR, a fluid rock ‘n’ roll project that has been variously described as a ‘musical prodigy’ and a ‘multimedia atrocity’. GWAR’s musical legacy of 15 years spans five major album releases, two live videos, and two full-length feature films, including the Grammy-nominated Phallus in Wonderland. Varga is also a member of both the Slave Pit Inc. (visual designers of everything from sets and costumes to gore effects to comic books for GWAR) and Hyperreal Productions, a costume and set design company.
FADO presents SHUT UP, a series of 10 outdoor performances dealing with the themes of incarceration and wrongful imprisonment – literally, the state of being ‘shut up’. This event is the second half of a performance art exchange between Chicago and Toronto that began in 1998. SHUT UP offers a unique opportunity for Toronto audiences to sample the styles and aesthetics operating in Chicago’s performance art community in relation to performances by some of Toronto’s hottest performance artists.
The evening will feature a range of styles, from tableaux to spoken word, from interactive, participatory works to spectacle and multimedia presentations. The theme of incarceration will be approached from a wide variety of perspectives, from the highly topical and political (e.g. the recent persecution of Falun Gong practitioners) to considerations of the philosophical, psychological and emotional aspects of incarceration.
Marlon Billups & Shannon Harris
Julie Laffin & Andrew Cook
Andrea Polli & Chuck Varga
Untitled by Jeff Calan
Jeff Calan continues his work with storytelling using a series of intimately mechanized objects and a camera obscura, and will perform inside it. A frame in a false wall shows what appears to be a photograph, but upon closer inspection it seems to be a film or video, as it is moving, yet it is very sharp, sharper than a film. A hand is seen pulling a scrolling roll of paper, upon which is written a narrative that is full of various events, their causes and effects, and the desperation that comes from being unable to connect cause and effect. The image the audience sees is really from an old, large-format camera with a groundglass back which is behind the frame and it is pointed toward the performer who is moving a roll of paper that contains text from court transcripts of wrongly convicted people on death row. Small objects will be presented within the frame every few minutes. If an audience member walks behind the false wall, the performer takes a flash photograph of the audience member.
Eleven Cent Magic by Shannon Cochrane
With Jennifer Rashleigh. Thanks to Andrew Pommier. For Kenneth because he invented and constructed the first ‘portable pitcher’s mound’ in 1952. Unfortunately, when it was filled with sand, it was too damn heavy to actually be transported anywhere. His father looked out the cottage window, laughed and went back to reading the paper. The research continues here. Eleven Cent Magic: an experiment to prove that time flies and birds really only float.
Blackstrap by Paul Couillard
In this tableau work, using the fitness trail apparatus, Paul’s body slowly shifts from light to dark.
Untitled by Edward Johnson
This solo tableau work (in the skating rink) considers the physical and psychological realm of confinement in all of its vastness and claustrophobia.
Untitled by Will Kwan
This performance draws links between the ‘silent’ gestures of mime performance and ‘silent’ displays of state power as exhibited through a popular form of punishment known as community service, in this case, maintenance work. The performance addresses the issue of the function of the artist in society: as performer, worker, criminal and clown.
255 by Julie Laffin & Andrew Cook
255 is not a performance. It is an actual memorial to the practitioners of Falun Gong who have lost their lives since July of 1999 when Jiang Zemin branded Falun Gong an “evil cult” and launched his campaign to erase all the Falun Gong practitioners in China by any means necessary. Falun Gong is an ancient moving meditation (Qi Gong) that was once supported by the Chinese govt. for it’s great abilities to improve health. It was banned partly because of the sheer numbers of practitioners, which before the crackdown began, far out-numbered communist party membership in the PRC. The number 255 attempts to quantify the number of human lives that have been taken (that we know of) by means of unspeakable brutality by the Chinese authorities during the deadly campaign against Falun Gong. Practitioners who would not renounce their faith were and are at this moment being tortured to death. When we began this project in May of this year, only two months ago, the number of documented deaths was 196. The number 255 does not begin to speak about the tens of thousands of Falun Gong practitioners now illegally detained in prisons, psychiatric facilities and labor camps. It does not speak of the rapes, torture, beatings, threats, intimidations, indignities, humiliations, unfair trials, force-feedings, forced druggings, “re-education” efforts, psychological abuses, and countless other inhumane acts against a group of people for simply asserting their right to their spiritual beliefs and peaceful practices. The number also can never represent the suffering of the families and loved ones of the practitioners that have been murdered or have had atrocities perpetrated upon them. The dress you see documents with photos and written names those Falun Gong practitioners who have been killed in police custody since the merciless crackdown began in China exactly two years ago yesterday. It is a companion dress to one that is currently in Washington, D.C. at a rally held there to bring global attention to end the crackdown in China. As citizens of the free world, we urge you to refuse to tolerate the policies of the Chinese government against Falun Gong practitioners in whatever large or small ways you can.
DEVI by Louise Liliefeldt
Devi, also known as the “Bandit Queen”, was born into a poor lower-caste rural family in the northern Indian state of Bihar. She became the subject of great fame and notoriety throughout India as the leader of a violent gang of dacoits (bandits) who terrorized authority for years until their surrender in 1983. Phoolan Devi became a popular cult figure, a vigilante liberator and a symbol of empowerment for the lower-castes of Bihar. This work is a homage to her journey and the strength for which she stands. Thanks to Derek.
I Will Cut Your Grass by Louise McKissick
Digital Video, 1:26:13, 2001
At one time, Dorothy Gaines ‘loved the wrong man’ and ended up in prison. She was put away by purely circumstantial evidence – her ex-lover, a convicted crack dealer, accused her of dealing drugs in order to obtain a reduced sentence for himself. The prosecutors found no evidence of cocaine or any other illegal drugs in her home. She was given a 19-year sentence. “I will cut your grass” is based on a letter written to the judge by Dorothy’s son, Phillip Gaines, age 11, at the time of her sentencing. A fluidly moving camera tracks youthful exuberance at the Washington Park waterslide on a Sunday afternoon, providing a counterpoint to Phillip’s words.
Untitled by Andrea Polli & Chuck Varga
Andrea and Chuck are interested in the use of sound in the establishment of power in government and the military. Their piece involves a ‘Speaker’s Corner’-style open mic, but those who try to use the forum will discover that the words broadcast are not those spoken in the microphone.
PLUS: The Ghetto by Marlon Billups & Shannon Harris
This fragrance opens us to the question, has the show started? It's winter, the theatre is colder than the street and the room is filled with people and all their winter smells: wet faux leather, down, too much shampoo, and beer breath. The atmosphere is a trickster. Am I late, am I early?
yellow mandarin, mimosa
honey, chamomile, salt
narcissus, guaiac wood, piss, beer