FADO presents Things I’ve Forgotten by Cindy Baker in the context of –I (2022), an annual 12-hour event, curated and organized by Christof Migone.
This is the third in a series of twelve annual 12-hour events taking place on December 12 from noon to midnight EST (9-21 PST, 11-23 CDT, 17-05 GMT, 18-06 CET, 1-13 CST, 2-14 KST). Each year the event moves through each word of the 12-word phrase you and I are water earth fire air of life and death and activates the word of the year in a myriad of ways. This year the word is ‘I’, consequently the focus is on selfless selves, linked Is, and not-Is. The first year it started with ‘you’, last year ‘and’ came to connect you to anything and everything, this year that point of connection is ‘I’. The porous one. The sole collective.
Things I’ve Forgotten by Cindy Baker is a work that incorporates audio and performance to explore the relationship between trauma, memory and the body. The project is based on a very specific, mostly-forgotten childhood memory; I’m fascinated by the ability of our brains to block out traumatic events from our conscious memory, but their inability to prevent those events from making their mark in ways that impact us into adulthood. I often wonder how much this childhood trauma had a role in the formation of my personality, my physicality, or my disabilities. Through this work and the revisiting of dreams long forgotten, I am attempting to set in motion a process by which I can trigger the emergence of memories long-buried by past trauma while also engaging in an ongoing project of resisting the imperative to demonstrate the output of labour in performance; sometimes rest is part of the work. This experiment in personal betterment and catharsis through the creative process has a long art historical tradition. In my own practice, this type of experiment walks a tightrope between earnestness and cynicism; setting up (usually hilariously futile) challenges to my personal limitations, and attempts to make myself into something that I am not serve to highlight the futility of the search for perfection and the altogether human desire for knowledge
Cindy Baker is a contemporary artist based in Western Canada whose work engages with queer, gender, race, disability, fat, and art discourses. Committed to ethical community engagement and critical social enquiry, Baker’s interdisciplinary research-based practice draws upon 25 years working, volunteering, and organizing in the communities of which she is part. She moves fluidly between the arts, humanities, and social sciences, emphasizing the theoretical and conceptual over material concerns. Baker holds an MFA from the University of Lethbridge where she received a SSHRC grant for her research in performance in the absence of the artist’s body; she has exhibited and performed across Canada and internationally. Helping found important community and advocacy organizations over the course of her career, Baker continues to maintain volunteer leadership roles across her communities.
Over several months in 2021, I created performances for people I know, using their yards and/or the spaces outside their windows as my stage and source of inspiration, creating small intimate experimental performances with no preconceived themes or ideas.
For this residency supported by FADO, I resolved to begin to claw back the things I’ve lost over the past year, in small and incremental gestures.
to perform for live audiences rather than virtual ones.
to see other artists and close friends (if only through a window).
to spend more time outside to work with the weather rather than against it or in spite of it.
to have intimate encounters.
to go to friends’ homes.
to make new performances, to experiment, to learn, to move, to think, to feel.
My practice has tended to focus on issues of identity and corporeality as they relate to gender, queerness, fatness, and disability. The work has always come from personal experience but focuses on universal themes. As my work has evolved, my practice has focused more and more on the deeply personal. It’s less concrete, literal, and intellectual than it once was and has shifted gradually to work which is more poetic. The process is still relatively new territory to me, but I’m navigating it through experimentation, into a place that includes concepts and ideas that are more ephemeral, and less visible or less concerned with public access/interpretation of the “meaning” than before.
As an artist that has generally been most comfortable with a working method that privileges research, planning, writing, making, and gathering, performance is usually the culmination of months or years of labour. Recently I’ve started to shift to a more intuitive style of performance as a way of creating new knowledge; as a way to exercise and increase my flexibility and responsivity. For this residency, I forefronted intuition, putting planning not just on the back burner, but leaving it out of the recipe altogether (as much as that’s possible.)
This project demonstrates a commitment to a deeper exploration of process than I’ve engaged in the past, using myself as subject, object, and, in many ways, the primary audience. Elaborating on a larger exploration of memory, bodies, and trauma via intensely intimate experiences, I’m pursuing the goal of deep affective experience. I want to be changed by my work, and to examine that change so I can better understand myself and become a better artist.
FADO Performance Art Centre’s newest recurring series, Performance Academy, takes on the abstract form of a school, a university, a workshop, a class or a course, in the form of our own homemade academy. Performance: Academy is not a workshop and it’s not a school either. It’s best understood as a public engagement opportunity with an artist who is invested in inverting notions of authority in practice, research, and pedagogy.
Performance Academy 3: Good Bodies with Cindy Baker
What can your body do? What CAN’T your body do? The history of performance prioritizes movement that “pushes the limits” of our bodies and capabilities, creating points of tension between ease and difficulty. As artists with disabilities, our limits often seem like failings and if we can’t push as “far” as able-bodied people, we are seen as or feel like our work is less interesting; less advanced. We are also often inclined to make work that pushes our own limits in a way that is harmful to our well-being, using our work to prove our value and ability beyond our disabilities. Conversely, as able-bodied artists, we are usually blissfully unaware of the privilege of having a mechanically proficient body. We may want to make work that is sensitive to the notion of ability and limitations, or to proactively make work that acknowledges that our bodies will eventually begin to fail and that this does not mark an end to our practices.
How do we make work that respects the limits of our bodies and exploits and highlights our abilities and strengths, without making that work be “about” disability? How do we make work that talks about other ideas that we are interested in while remaining sensitive to our own abilities?
This will be a collaborative session in which we brainstorm ideas for new work and tease out ideas for fresh approaches to our practices. Baker will pose a series of questions and lead a discussion on the ideas generated. Attendees may be asked to participate in movement exercises based on their own ideas. Bring pens and paper or your preferred recording implements and any supportive or assistive props that you personally use and feel comfortable bringing.
This academy is open to all participants of all levels of study and/or experience, including the just plain curious. Admission is free. ASL interpretation and attendant care provided.
In partnership with Tangled Art + Disability, FADO welcomes Cindy Baker to Performance Academy for a one-time engagement, Good Bodies with Cindy Baker. This Performance Academy is presented in conjunction with the Tangled Art + Disability’s exhibition Home: Body, in which Cindy Baker presented a durational performance work entitled Crash Pad.
© Cindy Baker, Crash Pad, 2017. Photo Shannon Cochrane.
Cindy Baker invites you to get designing and turn her into a Fashion Plate. This two-week interactive performance, presented at and sponsored by The Drake Hotel (Toronto), is the second performance project in FADO’s IDea series.
For Fashion Plate, Cindy Baker will set up a sewing machine and various fabrics and pattern samples at Toronto’s The Drake Hotel. Audience members can drop in daily to meet with Baker and design an item of clothing – or perhaps an entire outfit – for her. Visitors are asked to take the process as far as cutting out the fabric, and then Baker (or her assistant) will finish the sewing job, with the results to be shown at a clothing launch on the last day of the performance.
For Baker, this process is about asking audience members, “to think about a large woman’s body, about someone else’s body, regardless of size, about that body in relation to their own and in relation to fashion, (a visual translation of society’s rules or standards about bodies).”
Baker goes one to write:
“One of my interests with this project is in examining the dance people will do between wanting to create something that will fit (and look good) on my (relatively enormous) body, while avoiding creating something so large as to be farcical… This project asks the viewer to look at me not as a performance artist but as a model—they are the artist/designer, so there are many possible layers of awkwardness.
Fashion Plate is about taking categorically/traditionally/predictably disappointed expectations, culminating in nervous-viewer-meets-nervous-artist, and trying to come up with small solutions. What interests me about disappointed expectations is finding the truths hidden within: set up an unrealistic task, and map the strategies used in trying to achieve the task to reveal something real.
I usually take on these tasks to learn more about my limitations, but this project sets out to present small tasks to others who are willing—and I will share with them in return. For this to work, we must both be willing to be a bit vulnerable. It’s a negotiation; the more they share, the more I can share, and the more information changes hands, the more interesting (and perhaps wearable) the end product.
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