Henry Adam Svec

Misinformed Informants: The Lost Stompin’ Tom Song

“Folk music is not about press, resumés, schmoozing, or price tags. Its purpose is to foster authentic being-together.” – Staunton R. Livingston

For decades, Stompin’ Tom Connors has attempted to unite Canadians in song. His “The Hockey Song,” “Sudbury Saturday Night,” and “Bud the Spud” – among many others – have spoken across the rural and the urban; they have both lassoed and amplified his nation’s spirit. Although it is not often celebrated or discussed, however, there was a moment in Tom’s aesthetic development when he opened up his craft to other possibilities. “The Lost Stompin’ Tom Song”, which folklorist Henry Adam Svec has recently discovered is not the whole story of Tom’s latent tendency away from flag-waving, is a significant document for the archeological study of world-historical consciousness, which is yet to be written.

The debut performance of The Lost Stompin’ Tom Song will unfold in three parts. First, Svec will place the recording he has uncovered into historical, aesthetic, and political contexts. He will play the recording itself, which Tom made in 1974 on a four-track machine. Second, because folk music is about neither celebrities nor individuals (cf. Livingston), Svec will perform and discuss some of the other songs he has gathered on his many folk-collecting journeys. The purpose of this part of the performance will be to locate Tom, not as master craftsman or star, but as one amongst many other equally illuminating (if generally unknown) voices in Canadian folk music.

And lastly, Svec himself will perform a more accurate version of “The Lost Stompin’ Tom Song.” Although the recording Svec discovered might seem to be the best document we have of Tom’s original intention – for it is Tom singing and playing on the recording – it has been clear to many working in the fields of folklore and ethnomusicology (e.g. Altman, 1988; Rough, 2004) that the essence of a song cannot be expressed by any particular manifestation of that song. Song qua song transcends the historicity of any and all songs. It follows, then, that Tom’s recorded performance of “The Lost Stompin’ Tom Song” (although important and interesting) is not identical with itself. Drawing on very recent research, however, Svec will play what is believed to be the real guts of the work in question.


Henry Adam Svec is a songwriter, actor, and folklorist. His interdisciplinary work has also spanned performance, music, theatre, criticism, and game design. He was raised on a cherry farm near Blenheim, Ontario, and has lived in New Brunswick and Mississippi. He has traveled extensively across Canada and the United States on his many song-catching expeditions, trips on which he has documented authentic folk music and rituals. From 2006-2008 he was the resident folklorist at The National Archives of Canada; it was while working in Ottawa that he famously discovered The CFL Sessions, songs written and recorded by Canadian football players in the 1970s. He has also recorded music from the other side of the microphone, in the bands Peter Mansbridge and the CBCs and The Boy from ET. He is the author of American Folk Music as Tactical Media, a scholarly monograph, and Life Is Like Canadian Football and Other Authentic Folk Songs, a novel. He currently teaches at the University of Waterloo.

Misinformed Informants curated by Lisa Visser

Guillaume Adjutor Provost
Corina Kennedy
Sophie Castonguay
Julia Mensink
Stacey Ho
Joshua Schwebel (cancelled)
Michelle Lacombe
Henry Adam Svec

Misinformed Informants: Preface to the Performance
By Lisa Visser

Fragments, fleeting words, fights. You’re not listening to me

Misinformed Informants invites emerging artists to answer to the idea of miscommunication, misunderstanding, misplaced lines of agreement. Responses range from antiquated expressions of communication to suggestions, covert signals, mis-remembrance and the unapologetically false. Diverse interpretation converges into an overhead problem of mistrust. In trusting the informant (who may be misinformed) misinformation is communicated as true information. Truth and reality negate the very premise of this performance event. I begin to doubt the truth I communicated. And yet: I would never lie to you. But: this is about lies.

This curatorial premise acknowledges the complicated boundaries of curator-performer-audience relationships and pushes past them. These tensions are apparent in the work of Misinformed Informants, and can be as subtle as a gesture, as apparent as a role-reversal, or as confrontational as a slap in the face.    

Julia Mensink’s maybe it was nothing brings a tension to the audience/performer role by inviting her ex-boyfriend to be a participant. Both Julia and her ex tell a lecture-style story, based on their own experiences of the same event. Through the development of the story, what becomes clear is the absence of synchronicity in memories, the highlighting of the fuzzy parts and the uncomfortable inclusion of audience members into a breakup. The audience can choose between listening to Julia or her-ex’s side of the story: a literal choosing of sides. How terrible to be brought in to this. I would like us not to fight.

Joshua Schwebel’s piece deliberately misses the mark, or so it was meant to. Relying on the accuracy of Canada Post, Joshua mis-addressed his application to the call for submissions. However, a glitch delivered the package to the correct address in a sensible amount of time.  In following Joshua’s instructions, I rejected the dossier. Joshua’s cheeky approach to the premise has yet to play itself out, but his deliberate determination to accepting and then rejecting causes me to question my role as curator. What have I done in creating these intentionally missed formations of informants?

In a similar farce, Henry Adam Svec plays with the role of the lecturer and delivers a performance rooted in fiction. Stompin’ Tom Connors never wrote “The Lost Stompin’ Tom Song.” Did he? Henry engages the audience in an experiment that questions and abuses the influence of authority and the audiences’ desire to be patient, active and honest listeners.

Sophie Castonguay toes the line between performer and director, creating a confusion that arises from the conditioned reverence of the audience for the performer and the space of performance art. You took the words right out of my mouth puts audience members under the direction of the performer. The audience wants to know what is happening. The performer is in control. Is this the performance? Sophie withholds the one thing the audience wants: clear communication about what will happen next. Going beyond the unexpected is also the under-expected, the under-performed and the under-communicated. 

Stacey Ho invites additional participants in her GROOP MEDITEHSHUNS, a three-part piece that draws attention to breathing, blinks and beats. Each performance will have the participants respond to one another’s bodies with a gesture, a sound, or a slap in the face. By drawing attention to the subtleties of the bodies’ motions, Stacey is over-communicating in a way that is delicate and absurd, respectful and brutal.  

The obsessive nature of this over-observant performance is present in Corina Kennedy’s cheer sir or madam, a durational performance in which letters are typed out on a typewriter, only to be immediately rendered unreadable. Letters of love, protest, and rejection are destroyed upon their completion. What remains are mounds of lonely letters of the alphabet, without a structure or form. Both antiquated forms of communication and obsession elevates these letters until they are objectified and displayed, nearly fetishized.  

Guillaume Adjutor Provost’s fetishization comes into play in a different form, a covert and suggestive gestural work. Guillaume claims a subjective reinterpretation of historical moments, changing meanings and communicating a new history. SLOW READERS, argument no.1 is based on a song meant to inspire spirituality. Through the performance, the song and it’s intent is broken down in subtle movements, hidden meanings and secrets only the performer knows. The secret is there.  But we stopped understanding each other long before that. 

The performances in Misinformed Informants break down communication – reducing it to an elemental approach. What results is a step-by-step guide on how to mis-communicate and a deliberate delivery of misinformation. Each artist claims a unique response, playing with issues of trust, structure, defined roles, tensions and obsessions. These are common-place issues. Every moment we are faced with the authority of being an informant and of being the informed. Sweet lies for protection, small in nature, keep us from personal disaster. The authority of the speaker is consistently abused in a way that is difficult to place and even more difficult to accuse.

Your word against mine. But I know you’re lying. I would never lie to you.

Special thanks to Clive Robertson for the hook-ups, Johanna Householder for the coffee and advice, and Shannon Cochrane for a being a model of enthusiasm, dedicated support, and superior decision-making skills, to which I aspire. Also thanks to Sarah E.K. Smith for listening to all my lies. Big thanks to Matthew Williamson and all the staff at XPACE for their help and support.

Exhibition: December 17–19 / 12:00pm–8:00pm Friday & 12:00pm–6:00pm Saturday

Performance Yellow

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?

Top Notes

yellow mandarin, mimosa

Middle Notes

honey, chamomile, salt

Base Notes

narcissus, guaiac wood, piss, beer