Writing
Exercise On Experiencing Ephemerality

The following performance exercise is by Marilyn Arsem. You can find it on page 192 of the new publication about Arsem’s work entitled Responding to Site: The performance work of Marilyn Arsem.



Exercise On Experiencing Ephemerality

In a course on documenting ephemeral work, I being by examining the reasons that we try to hold onto the past, as well as the ways that our memories are fluid and elusive. Early in the course I give this task:

  1. Chose a place nearby that you have always wanted to visit and see, but have not yet gone.
  2. Go there, taking as much time as you wish to explore and experience the place.
  3. Before you leave, choose one object to bring back as a souvenir. Only one.
  4. And finally, you must agree never to return to that place again.

Initially this exercise appears mundane, until the final stipulation of never returning is added. The most revealing part of the process is each student’s debate on where they will go, knowing that they can’t return. The ones that choose the place they most desire have the most intense experience, and those that play it safe and choose a place that has minimal significance for them have the least meaningful experience.

I designed this exercise in an effort to replicate the experience of making a performance or other ephemeral work, and the profound feeling of loss that can occur when it is over. In particular, I am interested in pointing out that this kind of work is not unlike one’s own life, in that you cannot return to the past, but only—and if you are lucky—save a relic or memory of it.

Writing
Notes on a High Tea

“I’m not sure where any of this is going but don’t throw any of it out.”
~Shannon Cochrane (heavily paraphrased)


Gallerist Paul Petro refers to my new association with Jeanne Randolph as a “forced mentorship.” He might be right. I’m not sure myself what this new relationship is. Given that Jeanne Randolph has been on my mind so much (I just mailed her a Christmas card) I started to think that I need to do a hard think and ask myself ‘what is it?’ Finally, a decent thought came into my head:

Performance as Lecture
Lecture as Performance

Not a new idea but I think my association to Jeanne / with Jeanne is a desire to move into 

Performance as Lecture
Lecture as Performance

I have tried. In 2015 The Belljar Café in Toronto gave me the opportunity to present a campy, one-off lecture / performance using the 1985 film “Desperately Seeking Susan” as a reference point. I decide to take it all very seriously. My Performance Lecture was entitled “States of Confusion, Amnesia and Loss of Control.” It went “okay”. Not great. Not bad. Certainly something worth re visiting one day. But I haven’t tried or been inspired to try another Performance Lecture

Lecture Performance since.

Moving into 2020 and 2021 I have been slightly re inspired to try my skills again—using Jeanne Randolph and her Performance Lecture style as a reference. In March 2021 I received a $4,000 grant from The Ontario Arts Council to reach out to Jeanne Randolph and use her as a catalyst for  my possible upcoming Performance work, ideas and inspiration. Ideas were tossed around with friends and the concept of a High Tea was decided upon.

On Sunday September 26th, 2021 from 11:30am–1:30pm at The Windsor Arms Hotel in Toronto, twenty-six artists gathered in The Purple Tea Room for a High Tea. Jeanne Randolph was the catalyst for this memorable event. For those who know me well—tea and sweets are not my thing. I probably had one or two sips of the stuff and foolishly ate too many sweets not fully remembering that I do not like cakes and things like that.

Looking back, was The High Tea a performance (maybe). Was I super pleased—yes. Would I organize another one? Probably not—one was enough. 

But rethinking The High Tea: was it a Performance? We as artists gathered not in a bar, not in a gallery, not in a performance space but we gathered in a formal room designated for and famous for a High Tea.

What have I been doing since The High Tea? 

Investigating psychoanalysis (and treading very lightly into the unknown). I find that once I sensitize myself to something (in this case psychoanalysis) it seems to be everywhere. People are talking about psychoanalysis, going back to school to become a psychoanalyst, seeing a psychoanalyst and on it goes….

The High Tea for me was thrilling. Thrilling? For me to be able to treat 26 people to something different, special and certainly not every day is thrilling.

Back to the Shannon Cochrane quote from above: I haven’t thrown any of this experience out and it is very true that I have no idea where any of this investigation (High Tea, Jeanne Randolph, Psychoanalysis) will take me but hopefully I will move the idea of Performance as Lecture

Lecture as Performance

forward.

Again, not a new idea but an idea worth pursuing in my own way.

December 5, 2021

Series
Performance Resolution(s)

Resolution:
a firm decision to do or not to do something.
the quality of being determined or resolute.
the action of solving a problem.
the process of reducing or separately something into its components.
the smallest interval measurable by an optical instrument.
the conversion of something abstract into another form.

ARTISTS
Cindy Baker
David Bateman
Kate Barry
lo bil
Kiera Boult
Alexis Bulman
Ulyssess Castellanos
Chipo Chipaziwa
Keith Cole & Jeanne Randolph
W. A. Davison
Emily DiCarlo
Claudia Edwards
Vanessa Dion Fletcher
Serge Olivier Fokoua
Marie-Claude Grendon
Moynan King
Hélène Lefebvre
Tess Martens & Holly Timpener
Roy Mitchell
Laura Paolini
Diana Lopez Soto
Jordyn Stewart
Clayton Windatt

Performance Resolution(s) is FADO’s 2021/2022 at-home residency series. Participating artists were chosen from a Canada-wide open call for submissions inviting artists to propose performance-based research projects that engaged with the theme of ‘resolution.’



It goes without saying that 2020 changed everything. The world is now a very different place than before. (We resolve never to say, “it goes without saying” again.) For artists working in live art and performance, events were cancelled and festivals postponed. What happens to embodied practice when the bodies can’t be together irl? With dizzying speed, we were compelled to bring performance to the tiny back-lit screen as an alternative. Sometimes that worked. Without being able to gather in large groups, sometimes we leaned on old tricks (what performance artist doesn’t know what it’s like to perform in a half-empty theatre?) to shoehorn our work into the current context. More often than not, to keep moving, we stuck with the script—over producing and addicted to presentation.



But thankfully the new year brings with it fresh starts, new directions and an opportunity to reflect. We make promises in the form of new year’s resolutions—a private or public personal commitment to change. Most resolutions dissolve by the end of March, or sooner. If 2020 taught us anything, it taught us that transformation comes slowly. The real breakthroughs are still in the (social) distance, but a seed has been planted.

Our inspirations for Performance Resolution(s) are the hope for a better 2021 for all, and a profound performance exercise designed by Marilyn Arsem that we think about from time to time. Read Marilyn’s exercise below.

Some of the projects in this at-home residency series will have tangible outcomes; many will not. The point was not to find to way to support artists through replicating old ways of doing things by keeping the hamster wheel of production going. Instead, we encourage a slowing down and a deep dive into what it means to have resolve, even if you don’t have the answer. 

Watch this space for updates on various projects and research contributions as they reveal themselves over the 2021–2022 programming year.

Series Purple

An ode to FADO's history, Series Purple is composed of a collection of purple fragrance materials dating back to the Roman Empire. Dense, intense, and meandering, this fragrance tells us non-linear stories.

Top Notes

huckleberry, violet

Middle Notes

cassis, lilac, heliotrope

Base Notes

orris root, purple sage, labdanum