A Score of Scores

10 artists. 10 score writers. A score is an old term for ‘twenty’ of something = A Score of Scores.

Abedar Kamgari & Naseh Kamgari
Holly Timpener & Enok Ripley
James Knott & Francisco-Fernando Granados
Keith Cole & David Roche
Laura Paolini & Tomasz Szrama
Mikiki & Jan Peacock
Paul Couillard & Elvira SantamarĂ­a-Torres
Rita Camacho Lomeli & Alejandro Tamayo
SA Smythe & Autumn Knight
Tanya Mars & Myriam Laplante

Put together by Shannon Cochrane and Francesco Gagliardi

FADO’s spring performance art series invites 10 artists to perform the interpretation of a performance score, written for them by an artist of their own choosing. Artists from across a spectrum of practices grounded in live performance (including cabaret, music, experimental composition, intermedia, video and more) interpret a score designed for them by an array of Canadian and international artists. The duos have chosen to strategize their collaboration in myriad ways—from conspiring together to revealing the final score only moments before the live presentation.

Emerging in the early 1960s in the context of the FLUXUS movement and in conversation with the expanded compositional practices of John Cage and LaMonte Young, “event scores” relied on elements of collaboration, improvisation, and chance to challenge traditional understandings of originality and artistic creation. Often very short, event scores typically consisted of lists of prompts and instructions ranging from the mundane to the elusively abstract and were circulated among fellow artists with an open invitation to interpret and perform them however they wanted. 

A Score of Scores is an experimental back-to-basics platform for artists to create new small-scale work in a spirit of experimentation, collaboration, and agility.

May 12: Performances by James Knott, Tanya Mars
May 13: Performances by Keith Cole, Laura Paolini
May 18: Performances by Paul Couillard, Holly Timpener
May 19: Performances by Mikiki, SA Smythe
May 20: Performances by Rita Camacho Lomeli, Abedar Kamgari

A Score of Scores by Paul Couillard
Paul Couillard

© Paul Couillard. Duorama #129 (performance with Ed Johnson), Museo de Arte ContemporĂĄneo de Oaxaca, 2020. Photo Fausto Luna.


Paul Couillard has been working as a queer artist, curator, and performance art scholar since 1985. He has created well over 300 performance works in 26 countries, often with his husband and collaborator, Ed Johnson. Paul was the Performance Art Curator for FADO from 1993 until 2007, and is a founding co-curator of 7a*11d. His main areas of interest include site-responsiveness, building community, and addressing trauma through explorations of our bodies as shared vessels of sensation, experience, knowledge and spirit. He is the editor of the monograph series Canadian Performance Art Legends, and has been a lecturer at McMaster University and the University of Toronto Scarborough. He recently completed a doctorate through the York Graduate Program in Communication and Culture. His dissertation Rethinking Presence with a Thinking Body: Intra-active Relationality and Animate Form offers a meditation on presence from the perspective of a thinking body, integrating insights from continental philosophy, popular neuroscience, and interactive performance art practices.

Everyday life words in progress’s over-the-shoulder perspective and discourse with objects

Everyday life words in progress was a nine-day, 90-hour performance by Elvira SantamarĂ­a, presented in Toronto by FADO from March 16 to 24, 2007. This durational, process-based work was part of IDea, the final series I organized as FADO’s Performance Art Curator. Mounted in a small Queen Street West storefront, part of what was then Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects, the performance had an unusual time structure, running for 18 hours on its initial Friday opening, then decreasing in duration by two hours each day until the final two hours on the second Saturday. The piece unfolded as a creative residency in which the gallery served a hybrid role as artist studio, intimate performance venue, and cumulative installation site animated by Elvira’s ongoing, mostly nonverbal presence.

Audience members could choose to watch the performance through the window from the street, or they could enter the space, a small, high-ceilinged room with a floor area of roughly nine square metres. The door to the street was kept locked, posted with a sign encouraging people to knock if they wished to enter. When Elvira was working alone, she would open the door for anyone wanting access. When other audience members were already inside, they generally obliged new visitors by letting them in. Because the room was relatively small, there were seldom more than five or six audience members inside the gallery at any one time. Visitors tended to sit or stand along the periphery, often working their way around the space to examine the various elements in greater detail.

The underlying structure Elvira followed for her performance was simple. Each day, she would stop at a 24-hour convenience store (Super Queen’s Market) on her way to the space, choosing two local newspapers from a selection that included The Globe and Mail, the Toronto Star, the Toronto Sun, and the National Post. These newspapers would provide the primary material and inspiration for her actions. The gallery was minimally furnished with a single black wooden chair and a rickety metal folding card table. Along with the papers, Elvira brought with her a small array of artist supplies, including a glue stick, scotch tape, thread, string, wire, scissors, different types of thumbtacks (including a set of tacks with numbers printed on their heads), various needles, fishing hooks and lead sinker weights, clear plastic baggies, some small white candles, thicker but shorter than a birthday candle, and a book of matches.

Dressed entirely in monotone black—pants, tunic, socks and shoes—Elvira would spend her time at the gallery creating actions and tableaux using the day’s newspapers. Some of her time would be spent leafing through the papers and reading articles of interest; this was particularly true of the first several days, when the actions began while it was still dark and the streets were largely empty. She would then cut out headline or ad words and phrases that caught her interest to be shaped into two-dimensional collages or three-dimensional sculptural constructions and mobiles incorporating the materials she had at hand.

Some words would be pinned to the wall or glued to the window; others were left sitting loose on the table like fridge magnet poetry. Whole articles or extended passages from articles might be strung together as streamers and hung from the walls and ceiling or trailed along the floor. Some words or phrases would evoke simple actions, as when she walked around the gallery carrying the word “WALK” dangling from a thread.

The newspaper pages also became a distinct material. One set of coloured tabloid pages was slowly transformed into a wall sculpture. Working with one sheet at a time, Elvira stood on the chair, slowly crumpling up each sheet with one hand until it became a ball in her closed fist, held out like an offering, but at the same time secreted away. After crumpling each sheet, she would stand unmoving for an extended tableau, gazing at her fist as if she might somehow absorb the paper’s contents through her grasp. Finally, she would break her pose and pin the ball along a growing horizontal row set at midriff height on one of the walls. On the opposite wall, a different set of pages was unfolded and attached in overlapping sequence. Each sheet was secured by one corner, so that the air drafts in the room transformed the papers into a subtlely wafting and whispering presence, all the more striking in their animation when Elvira was holding a static pose.

As the days progressed, some elements remained while others were altered or removed to make room for new ones. Any newspaper materials left unused at the end of the day were stacked in one corner in a growing pile that would not be revisited.

Everyday life words in progress‘s hybrid, process-oriented structure offers a useful model for considering some basic questions related to performance art methods, dialogues, and audience expectations, particularly around using the artist’s body as a “material” in an artwork, and how this can differ from traditional performing arts approaches. Of course Everyday life words in progress is only one artist’s project, not a blueprint for all performance art works; one of the beauties of performance art is its variety—the idea that it has not been codified into a rigid set of strategies, approaches, or concerns. If there is something that makes Elvira’s work exemplary, it is not to be found in the particular formal choices she made, but in a more general willingness to not simply take for granted any one particular method for shaping time, space, materials and audience relationships.

One common approach used to define performance art as a genre is to compare its presentational style to previously existing disciplines. When identifying performance art as either distinct from or in relation to the performing arts, discussions tend to position performance art at one end of a spectrum of values and techniques, with theatre—and to some extent dance and music—at the other end. Alain-Martin Richard (2014) provides a thoughtful analysis that exemplifies this tendency in his article “Les 20 jours du thĂ©Ăątre Ă  risque.” He outlines a 12-point heuristic in order to position a series of live works along a scale that runs between theatre and performance, with the caveat that no work is ever likely to belong absolutely to one pole or the other. Each end of the spectrum is a limit case rather than an ideal that certifies whether one is witnessing theatre or performance art. His ranges of potentially defining characteristics include acting/non-acting; fictional time/real time; dramaturgy/process; finite/open; and human at the centre/human in immersion.

Similarly, Michael Kirby’s “On Acting and Not-Acting” (1972) offers a practice analysis of the performance spectrum between acting and not-acting, in which he describes not-acting as a type of performance “that values the concrete as opposed to the pretended or simulated and that does not require plots or stories” (p. 14). In his acting/not-acting scale, Kirby places what he calls “non-matrixed” performing at one end. In such works, the performer “is merely himself and is not embedded, as it were, in matrices of pretended or represented character, situation, place, and time” (p. 4). As with Richard’s heuristic, Kirby’s scale suggests not one but several, overlapping spectrums of aesthetic or artistic convention. Artists may or may not have a defined stage area, for example, or an announced start and finish time. They may or may not adopt a persona. They may or may not wear a costume. They may or may not employ scripted lines. Some performances privilege liminality, playing with the threshold where behaviour becomes recognizable as a performance. In others, the performers may try to maintain an appearance and demeanour that they consider neutral, though such a stance must be understood to be “noninnocent,” to borrow a term from Donna Haraway, since neutrality can only be understood within a situated context.

Performance art’s supposed non-acting or “neutral” body, for example, might be read against an archetypal theatrical or “acting” body on a stage, or perhaps compared to a presumed non-performing body—that is, a body that does not feel itself to be made strange by the scrutiny of being witnessed by an audience. As with Elvira’s black clothing, the most common “neutral” presentation of bodies in performance art often includes an all-black outfit. Parallel to this is a tendency toward an emotionally muted deportment. Neither of these characteristics could be understood to be anything approaching neutrality in a non-performance context, any more than the white cube of an art gallery is neutral, but their ubiquity, as well as their attempt to flatten out the possibility of reading the artist’s inner emotional life, gives the semblance of a neutral valence in a performance art context. What these choices tend to signal, as a stance, is that the audience should pay attention to what happens as a result of what a performer does using materials that may include her own body, not to how she emotes. In other words, “Don’t look at me; look at what I am doing.

This “look at what I am doing” stance suggests that a performance artist’s “materiality” is not purely sculptural, visual, or compositional, any more than an actor’s materiality is purely emotional, or a dancer’s materiality is purely gestural. The animateness (or in the uncanny stillness of a tableau, the lack of animateness) of a human body is as important to its materiality as its formal and fleshy qualities of shape, texture and surface. Asserting a human body as a potential art material means also opening up to the possibility of appropriating various possibilities of that body—its intentionality, its agency, its unpredictability, its responsiveness, its style—into what might count as the artwork’s material.

Certainly, Elvira’s emphasis on the materiality of her body was evident from the very first action of Everyday life words in progress, in which she took a section of her hair and used it to pin herself to the wall. This action emphasized her body as a manipulable material. Similarly, the remnants of her body were highlighted as materials, as she collected her loose hairs and draped them over a fishhook on the wall. Some of these hairs would occasionally be used as threads to suspend words and phrases she had cut out of the newspapers.

Elvira’s actions often seemed designed to emphasize her body as an object among other objects in the space by deliberately thwarting the possibility of face-to-face exchange. One of her gestures, for example, was to sit in the chair and tilt forward so that her dark hair, which extended below the bottom of her shoulder blades, would cover her face. This keeled-over position, held as a tableau, emphasized her presence not as a human agent, but as sheer material form. In another repeated tableau, she would place the chair on its side on the floor, its back to the audience, and nestle her body into it, as if the room had been titled by 90 degrees. Indeed, most of her actions were oriented away from both the front window and the audience members inside the gallery, rarely taking a presentational or proscenium stance in relation to her witnesses.

One of the few actions done at the window used a broadsheet entitled Public Notice—a local activist pamphlet she had found in her wanderings of Toronto—printed on thick paper. The broadsheet was curled into two tubes that were positioned against her eyes as she pressed toward the window, evoking the image of looking out through a set of binoculars. Although she could presumably see out through the cylinders, it was not possible to see her eyes in this pose, either from inside the gallery or from the street.

While “look at what I am doing” often prompts an audience to consider a performer’s bodily materiality—drawing their attention not to the performer’s “subjective” face but to her body’s “objective” surfaces and actions—this way of working can also suggest that perhaps the “performer” is not always meant to be the key focus of the audience’s attention in a performance art work. The performer may simply be an animator of a situation that is the real locus of experience, or she may be the manipulator of objects that, in the way they are transformed, constitute the true stars of the show. It may even be that what the artist does is only an initial provocation, and the “art” really begins with the way the audience responds. “Look at what I am doing,” after all, is not only about where one looks, or what one looks at, but also about how one looks. In the case of Everyday life words in progress, the audience was not encouraged, for the most part, to face the artist in order to see what she was doing, but to watch the actions unfold from what one might call an over-the-shoulder perspective. Frequently, audience members would find themselves looking at her from behind, either watching her back or peering over her shoulder at whatever she was making or doing with her hands, whether sitting at the table or working against one of the white gallery walls.

What Elvira offered in Everyday life words in progress, then, was not the confrontational, emotionally directed, one-on-one stance of the face-to-face, communicated in the melodrama of the gaze, but a discourse with objects, engaging an over-the-shoulder perspective that invited others to enter into dialogue by looking at and potentially contributing to what she was doing.

In an interview with Óscar Benassini (2016) for the Mexican cultural magazine La Tempestad, Elvira Santamaría makes the bold claim,

I dare to state that I don’t use objects in a performance but instead enter into a dialogue with them. This idea is a framework for action that can reveal something about reality, both to me and to someone else. In this same way, and with even more reason, I refuse to use another human being (n.p, emphasis added).[1]

Elvira specifically contrasts the idea of use with that of entering into dialogue, offering a comparison with two important implications. First, there is the suggestion that she approaches objects as others in themselves, worthy of respect and capable of speaking, if not in human language, in a way that nevertheless has meaning and can open onto a world distinct from her own. Second, her approach suggests that human discourse is not always a direct exchange of content transmitted and received between individuals, but an intricately mediated shaping and rearranging of temporal, spatial and material conditions and relationships that brings various entities, including humans, into co-presence.

Elvira elaborates on the idea of dialogue with objects as a performance method in Gustaf Broms’s 9Questions (2018), writing that she seeks

to get to know materials in a non-ordinary way, to dialogue with them to discover what they can mean or how they can be something different and nevertheless, to explore the internal logic that connects their existence (too little explored) with our mental processes. Therefore, I am also interested in them as a vehicle of poetry in action and as recipients of emotions or anxieties to be transformed creatively in the joy of the experience (p. 24).[2]

This passage conveys something of the complexity involved in dialoguing with objects. To know objects in a “non-ordinary way” is to move beyond how we first encounter them as objects, whether by personal habit or established cultural expectation. This is in line with Viktor Shklovsky’s idea of art’s role as defamiliarizing or “making strange” aspects of the world around us. Understanding this process as a dialogue suggests something more, however; it positions a material not simply as strange, but as a stranger—an other with its own stories to tell or world to reveal. Materials, according to Elvira, have their own “existence,” even when the exploration of that existence is set against a backdrop of interactions aimed at or witnessed by a self and by like others, that is, by other humans. Even though one’s role in the dialogue with an object takes place from a human perspective—in relation to one’s “internal logic” and “mental processes”—this is more than an anthropomorphizing of the object. Much as we can manipulate or rearrange materials, there is a clear implication that materials have agency to affect and transform the human interlocutor, mentally and physically.

Elvira also references the notion of “poetry in action,” a phrase that evokes a kinetic expressiveness that can communicate as forcefully as any verbal language: a language founded not on words, but on gestures, movements, and actions. The over-the-shoulder perspective offered in Everyday life words in progress encourages its audience to consider that we cannot look into or through others’ eyes to discover their worlds. Instead, we must pay close attention to the way an other manifests in and moves through a shared world that we co-inhabit and are all a part of. This almost certainly entails observing an other’s material surfaces, but also requires a consideration of the ways in which an other’s animate negotiation of its surroundings reveals its own lived world.

Others’ worlds unfold for the self through their responsiveness. To experience or witness an entity in action, whether that action is initiated by the entity itself, or as a response to a provocation, is to confirm that it has a world of its own, a world that seldom conforms in absolute accordance with what we anticipate or know. In a rare verbal conversation with an audience member during Everyday life words in progress, Elvira referred to the “aleatory” nature of this way of working, which, she says, “keeps me aware and interested. [
] When I do performance I create a problem, but I don’t know if I can create the solution.”[3] This points to the open-ended nature of dialogue, emphasizing that Elvira is more interested in learning something from her engagement with a material than with achieving a particular result or turning it into an end product.

Many of Elvira’s performances involve materials and actions without ever including verbal or written language. Everyday life words in progress is notable within her oeuvre for the way it engaged with written language as a material, entering into dialogue with words that, as the contents of a newspaper, already reflected a highly determined set of communicative intentions and representational structures. For Elvira, Toronto newspapers offered foreign viewpoints and dealt with unfamiliar local contexts. This otherness was heightened by her incomplete knowledge of English, which is not her mother tongue. Working with a small pocket Spanish-English dictionary and once or twice asking native English speakers for clarification, she would occasionally have to verify the intended meaning of particular words or colloquial idioms, such as the expression “gun shy.” She often found humourous ways to highlight this strangeness, as when, on the first day, she glued various versions of the word Canadian, in different headline sizes and fonts, onto the gallery window so that they could be read from the street. Amid these iterations was one word not like the others, also taken from a newspaper headline: Martian. This word-collage referenced alienness and identity while shifting the conversation to an unexpected perspective. How Elvira entered into dialogue with the newspapers and their contents as materials—articulating, arranging and rearranging components into discrete objects and configurations—is instructive of the way entities are defined within, through, and as a part of larger systems of meaning.

Everyday life words in progress explores how words as a material share a plasticity with objects; there is a close relationship between the hand that shapes and the mouth that speaks. Many might call Elvira’s process deconstructive in the way it called attention to the material and discursive resources that constitute a newspaper by isolating and reconfiguring them. In the Óscar Benassini interview, Elvira herself asserts, “I am interested in deconstructing objects by dialoguing with them, with their physical qualities, functions, history, values and my own projections onto them.” Here, however, deconstruction should be viewed more as a methodological starting point than an overall philosophical approach. While Elvira’s physical interactions with the newspaper texts—isolating and reconfiguring individual words, phrases, passages, and articles—certainly exposed some of their inherent contradictions as linguistic and conceptual constructions, her process of responsiveness and articulation was more generative than hermetic. Her interventions were at least as much constructive as deconstructive, placing the texts —not only as content, but also as physical and kinetic materials: ink printed on paper, black against white, with shape, volume, mass, depth, surface, smell, and so forth—into relationship with other objects and distinct, sometimes contradictory approaches to meaningfulness. Each action or textual construction was both an articulation and a proposition.

Dialogue in this context cannot be relegated to a single way of working. Elvira employed numerous strategies, ranging from quiet contemplation, as when she tacked a square with the headline

Birth and

to the wall and sat quietly facing it for an extended period of time, to a less deliberate form of address, as with another square bearing the headline


which was placed in various locations over the course of the performance, sometimes sitting among other phrases on the card table, sometimes sitting on the floor and held in place by two sinker weights that were simultaneously part of another suspended sculptural construction. While the first text prompted a formal period of focused solemnity, the second evoked a more random, mercurial interaction that might suddenly coalesce in one’s field of vision like a Zen flash of awareness.

Similarly, the phrase High hopes was attached to a lower portion of wall, visible to visitors sitting on the floor through Elvira’s legs when she sat working at the card table. Another word, Anesthesia, could be found jutting out like a flag from a weighted thread hanging between ceiling and floor, while many individual words or phrases, like Not Art or FUTURE, fluttered delicately from fishhooks suspended throughout the space. Several constructions used threads strung across portions of the space that had words hung on them with fishhooks to evoke a progression, as when the words Birth and Death from the square headline noted above were isolated as individual words and hung at opposite ends of a thread, with another word, RELEASE, dangling in between.

In the final days of the performance, Elvira bisected the gallery space by stretching strings across the front third of the room at eye level, like a clothesline. The strings were joined at the centre by the word EVOLUTION, forming a horizontal banner that audience members would have to duck underneath as they moved about the space. Several other newspaper constructions were also hung on this line at different times.

Some constructions formed elaborate shapes. One newspaper page, tacked onto the wall the first day—where it remained for the duration of the performance—had some of the columns of its lower half articulated to look like an unravelling sweater. Elvira cut into the spaces between each row of print from alternating sides, so that the column of type became a continuous, trailing ribbon of words that hung down from the mounted page. These paper ribbons would drift across the gallery floor whenever the door was opened. Another newspaper article was transformed into a hanging mobile, each row of type carefully cut and stacked one atop the other, threaded through the centre and suspended in midair off the lighting grid to form a delicately drooping mass balanced by a sinker counterweight. Other passages of text were cut into rows and joined at one end to create arrangements that could be tacked to the wall like a spread fan or suspended from threads or strings like a tassel.

In the final few days of the performance, Elvira occasionally read portions of text aloud. A passage detailing “How man is classified as homo sapiens,” its original column rows pasted together to form a continuous, unbroken ribbon of words and hung like a streamer, was read in reverse, beginning with the final word and progressing toward its origin, so that the author’s intended narrative could only be grasped by through a painstaking and attentive process of mental retention and reconstruction—echoing the way one must follow and reconstruct traces of the world to extrapolate a theory of its evolution. Another text was cut into strips and formed into a loose ball that Elvira held in her hands and massaged with her fingers to isolate different fragments that she would then recite, evoking the image of a soothsayer gazing into a crystal ball.

Some actions used the newspapers in entirely non-textual ways. One newspaper had each of its sections rolled into tight tubes that were then placed on the floor to be used like architectural building forms or spatial measuring devices. Also, not all of Elvira’s actions involved a direct manipulation of the newspapers. Some days, she chose to end the session by impaling one of her small candles on a fishhook suspended near one of the walls, setting it alight and watching it burn as it cast a shadowy glow over the text constructions and collages until, after a time—more than five but less than ten minutes—the candle fell to the floor and went out. She also marked the passage of the days using her numbered thumbtacks to track the number of hours (18, 16, 14 
), adding a new tack each day in a descending column, each new numbered tack separated by a hand’s width. Alongside each would be pinned the day’s newspaper dateline. A string was also tied to the tack marking the current day, extending upwards in a diagonal to a hook near the corner of the ceiling and attached to a sinker weight. After setting the day’s tack, Elvira would stand upright facing the growing column, one arm raised with the string held between her middle and index finger. She would swing her straightened arm to one side, arcing it between zenith and horizon line like the hand of a clock. This action would lift the opposing weight, making an almost imperceptible mark on the wall as it was dragged upward. Then she would tie the string to its new lower position, which raised the weight by a comparable hand’s width toward the ceiling.

It is difficult for me as an audience witness, watching over Elvira’s shoulder, to assert with certainty what her motivations for these particular actions might have been if we take the performance’s title, Everyday life words in progress, as the index by which all of her actions should be read. Were they responses to specific content found in the particular words and articles she had read? Were they meant to be understood as metaphors for the particular agencies and workings of words: providing illumination like a lit candle, causing what we see to flicker before us, asserting an ephemeral presence? Should words be appreciated for the way they facilitate the marking of time, or as inscribers of surfaces? Or, could Elvira’s gestures best be understood not as communicative actions aimed at reaching human witnesses, but rather as strategies for entering into dialogue with the words themselves as her pertinent others?

The atmosphere of the gallery, like the changing actions and installation works, was in constant flux, affected by the arrival and departure of visitors, the changing light and weather conditions, and the unpredictability of what would appear in the daily newspapers. Elvira’s dialogue aimed at a responsive cohesiveness that could acknowledge and account for these varied and unpredictable parameters. In the documented conversation cited above, she told the inquiring visitor,

I am looking for a balance [
] among what I’m finding in the newspaper, the conditions of this space, the people who come in
 For me, this [pointing to the gallery walls] is a world—even [if they] are very simple things, and fragile—but it creates a world.

Perhaps the balance that Elvira sought included a balancing of just who or what she was in dialogue with at any one time. Addressing what she found in a newspaper meant sometimes concerning herself with its materiality—the way the paper could be folded and cut, the degree to which the paper could maintain its stiffness when hanging, the sound a sheet would make when it was flapped or crumpled, the way the newsprint rubbed off onto her fingers, which would regularly become black with ink; sometimes, with its formal construction and conventions—its size, its standardized sections devoted to particular topics, the inclusion and placement of pictures and graphics, advertising, crosswords, horoscopes and other “non-news” content; sometimes, with its language—isolating particular words or phrases; and sometimes, with the ideas of individual authors or with larger societal assumptions and issues expressed or reflected in articles. One article given particular prominence, for example, was a column by Sheila Copps, former deputy prime minister of Canada and at the time a regular columnist with the Toronto Sun, entitled “Stop allowing immigrants to flood our big cities.”

Addressing the conditions of the space meant adapting to its small floor area and generous height, attending to the placement of objects in relation to the entrance and window, adjusting the track lights as the installation elements shifted, and absorbing and responding to the muffled city soundscape as well as the changing light and temperature. Addressing the visitors required a range of decisions about how to position herself, when to speak, and how to move in relation to their negotiation of the space, since those entering the gallery were as likely to move about inspecting the installation elements as they were to stand against a wall or sit on the floor to watch what she was doing.

Everyday life words in progress models the idea that even a carefully limited and sharply focused dialogue is never fully contained within the face-to-face of two absolute, discrete and solitary entities of self and other, save by the fiat of an idealizing consciousness that chooses to selectively recognize specific entities and messages as mattering while ignoring others. In our daily lives, we might find ourselves in dialogue with people, animals, objects, or even our environment. Sometimes we enter into dialogue with an idea, which need not take place as a conversation with another human or humans. This suggests that a dialogue may sometimes not engage with a material entity at all, but with something more pervasive than tangible. We can find ourselves rebelling at the “world,” caught up in the discourse of a particular culture, or testing the expectations of society, responding to processes that cannot be attributed to one specific cause, whether “human” or “natural,” or seeking counsel with forces or agencies perhaps named as an amorphous, seemingly omnipotent, and occasionally anthropomorphized grand cause, like “the gods” or “God.”

If dialogue need not be with a human other, it also need not take place in language or as speech. Exchanges between a self and an other are effected not as a direct transmission of data, but through interventions into our interlocutors’ shared four-dimensional environment.  We communicate by altering the fabric of our surroundings—through sound, through gesture and movement, through the reshaping of matter. As we enlist the temporal, spatial and material resources of our environment, we also involve other entities and agencies that inevitably shape what can and cannot be shared as meaningful.

To be sure, there are countless ways that language can illuminate Elvira’s actions and constructions with delightful, metaphorically literal descriptions: suspended words, hanging words, weighted words, drifting words, progressive words, words that frame one’s view. These descriptive metaphors, however, which in Everyday life words in progress are enacted precisely by a kinetic and sculptural materialization of words as individualized entities made from ink and paper, are not simply namings of proper nouns. Rather, they are indexes of relationality and actional effect; they mean nothing except as they are formulated, reconfigured and acted upon within a shared, four-dimensional world.

Elvira SantamarĂ­a’s Everyday life words in progress enacted discourse not as a direct linguistic transmission from performer to audience, but as an active looking over each other’s shoulders to catch sight of a dialogue with and through objects. Words were revealed as one type of manipulable and appropriable kinetic material among many that can express content in various material-discursive systems and registers of signification, not only those of conventional human language. In this vision of discourse, properly understood more broadly as material-discursive practice, not only words, but every agent enlisted into or appearing through discourse—the sayers, the said-tos, the said-withs, and the said-abouts—become potential players in a process of shared meaning-making.

Paul Couillard


Benassini, Ó. (2016, November 8). Elvira Santamaría, entrevista. La tempestad. Retrieved from

Broms G., Ed. (2018). 9Questions. Toronto: Fado Performance Art Centre & Centre for Orgchaosmik Studies.

Kirby, M. (1972). On acting and not-acting. The drama review: TDR 16(1), 3-15.

Richard, A.-M. (2014). Les 20 jours du theatre Ă  risque. In Couillard, P. & Liva, A., Eds. Alain-Martin Richard: Performances, manƓuvres et autres hypothĂšses de disparition / Performances, manoeuvres and other hypotheses for disappearing. Toronto, ON/QuĂ©bec, QC: Fado Performance Inc., Sagamie Ă©dition d’art & Les Causes perdues in©. 88-107. (Original work published 1992)

[1] Translated from the Spanish original with the assistance of Francisco-Fernando Granados. I consulted Granados to verify that he, as a fluent Spanish speaker, reads the same nuances in this passage that I do.

[2] Elvira’s remarks are in response to Broms’s question, “What motivates you to introduce MATERIALS/OBJECTS into your work?”

[3] My transcription from the video documentation I recorded of the performance. These comments were made on the third day, during the March 18 session.

Duorama #114–121

In 2014, FADO is celebrating a milestone—our 20th Anniversary. To commemorate we are looking back to our very beginnings, and are proud to present Duorama #114, #115, #116, #117, #119, #120 and #121, a series of performances created by FADO’s former Performance Art Curator and founding Director Paul Couillard, together with founding member Ed Johnson. Partners in life and art, Paul and Ed have worked together on the performance art series Duorama since 2000.

Playful, beguiling and often minimalist, these pieces explore notions of relationship, and draw on collaborative and competitive tensions that underlie all partnerships. Responding to site and examining cultural attitudes toward male intimacy are key elements of Duorama. Recurring themes revolve around shifting interpretations of what is political and what is personal. Many of the works can be read in terms of the current social and political climate surrounding gay culture, offering askance references to issues such as gay marriage, HIV-status, and portrayals of gay culture. To date, 113 Duorama performances have been presented at galleries, festivals and various events in Canada, France, Poland, Croatia, Ukraine, Belarus, Finland, Germany, Switzerland, Spain, the USA, Singapore, Ireland and the UK.

Starting with Duorama #114 presented in the context of the Rhubarb Festival at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre (where it is rumoured Paul and Ed met for the very first time), FADO hosts seven new Duorama performances between February and September. 

Duorama #114
Presented at the 35th Rhubarb Festival
Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander Street
February 12, 2014 @ 6:00pm–9:00pm

Duorama #115
Presented in the context of the LINK & PIN performance art series, LONG-TERM, which focuses on duos and long-term collaborations. Curated by Sandrine Schaefer and Adriana Disman.
hub14, 14 Markham Street
April 12, 2014 @ 2:00pm–6:00pm

Duorama #116
Presented by Offthemap Gallery | With the Counterpoint Community Orchestra
St. Luke’s United Church, 353 Sherbourne Street
June 7, 2014 @ 7:30pm

Duorama #117
Presented in the context of the exhibition Generations of Queer, curated by Lisa Deanne Smith
Onsite @ OCAD University, 230 Richmond Street West
June 25, 2014 @ 8:00pm

Duorama #118
An intervention into Toronto’s 2014 Pride Parade!
June 29, 2014

Duorama #119 & #120 (plus post-performance artist talk)
Presented by Sunday Drive Art Projects in Warkworth, Ontario
August 24 & 30, 2014 @ 1:00pm
Sunday Drive Art Projects has brought together a roster of some of Toronto’s most active artist-run centres and collectives to present satellites in the beautiful village of Warkworth from August 23–September 6, temporarily transforming it into a hub of contemporary art.

Duorama #121 & Golden Book Launch
Centre Island Pier, Toronto Islands
September 27, 2014 @ 3:00pm–6:00pm
For this last image in the series, the artists present a 3-hour turning meditation on the Centre Island pier, a kinetic and visual action designed to connect land, water and sky. FADO is also pleased to be launching the second in our Golden Book series with a 4-book ‘zine chronicaling the entire Duorama series to date, from #1–120. The books are divided by years, and shows one image for each performance in the series. You can get your limited edition Duorama Golden Book at our watery publication launch on the 2:30pm ferry to Centre Island, or on the 6:45pm ferry home.

© Paul Couillard & Ed Johnson, Duorama #115, 2014. Photo Henry Chan.

Regarding Affect: Wind Doesn’t Blow Branches by Mimi Nakajima

It is November 1, 2002, and a small crowd has gathered in Toronto to experience “Wind Doesn’t Blow Branches”, a performance by visiting Japanese artist Mimi Nakajima. The show is scheduled to start promptly at 8 pm, but things appear to be running behind. It is already 8:20, and there is no sign of activity. The organizers seem unconcerned, but the crowd is bored, and becoming restless. This restlessness points to a mounting sense of affect, what Brian Massumi has described as “a prepersonal intensity corresponding to the passage from one experiential state of the body to another and implying an augmentation or diminution in that body’s capacity to act” (Massumi, Plateaus xvi as quoted in Shouse, para. 1). Eric Shouse writes that an affect is “a moment of unformed and unstructured potential” (Shouse, para. 5). For the waiting crowd, the absence of visible activity, combined with an unfulfilled sense of anticipation, manifests as an edgy mood whose outcome is uncertain. Will people lose interest and leave, taking with them a feeling of disappointment? Will the intensity rise to an explosive level as the crowd’s expectations remain unsatisfied? With no performer to command their attention, the assembled individuals take their cues from each other, feeding their collective disquiet.

Suddenly there is clattering at the stairs. Mimi Nakajima bursts into the room, camera in hand, breathing hard–seemingly “in a state” over her late arrival. This admittedly imprecise turn of phrase is purposeful, suggesting a sense of excitation—i.e., an intensity—without precisely naming that “state” as any one particular mood. As Massumi has theorized, “emotion and affect—if affect is intensity—follow different logics and pertain to different orders. 
 Emotion is qualified intensity, the conventional, consensual point of insertion of intensity into semantically and semiotically formed progressions” (Massumi, pp. 27-28). Massumi’s interest lies in the gap between the emotional responses that one might expect the content of an event to produce, and autonomic reactions that appear as a kind of unaccountable remainder (Massumi, pp. 24-25), “an emotional state 
 [of] static—temporal and narrative noise” (Massumi, p. 26).

In this case, Nakajima’s body offers contradictory physical cues, amplifying the static. She is breathing heavily, obviously in a state of physical exertion. At the same time, her facial expression is neutral. Her posture also offers contradictory signals: her torso is upright and supported, suggesting an alert openness, but her head is bowed and turned away from the audience, suggesting a sense of shame, or perhaps distraction. Shouse has noted that “facial expressions, respiration, tone of voice, and posture 
 can transmit affect” (Shouse, para. 13), claiming that “[w]hen your body infolds a context and another body … is expressing intensity in that context, one intensity is infolded into another” (Shouse, para. 14). Nakajima’s arrival brings her body, with its confusing physical intensities, in contact with the crowd’s restless, waiting bodies, generating a charged situation.

Nakajima repeatedly sets up events that engage her audience’s senses on the level of affect, operating outside of narrative logic and representational signification. Here, for example, she transmits affect not through communicative, actorly techniques of performing emotion, but by inserting her body, in a state of autonomic intensity, into a context of containment, uncertainty, and anticipation. Her work employs ruptures and provokes intensities that defy easy categorization, using affect to transmit what cannot be expressed through language. Nakajima’s performance can be read in a similar way to how Amy Herzog proposes approaching film analysis. Following Herzog’s Deleuze-inspired theoretical framework, I am interested in looking at how, in Nakajima’s performance, “movement and time penetrate and resonate throughout the [event] as a whole, functioning not as signifiers, but as the progenitors of thought” (Herzog, p. 83).

Herzog describes Deleuze’s concept of the time-image (as distinct from the linear causality of the movement-image), where “[t]he emphasis shifts from the logical progression of images to the experience of the image-in-itself. What we find here are pure optical and sound situations
, unfettered by narrative progression, and empty, disconnected any-space-whatevers” (Herzog, p. 84). In filmic terms, the time-image is approached through “moments of rupture, hesitation, irrational cutting, or prolonged duration” (Herzog, p. 84). Nakajima’s performance employs analogous techniques, constructing what might be termed time-experiences: situations that not only engage the optical and auditory senses, but also offer “pure”(1) tactile, olfactory, kinesthetic, and even temporal sensations. As Massumi has noted, “affect is synesthetic, implying a participation of the senses in each other: the measure of a living thing’s potential interactions is its ability to transform the effects of one sensory mode into those of another. (Tactility and vision being the most obvious but by no means the only examples; interoceptive senses, especially proprioception, are crucial.)” (Massumi, p. 35)

Nakajima’s rush into the room interrupts the waiting crowd. Without a moment’s pause for her to settle, her performance is announced. The milling crowd galvanizes into an attentive audience – bodies stilled, voices silent, eyes fixed on Mimi.(2) Her breathing is laboured as she turns away to fiddle with cables. We wait as she connects her camera to a video monitor and cues a tape. The aimless restlessness of the crowd has shifted to audience discomfort. Has there been an organizational mis-step, not allowing the performer time to prepare? The intensity of the audience’s gaze infolds with the conflicting intensity of the artist’s seeming confusion. “Nothing” has happened yet, but already the situation has taken us on an emotional roller coaster ride.

Finally, the tape begins to play. Mimi walks away from the monitor and begins her performance in another part of the room, splitting the audience’s focus. Those watching the monitor soon discover that its narrative information is virtually unintelligible – a blur of dark with occasional flashes of coloured light, accompanied by harsh, rapid, staccato clicks (footfalls of someone in heels?) and increasingly loud and rapid breathing. Abstract and rhythmic, with a constant blur of motion, the tape is non-representational (Dyer, p. 18). It functions affectively, creating a technological background hum(3) that is all the more disconcerting for its seeming lack of connection to the actions of the performer.

Mimi is explaining a complicated story in broken English. Her speech is halting. She is still wearing the wool coat she had on when she arrived. As she talks, she traces onto the coat(4) her route from her home in Tokyo to the space of the performance in Toronto, eventually cutting the coat off of her body and placing it on the floor, flattening three-dimensional space into two-dimensional representation. Just as the audience is beginning to acclimatize to her hesitant speech patterns, however, the performance veers off in a different direction. Without explanation, Mimi retrieves a black gym bag from a table and places it over her head.(5) She sits in a desk chair with wheels and begins spinning herself around in it, disorienting her body’s sense of balance and spatial perception to match the audience’s narrative dislocation.

After repeated turns, Mimi gets up and begins to walk in the space. With the bag over her head, she cannot see. The spinning has left her dizzy and not knowing which way she is facing. As she walks uncertainly through the space, her odd movements trigger a slight feeling of seasickness in some audience members.(6) Mimi walks into the audience, brushing up against bodies and almost tripping over someone sitting on the floor. The audience’s sense of touch is activated, and there is also a realization that the audience must take care, to some extent, of both their own bodies and that of Mimi. This suggests the beginnings of what Herzog calls “a fluid play of intensities, sensations and thought that disintegrates the distinction between ‘subject’ and ‘object'” (Herzog, p. 83).

Nakajima repeatedly uses the wall where most of the audience is clustered as if it were the floor. At one point, she places her body horizontally on the floor and slaps the bottoms of her shoes on the wall, as if she were “running” up the wall. Later, she holds the desk chair above her shoulder and rolls it along the wall. In an odd, non sequitur way, Nakajima is defying gravity. This physical action offers more than a metaphorical representation of being “on the other side of the world,” however. Its orientation has a disorienting effect on the audience’s sense of space. And its intrusion into the audience area forces the observers to make conscious choices about where to place themselves. Should they move to accommodate Mimi’s movement? Should they stay still and become obstacles to Mimi’s trajectory, which may place them in direct physical contact with the performer? Should they stay close enough to smell her sweat-soaked body as she continues to labour?

Repetition and duration are key elements of Nakajima’s performance. Herzog suggests that “potential affective force 
 lies in [the] ability to key into durations that would defy the limitations of the intellect, working not toward action, but toward the zone of indeterminacy which lies between perception and action” (Herzog, p. 85). For the audience, the length of each of Mimi’s actions seems indeterminate. Gestures repeat for indefinite durations, beginning and ending in an abrupt manner, not anchored by narrative links or plot (the logic of beginning, middle, and end). Like Herzog’s (or Deleuze’s) time-images, Nakajima’s time-experiences exist “not as a chronology, but as a series of juxtaposed ‘presents'” (Herzog, p. 84).

This zone of indeterminacy, where potential—or perhaps many simultaneous potentials—remain unformed and unstructured, has also been theorized as being virtual. Simon O’Sullivan argues that “affect is immanent to experience” (O’Sullivan, p. 126; emphasis O’Sullivan’s), and that “[a]rt opens us up to the non-human universe that we are part of
. [I]t transforms, if only for a moment, our sense of our ‘selves’ and our notion of our world” (O’Sullivan, p. 128). He turns to Deleuze’s categories of the actual and the virtual to bolster his position: “The possible is opposed to the real; the process undergone by the possible is therefore a ‘realisation.’ By contrast, the virtual is not opposed to the real; it possesses a full reality by itself. The process it undergoes is actualisation” (Deleuze, Difference and Reception, p. 112 as quoted in O’Sullivan, p. 129).

This idea, that the virtual possesses a full reality whether or not it has been actualized, strikes me as being central to an understanding of why or how I find Nakajima’s performance to be so moving. For, I must confess, what interests me most about “Wind Doesn’t Blow Branches” is not the mechanics of its construction, but the fact that it persists in my body as one of the most moving performances I have ever experienced, with the power to bring tears to my eyes and produce a lump in my throat several years later. This affective charge is not transmitted through the video documentation of the work. It cannot be located exclusively in the content of the work, which could be described as the profound challenge of communicating across gaps of language, distance, and perception. Neither is it fully explained by the intensities, ruptures, hesitancies, or durations I have pointed to here.

What moves me most about the performance happens in the final moment, when affect, percept, and concept collide.(7) Mimi has been rolling the chair high on the wall for several minutes, her pace seemingly slow motion, accomplishing a duration that, for this particular action, seems beyond fathomable. Time feels suspended in the present. Then the video catches my eye or my ear. They are inextricably linked in my memory, so it is impossible to say with any precision. The staccato click of heels on pavement and the heavy breath of running eases up. The coloured lights slow their movement and coalesce into a coherent image; it is the performance space, shot from the street. Then, on the video, we climb the stairs, enter the space, and see ourselves. We hear Mimi being introduced. And suddenly we understand: the performance did begin on time, as Mimi left the place she was staying in Toronto and began running in high heels at top speed across town, toward the performance space. Through the real-time video recording, the time we have spent with her has also had, inscribed within it, the time and space of her running. Multiple virtual realities—the ones we have lived watching her performance, infolding the context of our bodies, the space, the time, our relationships to Mimi as we have been intuiting them—are suddenly overwritten with a completely unexpected new context that we have already experienced but are only now recognizing. In this moment of excess; this eruption of intensity, sensation and thought; this series of juxtaposed presents, Mimi drops the chair. It falls swiftly and sharply to the floor, like the proverbial cane of the Zen master rapping the acolyte’s shoulder. Gravity returns, the same as ever, but somehow not.


(1) I interpret the word “pure” as used by Herzog to mean something similar to the phrase “non-representational signs” as used by Richard Dyer, who discusses how entertainment works at the level of sensibility by employing various qualities of such non-representational signs as “colour, texture, movement, rhythm, melody, [and] camerawork” (Dyer, p. 18). 

(2) This is what my body remembers, but watching the video documentation of the event, I discover an alternate reality. Yes, the bodies in the space do shift to focus on Mimi, and most gravitate to the edges of the room, but with no fixed lights or placed chairs, and with Mimi’s attention focused on the equipment, some audience members appear suspended, distracted by contradictory impulses. Their uncertainty about where to be an audience translates into an uncertainty about how to be an audience. They find themselves (temporarily) in a “disconnected any-space-whatever”.

(3) Shouse writes that affect is what determines “the background intensity of our everyday lives (the half-sensed, ongoing hum of quantity/quality that we experience when we are not really attuned to any experience at all” (Shouse, para. 6). Nakajima’s videotape inserts itself into the audience’s sensorial periphery, amplifying intensity through its assertion of movement, colour, and rhythm.

(4) Using plastic hooks with stick-on backing to mark each stop along the route, and tying a string from hook to hook. When the string proves too short, she borrows a shoelace from an audience member.

(5) This signals a radical shift of formal styles, from a conservatively dressed young woman earnestly attempting to tell a story, to a surrealist image of a woman with a gym bag for a head. I am reminded of Deleuze’s search for alternate forms of individuation. “What we’re interested in, you see, are modes of individuation beyond those of things, persons or subjects; the individuation, say, of a time of day, of a region, a climate, a river or a wind, of an event” (Deleuze, Gilles, Negotiations 1972-1990 as quoted in O’Sullivan, p. 128).

(6) All subjective descriptions reflect the author’s recollection of the performance, and his discussions with other audience members later.

(7) Once again Deleuze points the way. “Style in philosophy strains toward three different poles: concepts, or new ways of thinking; percepts, or new ways of seeing and hearing; and affects, or new ways of feeling. They’re the philosophical trinity, philosophy as opera: you need all three to get things moving” (Deleuze,Negotiations 1972-1990 as quoted in Herzog, p 86; emphasis in original).


Richard Dyer, “Entertainment and Utopia,” Only Entertainment, London & New York: Routledge, 1992. pp. 18-44.

Amy Herzog, “Affectivity, Becoming, and the Cinematic Event: Gilles Deleuze and the Futures of Feminist Film Theory,” Affective Encounters: Rethinking Embodiment in Feminist Media Studies, University of Turku, School of Art, Literature and Music Media Studies, Series A, No. 49 pp. 83-88.

Brian Massumi, “The Autonomy of Affect,” Parables for the Virtual: Movement, Affect, Sensation, Durham & London: Duke University Press, 2002. pp. 23-45.

Simon O’Sullivan, “An Aesthetics of Affect: Thinking Art Beyond Representation,” Angelaki, Volume 6, No. 3, December 2001. pp. 125-125.

Eric Shouse, “Feeling, Emotion, Affect,” M/C Journal 8.6 (2005).


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
Jeff Callen
Julie Laffin & Andrew Cook
Louise McKissick
Andrea Polli & Chuck Varga

Shannon Cochrane
Paul Couillard
Ed Johnson
Will Kwan
Louise Liliefeldt

PERFORMANCE descriptions

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

Trace Elements by Paul Couillard

FADO celebrates the solstice on December 21 with Trace Elements, a new performance by Paul Couillard. This is the final event in FADO’s 12-month durational performance series, TIME TIME TIME. Lasting a full 24-hours, the piece will begin and end at astronomical twilight – 6:28 pm local time.

Trace Elements will generate a numerological mandala that re-marks 2000 years of calendar time. In this ‘action/installation,’ Couillard will turn YYZ gallery into a room-size colour field sculpture made up of 2000 pieces of cloth saturated in spice. The performance, anchored in the ritual action of creating the installation, will unfold through a series of casual and intimate one-on-one encounters between the artist and audience members.

In advance of the work, Paul offers these thoughts:

I see this piece as a representation of experience, how history layers and accretes, how time marks us. The whole piece is a personal time marker, both in the doing of the action and in the physical presence that is generated by the doing. It seems to me that our relationship to time – which was once more rooted in the rhythms of day, night, and the seasons – has become very shaky. We have no attention span for time; our ways of looking at it, and of representing it, are inadequate. We need new metaphors to help us envision time’s workings, not to mention its scale.

In part, Trace Elements is a hopeful conjuring act against the hype – and especially the boredom – of millennium frenzy. I think our boredom comes from a frustration with the lack of any real significance to attach to that flip of the zeroes. I’m willing to go to this place of boredom because of what all of my training has taught me, which is that boredom is a fantastic gateway to uncovering and creating meaning.

Rencontre Performance

Presented by FADO in cooperation with Le Lieu in QuĂ©bec City, as a satellite event of Le Lieu’s Rencontre internionale d’art performance et multimĂ©dia. This event was organized and curated by Sandy McFadden with the support of Istvan Kantor and Paul Couillard.

Paul Couillard (Toronto)
Ed Johnson (Toronto)
Istvan Kantor (Toronto)
Louise Liliefeldt (Toronto)
Richard Martel (Québec)
Julie Andrée T. (Québec)
BMZ (Hungary)
Roddy Hunter (UK)
Tari Ito (Japan)
Dziugas Katinas (Lithuania)
Gustav Uto (Romania)
Hong O Bong (Korea)
Irma Optimist (Finland)
Hortensia Ramirez (Mexico)
André Stitt (N. Ireland)

Five Holes: I’ll be seeing you

Curated by Paul Couillard

Bernice Kaye
Ed Johnson
Fiona Griffiths
Paul Couillard
Sandy McFadden

Shake off the New Year’s blahs by taking in a performance art peep show. FADO combines installation and performance art in Five Holes: I’ll be seeing you, featuring new works created by members of the FADO collective. Isolated in individual cubicles, the performers will each create their own six-hour performance work that can only be seen through tiny peepholes. Twenty-five cents buys viewers a one-minute look, or for $5 you can be an audience for the full six hours.

What’s behind that curtain? There’s only one way to find out.

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