Duorama (Paul Couillard & Ed Johnson)

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 and #120, 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 a total of six 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 [at] OCAD University, 230 Richmond Street West
June 25, 2014 @ 8:00pm

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.

Paul Couillard


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.

Remembering Tari Ito

Tari Ito

1951–September 22, 2021

Tari Ito was a Japanese performance artist, organizer, and activist whose work was featured in events across Asia, Europe and North America. She died earlier this year after a ten-year struggle with ALS—an enormous challenge for an artist whose practice was so intensely focused on body movement. She was greatly loved and respected, and many of us mourn her passing. 

I first met Tari in 1990, when she took part in a nine-city Canadian tour of Japanese performance artists, coordinated by Vancouver’s Western Front. She and fellow artist Haruo Higuma spent a week in Toronto, presenting solo works at A Space and also participating in an open “jam” session with local artists. As I recall, it was Pam Patterson and I, working as members of A Space’s performance art committee, who coordinated Tari’s and Haruo’s Toronto appearances. 

For that project, Tari was performing a work she called Memory of the Epidermis, which involved painting large panels of latex “skin” onto the gallery’s floor in advance of her performance. For the Toronto version, she had to improvise using skin she had already created when she could not find the right kind of rubber latex locally. One of her skin objects was a giant balloon-like rubber sphere, as large as her body, which she ended up pushing, bouncing and rolling around the gallery space before finally corralling it in a corner, all the while speaking to it in Japanese—later she told me her words were something to the effect of “What is this giant blister?” 

The work was visual, aural, and above all kinetic, expressing complex relationships and feelings primarily through movement. The rhythm and texture of the performance was varied, ranging from slow, careful gestures to repetitive, staccato motions, always seemingly in reaction to the elasticity of the latex, which could appear either durable or fragile depending on how it was handled. It did not matter that most of us could not understand what Tari was saying in Japanese as she worked with giant sphere: her tone and intonation, and above all her physical interaction with the wobbly figure, were deeply expressive. This visual and gestural communication was also evident in the performance jam, where several of us worked simultaneously without speaking, sometimes side-by-side, sometimes infiltrating or adding to each other’s actions and visuals, creating a striking series of images that I still remember, some of them as accomplished and polished as a finished performance work. It was a charmed encounter. 

The next time I saw Tari was a year later, when she invited me to Japan to take part in the Tajima Performance Festival, co-organized by Yoshimichi Takei and Kyo Hoshino through the auspices of a private group called Scorpio Project. This was the second (and final) iteration of the festival, which took place at the site of the abandoned Yaso copper mine in Japan’s Fukushima district. Billed as a performance art “camp,” the festival was a unique event that brought together performance artists, noise artists, video artists, and Butoh dancers for a week in the countryside, all of us bunking together on the floors of an old wooden schoolhouse. A group of volunteers prepared three meals a day for the participants, who numbered well over a hundred, and performances were self-scheduled using a large blackboard. Each day, artists who wished to perform would write down the time and place (e.g., the quarry, the dam, the schoolhouse grounds, the school gymnasium) of their project, and all of those not caught up in their own preparations or performances would form an audience. Events began each day right after breakfast and continued late into the evening. 

One of the events that Tari organized during the Tajima event was a discussion featuring Clive Robertson, who was then the National Spokesperson for the now-defunct ANNPAC/RACA (Association of National Non-Profit Artist-run Centres/Regroupement D’artistes des Centres Alternatifs). Tari had been deeply impressed by the Canadian artist-run network she discovered on her Canadian tour, and she was hoping that hearing about Canada’s artist network might inspire her Japanese colleagues to band together to create something similar in Japan. Much to Tari’s disappointment, the reception to this discussion was somewhat tepid. Rather than embracing the Canadian example as a possible model for artist-driven organizing, the response of those attending seemed to be that Japan should develop its own ways of organizing rather than looking elsewhere for inspiration. This did not deter Tari’s vision of a supportive artist network, however. Over the years she contributed to a number of feminist art groups, first as part of a collective called afa (Asian Feminist Art), and later founding WAN, the Women’s Art Network, followed by PA/F Space (Performance/Feminist Space). 

Despite her soft-spoken demeanour, Tari had a strident spirit of generosity. Not only did she introduce me to many local artists and even help me find other performance opportunities during my three-month stay in Japan; she also invited all of the Canadian artists who were at the Tajima festival to visit her home in Tokyo, where she lived with her parents. This kind of intimacy was unusual in Japan, where the usual protocol was to meet foreigners at a restaurant. The day of the dinner, there was a torrential downpour, and I arrived at her house completely soaked. She was insistent on putting me in her father’s pyjamas (the only clothes in the house loose enough to fit me) while she washed and dried my clothes. I was embarrassed, but grateful for her kindness. 

If Tari’s connection to Canada proved inspirational for her, it is also important to acknowledge that her presence also played a catalytic role in the development of Toronto’s performance art infrastructure. Tari returned to Toronto in 1993 when she was invited to participate in the Mayworks Festival of Working People by then-director Pat Jeffries, whom Tari had met on her earlier Canadian tour. After Mayworks, Tari stayed in Toronto to explore a romantic relationship with Pat, and she also developed friendships with a number of local artists. When it became apparent that Tari would be in Toronto for an extended period of time, Sandy McFadden, who knew Tari from her time living and working in Japan, suggested to me that we should organize an event for Tari. Here was an internationally known Japanese artist, living in our midst, and Toronto should have more of a chance to discover her work. 

This became the impetus for starting FADO. Sandy, Pam, Ed Johnson, Bernice Kaye and I met in my bedroom one summer day and formed an ad hoc collective to plan our first event, a presentation of Tari’s work. Through my involvement with A Space, which had set aside funds that it would hand out to groups organizing art events as part of its community outreach efforts, I was able to secure enough money to pay for the production costs and a modest artist fee for Tari. Tari wanted to do her performance in a large warehouse space at 1400 Dupont Street, which she had become familiar with from visiting the studio of visual artist Aiko Suzuki. Aiko facilitated a meeting with the building manager, and we were able to convince him to allow us to use the large, unfinished central hall—a huge space, 20 by 50 metres—for Tari’s performance. 

At the time, we had no idea of the trajectory FADO would take, how it would eventually transform into a funded artist-run centre for performance art, or how another FADO event initiated by Sandy, an international performance art festival at CinceCycle in 1996 co-sponsored by Le Lieu in Quebec, would inspire the development of the 7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art. Still, this first project, taking advantage of Tari’s presence in Toronto, already laid the groundwork for what would become FADO’s signature production strategy: an ambitious, site-specific event, cobbled together on a shoestring as an act of faith and community-building. Had it not been for Tari, there likely never would have been a FADO. I am profoundly grateful for the auspicious beginning she provided. 

For her Dupont Street performance, Tari created a new work in her Memory of the Epidermis series, called FACE. One section of the performance featured a row of latex smocks hanging from the ceiling at intervals across the length of the space. Tari followed this line, stepping up to each one and draping it onto her torso until she was covered in a thick layering of skins. Another section featured a very large hanging sheet of latex, 4 by 10 metres, that she punctured and penetrated with her arms. Part of the genesis of these images, she told me, was an unlikely Toronto sight that had captured her imagination. She was intrigued by the telephone poles she saw on the street, covered with staples from guerrilla postering. She found these textured layerings fascinating and beautiful, and was struck by the way they gave evidence of a history of piercing, covering, and removal. For her, they were evocative of the rubber skins she created in her work, which carried with them the inverse outlines of the surfaces they had been painted onto. A video recording of both the preparatory process of creating the skins and parts of the live performance uploaded to YouTube is linked to Tari’s artist page on the FADO website. 

Soon after the FACE performance, Tari returned to Japan when her relationship with Pat ended. I wondered what it would be like for Tari returning to Japan, where being a lesbian—or even identifying as a feminist—could be an isolating experience. Tari’s response was to become much more overtly political and activist. In 1996, she “came out” publicly in a performance work called Self-portrait, which was eventually presented in 26 different venues, including Toronto, where she was part of the Rencontre festival organized by Sandy McFadden for FADO at CineCyle. For Tari, this work signalled a profound shift in her understanding of her art practice, which she realized could be used to convey powerful personal and social messages. Alongside her performances and visual art projects, Tari also began to actively develop and promote feminist and lesbian events, networks, and spaces that spanned beyond Japan’s borders to other Asian countries including Korea and Thailand. 

The last direct involvement I had with Tari’s work was in 2002, when Rochelle Holt curated an exhibition of her work at A Space. The opening night performance, Where is the Fear?, was co-sponsored by the 7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art. Where is the Fear? was an openly lesbian performance with elements of audience participation that Tari developed in part as a response to homophobic remarks by then Tokyo Governor Ishihara Shintaro. Tari presented this work in various Japanese venues as well as Toronto, noting in her book Move, “Sexual minorities live in fear of prejudice. Fear lies in the hearts of people who feel frightened of the idea that there are many different kinds of people in the world” (p. 109). 

Tari made several other visits to Canada over the course of her career, including an appearance at Montreal’s Viva! Art Action Festival in 2006 where she presented Rubber Tit. That performance featured a 2.5 metre-tall inflated rubber tit, which I like to think of as the logical progression of Tari’s “blister” from her early A Space performance. One of her final performances—after a four-year break from performing—was at the LIVE Biennale in Vancouver in October 2019, where she presented Before the 37 Trillion Pieces Get to Sleep, a work that Tari developed in response to the Fukushima nuclear disaster. For this work, curated by Makiko Hara for LIVE, Tari appeared in a wheelchair, and was then laid on large pieces of paper while assistants repeatedly traced the outline of her figure. Tari said of this performance, “The body losing its muscles nonetheless continues to live on. For this reason, I want to stay close to the memories of ‘my body and others’ that were forced into silence or forced to be silent.” A moving description of the performance by Katherine Chan, along with photo documentation by Alisha Weng, can be found on LIVE’s website

I had hoped to bring Tari to Toronto as part of the same tour, to present her work in the context of the KinesTHESES series. Tari wanted very much to return to Toronto, but her deteriorating health made including an additional venue impossible. I suggested that we could perhaps find a way for her to develop the performance remotely, using local bodies to stand in for hers, but such an approach did not fit her vision of the project. She understood her own disabled body to be a key element of the work. She told me that if her body had not been so profoundly compromised, working remotely might have offered an interesting challenge, but precisely because, as she wrote in her hesitant but poetic English, “I stare at the body that is stuck,” she felt it was essential for her to work with her own body, doing only what her own skin, bones, and muscles could accomplish in direct relationship with an audience. The closest the project could get to Toronto was when Pam Patterson’s WIA Projects featured a video installation of the work at Gallery 1313’s Window Box Gallery in early 2020, just as the world was beginning to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. 

I was sad not to have had an opportunity to work with Tari again, but I rejoice in her ongoing legacy—her performances, which moved audiences on several continents; her organizing and networking efforts, which brought together many artists over several decades; her championing of women’s and minority voices; and, of course, her surprising role in Toronto’s performance art development. And so, I would like to share with you Tari’s humble words from Move’s “afterword,” which seem to me very reflective of her spirit: 

“I believe that the joy of performance art comes from wondering what makes a particular artist engage in a certain action with all of their heart and soul. For this reason, it is actually when I am sitting within the audience of a performance art piece—rather than onstage—that I am the happiest” (p. 185). 

Surely, she shared this happiness with others through her own life and career. 

Paul Couillard, October 2021 


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 Québec City, as a satellite event of Le Lieu’s Rencontre internionale d’art performance et multimédia. 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

Paul Couillard
Fiona Griffiths
Ed Johnson
Bernice Kaye
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