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.

Five Holes: reminiSCENT

reminiSCENT, curated by Jim Drobnick and Paul Couillard, is the third instalment in FADO’s performance series, Five Holes, which examines the significance of the body and the senses. 

If the sense of smell appears to have been eclipsed by the other senses in Western culture, there is one realm in which it retains an almost mythic stature—memory. reminiSCENT acknowledges the powerful relationship between smell and memory, and explores the artistic and cultural potential of this undervalued sense. Documentation in literature and science indicates that no other sense evokes memory as intensely as smell. For Marcel Proust, a whiff of madeleine conjured up the world of childhood; for Helen Keller, smell was a “potent wizard” that transported one across thousands of miles. Even newborns, after just a few days, recognize and remember their mothers via the distinctiveness of smell. As compelling as these olfactory experiences are, there is a tendency to regard smells purely on the level of immediacy.

Yet fragrances also bear complex social meanings. How, what and why we smell are subject to many cultural influences—one only has to consider hygiene, and the myriad ways in which the body is bathed, cared for and scented, to appreciate the way smell plays a role in embodying and transmitting culture. In short, smell is as much a learned, cultural practice as it is a physical act of perception.

The five projects in reminiSCENT focus on both of these aspects of scent, as a practice and a physical act. Smell and memory can interact in diverse ways, especially when memory is considered via its multiple dimensions: personal, cultural, social and historical. How, for instance, do odours affect the self and the narrative of one’s life? How can scents symbolize or mark political moments and historical eras? In what ways are aromas significant to the creation of cultural memories and identity? How do power and status play out on an olfactory level? Such questions are implicitly raised in the performative installations of reminiSCENT.

Through faux marketing campaigns, quasi-scientific experiments, intimate encounters, unrehearsed rendezvous, and indecent appropriations of public space, these artists engage with the spectrum of smell from the everyday to the abject. Using organic substances, synthesized scents, perfumes, ambient odours, fragrant language and aromatized bodies, these projects foreground the diverse potential of smells in discourse, experience and culture. Visitors may feel their olfactory abilities being tested and their preconceptions about the sense of smell challenged as the role of scent is foregrounded in the contexts of race, tourism, perfume, domesticity and sexuality.

While the main premise of reminiSCENT concerns the role of scent in memory, there is also a more general imperative to recollect the sense of smell itself and its place in culture as a whole. The progressive deodorization of homes, buildings and public spaces since the nineteenth century has created what one geographer calls “blandscapes,” contemporary places that are sensorially numb and devoid of perceptual interest. The artworks of reminiSCENT symbolically and viscerally reconnect visitors with the smell of natural processes and material existence. Even with the rampant commercialization of olfaction in the past decade, evidenced by the profusion of commodities imbued with scents and the appropriation of aromatherapy for air fresheners, it is important to remember that smell has a meaningfulness outside of corporate marketing and brand-name identity. Smell is often declared the oldest of the senses, and this curatorial project rediscovers its capacity for art, knowledge and social significance.


Pull Up To The Bumper, by Clara Ursitti, occurs in a white stretch limousine, the acme of celebrity display and mobile partying. For selected performance-goers and chance passers-by, an intimate conversation and olfactory experience awaits as they cruise the streets of Toronto. The limo’s sensuous, private interior, complete with refreshments and other luxury comforts, is a chamber redolent with the spirit of seduction. In this gender reversal, a woman holds the balance of wealth, status and sexual agency as the artist inquires into the dynamics of stardom and urban prowling.

On The Scent by Helen Paris and Leslie Hill, in collaboration with Lois Weaver, reconfigures an apartment with olfactory performances and interventions. Visitors journey through a series of visceral encounters that infuse the residence with heightened experiential potential. A trail of scents leads to stories and confessions wafting unexpectedly through the space and secreted away in compartments and corners. Reflecting upon the significance of smell in everyday life, this aromatized environment intensifies the role scent plays in identity, emotion, place and memory. Each performance lasts 30 minutes and is performed for 2 audience members. Please reserve your spot, there are a maximum of 40 participant spots in total.

Cheli Nighttraveller’s untitled performance addresses racism operating at the level of the body and hygiene. Since the era of first contact, the so-called “odour of the other” has served as a pernicious means by which European colonizers stigmatized First Nations peoples. Reflecting at the edge of a fountain in Berczy Park, Nighttraveller recalls an episode in the life of Quannah Parker, the last chief of the Comanches, who once caused a stir by bathing in a public fountain. The artist will satirically confront the misconceived but persistent fiction of “cultural stench.”

Inspired by the legendary exoticism and adventure of The Seven Seas, Millie Chen and Evelyn Von Michalofski provide an occasion for virtual travel with The Seven Scents. Cruise ship deck chair recliners face the waters of Lake Ontario and invite bystanders to lie back, relax, listen to a series of soundscapes and inhale the ambiance of distant locales. Like spa therapists, the artists will gently facilitate each lounger’s sensorial reverie. Distilling together sound and scent, romance and reality, the piece evocatively contemplates the fantasies of escape and the economic actualities of tourism.

Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan’s Scentbar promises unique, personalized scents scientifically tailored to each client’s memories, anxieties and desires. Trained technicians will tally the answers to visitors’ scent-questionnaires and concoct custom-made perfumes in their laboratory cum parfumerie. Drawing from a top-secret odour palette, their potions transcend the use of scent for fashion or flirtation. These one-of-a-kind distillations connect the wearer intimately and olfactively to the complexities of the contemporary world—they are fragrances for troubled times.

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.

Five Holes: Touched

Five Holes: Touched is the second in a series of performances dealing with the five senses. The first part (Five Holes: I’ll be seeing you, A Space, 1995) used the device of a peep show to explore the sense of sight and the process of seeing. For Touched, artists are using the nooks and crannies of Symptom Hall to create performance installations that explore aspects of touch and our attitudes surrounding it.

Touch is arguably the most intimate and revealing of the senses, that, above all others, can moves us to ecstasy or shatter us. To touch is to ‘feel’. When we are deeply affected by something, we sometimes say we are ‘touched’. At the same time, to say that someone is ‘touched’ is to say that they are crazy. To give something one’s own ‘touch’ is to infuse it with a personal style, while to keep ‘in touch’ is to maintain contact. Human cultures are rife with taboos around the sense of touch – who, what, how, when and where we can or can’t touch – governing even the touches we give our own bodies.

The common thread among the 8 diverse performances works chosen for Five Holes: Touched include a fascination with the personal, a strong regard for the everyday – whether real or as a staged simulation – and a need to venture into the visceral in search of expression. The artists’ approaches to the sense of touch vary widely – Frank Moore’s hands-on sensual eroticism, May Chan’s handling of everyday foodstuffs in the simple act of cooking, Frank Green’s ‘scientific’ research process – yet each shares a vulnerability that seems essential to the nature of touch.

Artists were chosen both through solicitation and an open call. With the possible exception of Frank Moore – whose cerebral palsy has not doubt had an influence on his interest in touch as a vehicle of communication, expression and transformation – there was a curious lack of response from ‘heterosexual’ men. I believe this reflects how much the concerns with ‘the body’ in art and critical writing over the last 10 years, at least in North America, have in fact been the terrain of those who feel disenfranchised from what we identify as ‘mainstream’ culture. More than anything, however, I think the quality that binds all of these artists is courage. A willingness to enter and explore risky places – whether that means doing work that is quiet, physically grueling, or uncompromisingly simple – is universally evident. Performance is generally understood as a visual form, and to move to an exploration of the tactile demands a whole different approach from both the artists and the audience members who follow them on their journeys.

May Chan, a Hong Kong-born artist who lives and works in Kingston, documents her everyday reality with ‘story poems’ in which plain language is infused with a direct but affecting rhythm. In this work, May explores the associative and metaphorical meanings of touch – how, for example, by handling the foods her mother once did, she completes another link in a chain of touch that stretches back through history.

Frank Green, a U/S. artist based in Cleveland, considers how institutional structures, supposedly created to encourage our well-being, sanitize or even deny touch. The implications of this denial have profound implications for both our civil liberties and our physical and spiritual health. For this performance he is assisted by two other artists from Cleveland, Thea Miklowski and Holly Wilson, as well as several Toronto artists.

Three Toronto-based artists return from the first installment of Five Holes. Fiona Griffiths, whose work about touch reflects a background of research as performer (dance, theatre), body trainer, visual artist, surgical nurse and therapist, is on a hunt to learn the details of an internal void often triggered by touch, a touch that fails to acknowledge the one who is touched. Ed Johnson calls attention to the ‘gesture’ of touch, which begins long before contact, and how the way a touch is given and the way it is received can be entirely different things; one man’s hit is another man’s caress. Bernice Kaye continues her determined journey to strip away superflouous details – all of the bells and whistles that we usually associate with performance – to get at the essence of each individual sense.

Stefanie Marshall, also based in Toronto, has created a body of performance works that feature repetitive, ritualistic actions, obsessive use of everyday objects, and a fascination for pungent, musky materials. In this new work, she seeks to touch the silences that she cannot find the words to express – hoping, perhaps, to find language in the concrete physicality of objects.

Frank Moore – who lives and works in Berkeley with a performance ‘family’ that includes his wife, Linda Mac and student/colleague Michael LaBash – has spent a lifetime exploring the magic potential of touch. Since being “sucked into performance,” as he puts it, as, “…the best way to create the intimate community which I as a person needed and that I thought society needed as an alternative to personal isolation,” Frank Moore has become a powerful philosopher about art in general, performance art in particular, and their potential to shape reality.

Julie Andrée Tremblay (jAT) and David Johnston (jHAVE) of Montréal deal with the confusing nature of touch, understood so easily by our nervous system, but only through metaphor by our brain. The two artists will create an installation that evolves as the festival progresses, a changing passageway of sensual koans.

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

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