Sherri Hay a Canadian artist who splits her time between NYC, USA and Toronto, Canada. With a wide-ranging practice that includes video and performance, her sculpture and installations have been exhibited internationally, at the Art Gallery of Toronto and the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art in Toronto. She is also an occasional collaborator in experimental theatre and dance. Since 2012, her practice has focused on movement and time, relationships and change, exploring the quality and the extent to which she can give over voice as an artist – how she can be the instigator of a process instead of the Creator-from-nothing, proposing a certain kind of sentience for objects as performers.
There is an internal and an external shape to each object, the external shaped by the words it chooses or the words that choose it. The internal shape is difficult to grasp – it is the true shape that insists upon being seen beyond the scaffoldings we build around it. Allowing an object to be an object is one provision of the object’s autonomy. The request of the score provided to X is to be present, to be immersed – the request of this text is to uncover the internal shape, past the scaffolding. Francis Ponge, at the banks of the Loire, made a score, attempting to immerse himself in Mute Objects of Expression: “The object is always more important, more interesting, more capable (full of rights): it has no duty whatsoever toward me, it is I who am obliged to it.”(1) A score like a cut in a surface, allowing the inside to flow out. In order to comprehend the object, consider the score.
1. Focus attempt (First Performer):
The room is full with materials, some clearly connected and some distant and in orbit, but the whole room is an object. In the very centre a mass of brown butcher paper sack like gooseberries moves almost imperceptibly. At the butt of this pleat of matter several pedicels hang, releasing a stream of soft pink sand into the central base of… something. A marionette. A self-governing marionette of multicolored cables, wood, metal hinge, paper and grass mat. This is a spider, or a dog that walks itself. Styrofoam – perhaps once moulded to protect a blender across a long distance – is joined with wood hinging, metal – these are the legs of the marionette. Henceforth called the performer. The legs, which resemble bodies, are bent in profile, bodies ready to… act in some manner. Spider legs, but too tense. The legs of the performer began this score upright like bodies, like bodies bent and viewed in profile, bodies ready to jump, but instead slowly bow as the bags lose sand. Because as the bags lose sand, they rise, tied to the legs gently lowering them to the earth. The gentle hiss noise of sand sounds louder or higher-pitched from each new, higher place.
Suspended and raised by colored nylon, rope, wire, there is white noise or pink noise or grey noise. The sand makes a sibilant sound as its casings rise: more whistle. Six soft legs joined by silver hinge and all salvaged from the salvage yard where they will soon return.
2. Descriptive attempt (Second Performer):
The room is full with materials, some clearly connected and some convoluted in the wake, but the whole room is an object. Somewhere near the centre, a length of bright orange rope, circumnavigated by purple string is suspended amidst an adlittoral landscape. At the tip of one end the rope loops to form a subterminal mouth – at the other, a wattlling tongue. It is a snake, or a hydra… two long tentacles maybe, a chain of cells. Against the walls, more flotsam – crags of white plastic vent orange sand against the floor, the soft pitch creating eddies of white noise or grey noise or blue noise. The two heads of the hydra sketch a finicky directional current, moving toward each other, interpreting a language in vain. They speculate, pause, become sidetracked. The bags haul the wire and rope slowly, the noise is quietly drowned out by the fuzz of the building’s HVAC. The performer submits to the floor against the static pressure of the room.
3. Attempt at reading:
Again, after Ponge: “…verbal analogies are [only] one of the means for studying the object in depth.”
If you squint, and you will, the jig is up – lost is any semblance of a performer in the room, and only bodies are performing a score, into or against the tropic force of the object.
This could be a drama or also comedy. Inasmuch as both require causality and both also require cruelty. Drama and comedy both need causality, and both also need incision – a kind of cruelty produced by the dynamics between expectation and uncertainty.
There is something too about suspension. The advice that Ponge gives to himself, on the banks of the loire, trying to avoid poetry in order to fully comprehend an object, is never try to arrange things. Despite the visibility of the elements, the actions are not predictable. Drama occurs when a series of events unfold with interesting conflicts against unforeseen forces. Comedy occurs when an experience is unpredictable.
4. Attempt at empathy:
An algorithm is a foolproof recipe – an itinerary. X is decidedly not that. The mechanisms that define the narrative of this play are visible, and though investigation may yield a prediction of the finale, is it not about the outcome. What’s insinuated is cumulative, interdependent.
The score is suggestive, to request the attention given a poem but without the poem’s shape. Spend only the time allotted peering into the poem as it shifts shape, trying to determine its qualities.
x for staying here with us, to immerse ourselves in a moment that is calling itself a performance, in the way that all performances do, by convening a group of people and extracting attention. The score is a text, but the performer is beyond that. The score says, do a phrase without words. Try not to lose any of the moments between the beginning and the end. A paradigm.
Plural, us, each performer has a memory of the score, and each performer is comprised of other performers, each other performer has memories of previous scores – all noise in harmonic opposition. The legs remember carrying a blender safely across thousands of miles, only to be discarded in a heap of its kin. The rope recalls holding, lifting, binding, being discarded, envisions a future of floating and falling. The string recalls the insides of materials, bags recall holding strings and metals, the sand recalls gravity. Memory is habit, and habit is the antagonist of agency. But while the agency of the performer is perhaps not in question – the agency of the audience is another matter. And so, what is performed is tropism – human bodies, reacting uneasily to presence, to what soft or loud noise flows out through the score.
(1) Ponge, Francis. “Mute Objects of Expression.”
Danielle St-Amour is an artist, writer, and curator based in Toronto, Canada.
FADO Performance Art Centre is pleased to present x for staying here with us now, a new performance work by Sherri Hay.
As a sculptor, it has never seemed outlandish to me to think about objects as having a life of their own. Nurit Bird David talks about a kind of empathetic understanding between people and the things around them that is bred by familiarity. A good friend from Japan tells how seamstresses hold funerals for their needles, burying them in a soft cool block of tofu at the temple. Which sounds quaint and funny, though of course even we are every day more familiar with how our smart devices seduce us.
For so much of our history what has been valorized was the human who would subdue and shape the world through his reason and will, a world that was considered to be inert and insensible. In this new age of connectivity, some new ways of being and relating are coming into focus, beginning to acknowledge to a broad spectrum of otherness, and preferring self-organization to dominion.
Two evenings, two different non-human performers performing a score. The performance will move slowly, lasting perhaps 45 minutes. The exact time of the performance will be determined by the performer, in the moment. The performance will be corporeal, unmediated and analogue, not moved by electronics or motors. It will be attendant to real life forces like gravity, as well as its own material constraints.
On the occasion of this new work by Sherri Hay, FADO is pleased to publish the fourth in The Golden Book series, containing an interview about the process of creating this performance, conducted by FADO and the performer in x for staying here with us now.
Performance 1: February 16 @ 7:30pm Performance 2: February 24 @ 4:00pm
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?