Artist
Paul Couillard

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

Canada

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.

Performance
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.

Series
TIME TIME TIME

TIME TIME TIME was a 12-month series of durational performance art works by artists from the UK, US and Canada, presented in Toronto and curated by Paul Couillard. TIME TIME TIME presented works ranging from 12 hours to several days. Ritual, endurance, attention span, community-building, altering states of consciousness, boundaries between public and private, narrative, linearity and transformation were explored in the series by artists presenting their compelling, urgent visions of ourselves and our world at the end of the 20th Century.

January: Linda Montano
February: Alastair MacLennan
March: Rebecca Belmore
April: Tanya Mars
June: Roddy Hunter
June: Shannon Cochrane
August: Frank Moore
September: Otiose (Ailith Roberts and John Dummett)
October: Jennifer Nelson and Glen Redpath
November: Jenny Strauss
December: Clive Robertson
December: Paul Couillard



Curatorial Statement by Paul Couillard

‘Performance art’ is a difficult beast. Not many people really know the term, and even less could say what it means. For those ‘in the know’, the definitions vary widely: some definitions are very personal, while others are tied to very precise and limited historical references.

My own approach to understanding or defining the term ‘performance art’ is ‘radical’ – in the sense of looking to the ‘roots’ of the practices grouped under the term ‘performance’. Performance has four basic formal elements: time, space, the body of the performer(s), and the relationship between performer and audience. In broad terms, performance includes the various established forms of ‘theatre’ (in all its genres from recitation to puppetry to melodrama and so forth); ‘dance’ (from ballet to tap to ballroom); and ‘music’ (classical, a cappella, rap…). I use the term ‘performance art’ to name works that engage the four elements of performance, but use one or more of them in ways that are unfamiliar, unexpected, or initially unrecognizable within the cultural context that they are presented.

For the past 15 years, I have been creating and producing works that I call performance art. In calling them performance art, I am suggesting that the ‘project’ of these works, or at least of my involvement with them, has been to explore the basic elements of performance, to experiment, to research—often, to push at what appear to be the established boundaries of form. To create new forms. To look at forms outside of my personal cultural currency. To be consciously a misfit.

The premise of TIME TIME TIME is to look at the element of time or duration through performance art.

We have very odd ways of understanding time. This is apparent in how we mark time in units that can seem relatively ‘objective’ (‘days’ and ‘years’, determined by the earth’s relationship to the sun – and useful for things like planting crops or knowing when it will be dark or light) or ‘subjective’ (e.g. ‘the millennium’), depending on what we know or imagine about how these measurements came to be. Is a second meant to be a heartbeat? Why are there 60 of them in a minute? Why 24 hours in a day? Why 12 months in a year?

Here in North America at the end of the 20th Century, the measurement of time seems to press heavily upon us. Our attention spans have been perhaps sharpened but undoubtedly shortened by technologies of our own creation, while an artificial row of zeroes may be poised to wreak havoc on the electronic infrastructures of what we call ‘civilization’ and possibly on our collective psyches as well. It seems an appropriate time to look at ‘time’, to return to our ‘roots’ in time.

TIME TIME TIME is a series of 12 works by different artists, presented in Toronto over the course of a year (1999) – approximately one a month – with each work lasting a minimum of 12 continuous hours.

Twelve continuous hours is one full sweep of the face of a clock, a commonly understood time marker that surely holds many conscious and unconscious cultural connotations. Half the length of a day, twelve hours is generally long enough to encompass at least one transition of light—from ‘day’ to ‘night’ or vice versa. It is longer than the average work period, but within the realm of many types of shift work. Twelve hours is certainly a far longer time period than that normally associated with either spectatorship or entertainment, but not an unheard-of length of time for engagement in a task, or for many forms of teaching, community activity, or spiritual practice.

Twelve hours is also a long enough period to raise several practical bodily considerations for the artist in terms of going to the bathroom, drinking, eating and sleeping. Artistry is, in many ways, a response to restrictions; it is the agency that one carves out of the confrontations and resistances one encounters in the struggle to create or express. With but a single formal restriction (that the piece must be a minimum of 12 continuous hours in length), TIME TIME TIME offers the audience a chance to look at how 12 sets of artists solve these ‘practical’ problems that time brings about. How do these artists turn 12 or more hours into a performance? How do they invite an audience to engage with this work? And what clues does this provide to us about how these artists understand what performance is, what time is, and how meaning is produced through time?

This sampling of work is in no way meant to be taken as a definitive survey of the durational performance work being produced right now. Although I attempted to bring together a range of artists and approaches, the curatorial process was limited by both financial restrictions and my own ignorance. Every day I learn of other artists and works that I would have liked to have seen included here. Nevertheless, I am extremely proud of the calibre of work in this series—by artists from several cultural backgrounds, of varying ages, and at various stages of their careers. They are teaching me a great deal about the mysteries of time. It is a rare privilege to be able to observe and participate so closely in the process of these generous, creative souls—and I am forever transformed by their work.

Series Purple

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

Top Notes

huckleberry, violet

Middle Notes

cassis, lilac, heliotrope

Base Notes

orris root, purple sage, labdanum