For those of us who were able to stay to the last day of the incubation, we were privileged to see a powerful performance by participants Peter Morin and Bo Yeung. Beginning in front of the former residential school, the performers asked the audience to stay behind a well-defined perimeter as they made a number of gestures and voices toward that particular history. It’s so hard to describe, and any such description does a disservice to the actual performance, so I’ll forego saying more and let folks view the video instead. It’s viewable on the right hand footer side of the reworks main page, or you can see it here:
Archive for October, 2012
Image: Sophie McCall leading a discussion on collaboration outside Algoma University, formerly Shingwauk Indian Residential School.
This past weekend, I had the honour of attending Reconciliation Work(s) in Progress: An Innovation Forum in Sault Ste Marie. It was a challenging, inspiring, and hopefully, productive event. Instead of conference presentations, the event was set up as a series of roundtable discussions where participants could have conversations about reconciliation (or conciliation as some participants preferred) and the role of art and artists in the process. On Saturday, most of the academics packed up to leave and the artists stayed behind for the “incubation” period. They were charged with the task of working through many of the points of conversation (and contention) that were raised throughout the few days of the event.
Sometimes writing a dissertation can be isolating. It can feel like you are busy creating relationships with books, instead of with people. The event in Sault Ste Marie encouraged connection and collaboration, as well as dialogue and art practice as a way to engage reconciliation. I’m looking forward to following the progress (and process) of the talented artists participating in this event. If you want to follow it too, check out ReWorks, the online site for the project.
In the meantime, I am left with the feeling that reconciliation is an act of creation. It is about new conversations and discussions, about creating new archives, producing artwork, dialogue and new relationships. The event in Sault Ste. Marie was not only about creative collaboration, but collaborative creation as one way in which the process of reconciliation can move forward.
The Reconciliation Works in Progress symposium and artists incubation has ended, but I am still vibrating with ideas, new and old friendships, possibilities. Even though the events are complete, people seem to remain charged. Returning to our respective homes, the energy seems to continue—a buzz rippling through social media and day to day conversation. I keep hearing from folks in Vancouver who’ve been following the dialogue across Facebook, Twitter, art and poetry circles.
Stay tuned for more images, discourse and dialogue. The organizers are working to build out phase 2 in order to share more of the amazing work / thinking going into and coming out of the gathering.
The post post-incubation? appeared first on REWORKS.
Victims suggest innocence. And innocence, by the inexorable logic that governs all relational terms, suggests guilt. Susan Sontag (b. 1933), U.S. essayist. AIDS and Its Metaphors, ch. 1 (1989)
… performance has participated in shaping ourunderstanding and experience of AIDS……theatrical practices as instances of various cultural moments – in all their multiplicity and even contradiciton… ACTS OF INTERVENTION; Performance, Gay Culture, and AIDS by David Román (Introduction, 1998)
an excerpt from WHAT’S IT LIKE? – EXCERPT ENTITLED; Does This Giacometti Make Me Look Fat or ART IMMUNO DEFICIENCY SYNDROME – written and performed by David Bateman
I get tired of the excessive minimalism cluttering the stark white walls of the post pre-middle modern wing, so I wander away form the posing as straight, poly amorous bisexual couple with the autistic grand daughter in the black and white room and then I see them again in the Giacometti gallery
And I ask the woman if she would be so kind as to take my photo beside The Walking Man sculpture
She politely agrees to do so, and when she is finished I thank her and say,
“Does this Giacometti make me look fat?”
She smiles a quizzical smile and walks away
I wasted my best joke of the day on her.
But that was my aim.
I wanted to see how she would respond, so I said something peculiar to her to see what her reaction would be.
I can be such a rude, manipulative bastard sometimes.
It’s great fun.
But there are also times filled with great tenderness and serenity, mostly when I’m all alone.
For example, I daydream about having all of the drinking glasses in my white IKEA kitchen cupboards in perfect order.
I imagine them all standing in a row in a beautiful white cupboard.
And then I begin to imagine filling them all with water while they are still in the cupboard
And then setting up lighting in my kitchen with soft lighting on them.
And then photographing all of the gorgeous glasses
And the photo comes out this stunningly beautiful study in shades of grey and black and white
And I call the photo (pause) Whistler’s Cupboard,
and for those viewers unfamiliar with the original title of the iconic American painting Whistler’s Mother – Arrangement in grey and Black No. 1 – located in the Musée d’Orsay in Paris (pause) France)
I subtitle the photograph (pause) Water! – and do a series of prints in color with a blue tint for a more (pause) ‘populist’ sensibility
And then one day I go to a gallery where my photograph is hanging
And the couples from (pause) Chicago, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Saskatchewan, Toronto are standing in front of my photograph
And they just stand there and stare at it
She is wearing a loud print skirt and a plain yellow blouse.
He is wearing a pastel sports shirt and plain brown trousers
They look like a modernist diptych tableau vivant come to life
I squint and their bodies in front of the photo begin to look like a collision between Jack Bush (slide) Peter Max (slide) Jules Olitski (slide) and a fabulous silk floral arrangement form the home décor section at Walmart
Through this haze of strained commodified modernism I hear the people begin to speak
(woman speaks first)
It’s just a picture of water glasses. Anyone could have taken that. I wonder how much he got paid for letting them hang it in here.
He should have paid them. Can you buy the art in this place?
No dear, I don’t think you can. But I’m sure there are some lovely postcards in the gift shop.
We should have gone to the gift shop first, then we would have known where the good stuff was.
But we would have missed a lot of interesting things.
What good is it just hanging here all the time? It should be for sale.
Well, if you could buy it, wouldn’t you think that one of the farmer and his wife would have sold by now. It’s very famous.
I read the brochure. That’s not his wife.
What are you saying?
That’s not the farmer and his wife. That’s his daughter.
That’s just stupid.
Well I read it in the brochure.
She looks old enough to be his wife and she’s very homely. And he’s no Rock Hudson himself. Very strange shaped head, but quite life like. I don’t like it.
It’s a good painting. I still find it hard to believe Rock was gay, even though he got the AIDS. I mean, anyone can get it now, right?
[American Gothic slide} I don’t like it so much.
It captures a real sense of those two people as hard working farmers.
I don’t see why you can’t be a hard working farmer and attractive at the same time.
That’s not a nice thing to say, and if you can’t say anything nice [interrupted]
I know, I know, and then don’t say anything at all.
They look like very pleasant down to earth people
They look boring as hell. And if that is his daughter then I’m a monkey’s uncle.
Well you really don’t know much about art do you.
And neither do you.
I know what I like.
I know what I don’t like, and I don’t like what you like.
You liked that one of the diner.
Yes, I did. I did like that one. The people in it are quite nice looking.
You can barely see their faces.
You can see enough to tell that they’re good looking.
I heard that the guy who took that photo of the glasses died of AIDS.
Where on earth did you hear that?
When you were in that room looking at all those flowers that look like vaginas I went into the next room and two very feminine gentlemen were standing in front of it and I overhead what they were saying. I think one of them might have been crying. He kept saying how beautiful the glasses were and how the water looked so clear and pure and how it was some kind of metaphor to illness.
Well what on earth was he crying about?
Feminine men get very worked up about AIDS sometimes.
Well I get thirsty looking at that photograph. It makes me thirsty. It certainly doesn’t make me cry, and if he died of AIDS, that photographer, well, it was his own damn fault…
“… I oppose the global project and I believe in another kind of global eccentricism project that comes from within, from the bottom up, that is ‘cooked’ on the streets and that organically emerges out of it. You know, the migrations of people throughout the world; and that kind of global project is almost opposite to the one imposed by the master minds of globalization, right?”
Guillermo Gomez Pena
“And what in the hell did Puccini know about the identity crisis of a Japanese Geisha in Nagasaki in 1904 anyway? What in the hell did he know about butterflies? What in the hell do I know about the identity of a Geisha in Nagasaki in 1904? I am a middle aged white Canadian faggot. I have the ethnicity of a loaf of Wonder Bread. My forefathers are the Man from Glad, Mr. Clean, and Jack Daniels. How on earth do I position myself within a fragmented postmodern narrative about an innocent Geisha and Popeye the American sailor man?”
from Lotus Blossom Speical; Metamorphosis and misidentificaiton in Madama Butterfly by David Bateman
|Butterfly’s Borders: Gender, Geography, Fantasy and Experience in David Bateman’s Lotus Blossom Special|
Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly begins with a mock marriage. This type of
marriage supposedly belongs to Japanese tradition, at least, in the imagination of the
librettist. The callous American sailor Pinkerton, eager for a temporary Japanese wife
marries the naïve, fifteen-year-old Butterfly in a contract that binds them for nine
hundred and ninety-nine years, “but with the option, at ev’ry month, to cancel the
contract.” Both are ecstatic at the union, but for Pinkerton, it is a frivolity, while for
Butterfly, in spite of her relatives’ admonitions, it is deadly serious. The opera’s tragedy
turns on the misunderstanding between play and reality. This is indicated in the very
opening of the opera, with Pinkerton and Goro observing the mobility of the walls of the
house in which Pinkerton and Butterfly are to be husband and wife. The walls and ceiling
“come and will go, just/ as it may suit your fancy.” Pinkerton calls the house a “fairy
dwelling,” which, Goro observes “Springs like a tow’r from nowhere.” Like the fairy
house, Butterfly, for Pinkerton, is a toy (“the age/ of playthings”) to play with until he
marries “a real wife from America.” To Butterfly, who, in the logic of the opera, inhabits
only the world of play, the marriage is serious and solemn. Those who live in fairyland
experience it as “real.” Tellingly, while showing Pinkerton her treasures, she throws
away her pot of carmine (the stuff of artifice) but keeps the very real dagger her father
used to commit suicide at the Mikado’s command some years prior.
The opera draws a frame around Butterfly, her house, and indeed, Japan itself. It
is self-aware, but it is not self-reflexive in the sense of seeing it’s imperialist
misrecognition of Asian women. It lays the error of reading at Butterfly’s feet. She can
not see who she is. Pinkerton might be callous, but because he is American (and real) and
she is Japanese (and therefore of the imagination), he cannot be expected to stay with her.
In the logic of the opera, Butterfly’s tragedy lies in her own misrecognition of both
herself and her lover.
Of course we, as good postcolonial readers think we know better. We understand
that Madama Butterfly is a racist, imperialist imagining of Asian femininity. In the
context of American imperialism in Asia, if one thinks of its military bases in the
Phillipines, or more pointedly Vietnam (which is what makes the newer rendition of the
opera, Miss Saigon, so appalling) the international political context in which the opera
circulates is racist and offensive. The right-on stance of contemporary race politics is to
read the opera as a bad Western race fantasy, and move on to produce other, better
representations. However, in recent years, as myself and others have discussed elsewhere,
the difficulty of producing “better representations” that do not get consumed in a newly
Orientalist way, has shown itself to be difficult if not impossible.
David Bateman’s performance piece Lotus Blossom Special, then, takes on a
slightly different strategy. He re-engages the narrative of the opera to show us something
about whiteness, masculinity, camp and queer sexuality. In so doing, he reveals that these
may in fact be the real subjects of the original opera, and not Asian femininity at all.
Puccini may have been more conscious of this than his audiences, if the framing is any
It’s been a fired up few days, our group of artists meeting, contemplating, performing, creating, here at the Rework(s) in progress incubation. So much to say, to write, to move with poetry and image, but still such unspoken spaces. Here, a few images from our Monday afternoon gathering, where Leah Decter took the piece she’s been working on with Jaimie Isaac, who couldn’t join us this time as she’s just had a baby!, entitled (official denial) trade value in progress, a project where folks are encouraged to comment upon a Stephen Harper statement denying the existence of colonialism in Canada. These statements are sewed into the fabric of several Hudson’s Bay blankets, a palimpsest of history and that which has come before us.
I COLLECT SNOW GLOBES FOR A CLOSE FRIEND. ON A RECENT TRIP ALONG THE NEW ENGLAND COAST I WAS HARD PUT TO FIND ANY UNDER SEVEN DOLLARS, AND I WAS ON A FIFTY DOLLAR A DAY BUDGET. IN PLYMOUTH ROCK I FOUND ONE FOR $1.79. THERE WERE PLENTY OF OTHER SOUVENIRS TO BE PURCHASED. BUT I SUPPRESSED MY INNER KITSCH CONSCIOUSNESS AND LEFT THE MORE DUBIOUS ARTIFACTS TO LIE ON THE SHELVES OF A GIFT SHOP ON THE EDGE OF CAPE COD BAY AND ONLY METERS AWAY FROM THAT FAMOUS LITTLE ROCK. AFTER LEAVING PLYMOUTH I COULDN’T GET THE LYRICS TO THE COLE PORTER SONG, ANYTHING GOES, OUT OF MY HEAD. WEEKS LATER THEY STILL COME BACK TO HAUNT ME WITHOUT WARNING – AND A STRANGE NEW COLONIALIST NARRATIVE THAT I AM SURPRISED, AND HALF-ASHAMED, THAT I NEVER NOTICED BEFORE.
“Times have changed,
And we’ve often rewound the clock,
Since the Puritans got a shock,
When they landed on Plymouth Rock.”
Any shock they should try to stem,
‘Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock,
Plymouth Rock would land on them.”
DOLL KIT AT GIFT SHOP
PLYMOUTH ROCK SITE (WITH ROCK INSIDE!)
“In olden days a glimpse of stocking
Was looked on as something shocking,
But now, God knows,
PILGRIM CHILDREN DOLLS
“…The world has gone mad today
And good’s bad today,
And black’s white today,
And day’s night today…”
SNOW GLOBE the final purchase
lyrics from Anything Goes by Cole Porter