CounterPoses




 
Curated by DisplayCult
Galerie Oboro, Montreal
May 7–9, 1998

http://www.oboro.net/en/season/1997-1998-season-en
http://www.oboro.net/fr/season/saison-1997-1998-fr


Artists: Stéphanie Beaudoin, tarin chaplin, Colette, Kim Dawn and Christof Migone, Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan, Rachel Echenberg, Natalie Grimard, Louise Liliefeldt, Chris Martin, David McFarlane, The Other Theatre, Kathryn Walter.
  CounterPoses involved conceptualizing a performative genre which worked at the intersection of exhibition and event. We invited artists to re-imagine “tableaux vivants” and incorporate living persons in elaborate, site-specific contexts. Twelve “peopled” installations were staged simultaneously throughout Galerie Oboro and its building.

Our curatorial aim was to foreground aspects of presence and interconnection in aesthetic experience. Performances occupied two theatres, artist-in-residence quarters, a freight elevator, stairwell, storefront and utility closet, as well as the gallery itself. The exhibition involved extensive research into the history and practice of tableau vivants, whose origins are diverse and rhizomatic. They include the living crêches initiated by St. Francis of Assisi in the twelfth century to tell the tale of Christ’s birth to illiterate Christians; Renaissance ceremonial pageants and royal entries that incorporated living architectural elements; and eighteenth-century aristocratic entertainments such as Lady Emma Hamilton’s “attitudes,” which featured living enactments of classical sculpture.

Tableaux vivants, or “living pictures,” became immensely popular in North America during the nineteenth century as a domestic pastime, a means for moral instruction, and even, at times, a form of erotic entertainment. Other, less-benign forms of human exhibition – carnival sideshows, punishment spectacles, and colonial showcases – reduced handicapped, dispossessed or merely foreign individuals to “curiosities.“

With such potentially controversial topics as sexuality, death and domestic abuse addressed by the artists' projects in CounterPoses, the body is shown to be much more than a raw material; it is the site where complex cultural discourses of identity, gender and affiliation are negotiated and reconceived.

For a fuller text, see Jim Drobnick and Jennifer Fisher, CounterPoses, Montreal: Oboro and DisplayCult, 2002, 80 pp. (in English and French).
 
Stéphanie Beaudoin, Le baiser capital; choix capital, 1998.
Performance.
 
Stéphanie Beaudoin stages rituals of veneration that include obituaries, coffins, velvet covered walls, flowers, mourners, and Victorian-style relics. Le Baiser Capital, parodying a nineteenth-century photographic studio, invoked the death-like stillness of Sleeping Beauty and asked visitors to provide the mythic "kiss of life."
  Stéphanie Beaudoin, Le baiser capital; choix capital, 1998.
Performance still.
tarin chaplin, Women’s Rites: Sifting, 1998.
Performed with Louise Cloutier.
   
Women’s Rites: Sifting, abstracted a vignette from the daily routine of domestic life. It celebrates one traditional women's task -- baking -- by shifting this otherwise banal activity into one endowed with a metaphysical dimension. Accompanying chaplin was Louise Cloutier, a vocalist, composer, and pioneer in extended vocal techniques.
  tarin chaplin, Women’s Rites: Sifting, 1998.
Performance still, performed with Louise Cloutier.
Colette, Hold On ... I’m On My Way, 1998.
Performance.
   
Colette’s performances place the female body at the nexus of historical and cultural myths. In a largely Catholic neighbourhood, she held a “storefront audience” from a majestic throne. By inviting people to come forward and be blessed, she claimed the eminence of theocracy – a domain traditionally denied women by the church.
  Colette, Hold On ... I’m On My Way, 1998.
Performance still.
Kim Dawn and Christof Migone, Separate, 1998.
Performance still.
   
Kim Dawn & Christof Migone engaged in overtly physiological activities of sucking, eating and spitting. Amidst fermenting and putrefying candy, fruit and honey, their alien, abject picnic blurred the boundaries between food and excrement, disgust and pleasure.
  Kim Dawn and Christof Migone, Separate, 1998.
Performance still.
Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan, The Eaton’s Catalogue (1976), 1998.
Performed with Annie Martin and Anne Borden.
   
Shawna Dempsey & Lorri Millan reconstituted “The Three Graces” in 1970s dresses – with faucets and gushing water. For them, department store displays function not only as a tool for consumption, but as manuals for constructing identity. Bridging the divide between macho hardware and femme evening gowns, their wry hermaphroditism hinted at gender fluidity and polymorphous desire.
  Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan, The Eaton’s Catalogue (1976), 1998.
Performance still, performed with Annie Martin and Anne Borden.
Rachel Echenberg, The Water Nymph Project, 1998.
Performance.
   
Rachel Echenberg revisited the tableau vivant in its more public form of a living fountain -- a classically attired women stands as the muse of sculpture. The Water Nymph Project interrogated patriarchal representations of women as archetypes for moral "truths," while at the same time offering a vocal corrective: rather than standing mute, the muse spoke out about her experiences.
  Rachel Echenberg, The Water Nymph Project, 1998.
Performance still.
Nathalie Grimard, Mon cheval de Bataille, 1998.
Performance.
   
Nathalie Grimard invoked the ritual of the hospital visit. Viewers entered an artificially-heated space with the artist asleep on a gurney bed. The apparent passivity of Grimard strategically amplified visitors’ own predilections: some pulled up her blankets caringly (making sure she was comfortable); others felt provoked and harassed her to awaken.
  Nathalie Grimard, Mon cheval de Bataille, 1998.
Performance still.
Louise Liliefeldt, Ethel -- Forgive Me Not, 1998.
Performance.
   
Traveling upstairs, one entered the vortex of a fierce storm. Amidst dizzying sounds, Louise Liliefeldt leaned out over the stairwell like a ship’s figurehead, Valkyrie or female crucifixion. Ensconced in an apocalyptic whirlwind that could seemingly destroy or purify, spectators witnessed the artist deliberately pushing beyond her threshold of endurance.
  Louise Liliefeldt, Ethel -- Forgive Me Not, 1998.
Performance still.
Chris Martin, Puppies Are Not Just for Christmas, 1998.
Performance.
   
Christine Martin redirected the conventions of burlesque to comment on New York City real estate shifts, specifically the renovation of Times Square and the banishment of adult entertainment. Martin’s “method go-go” rode the edge between a feminist celebration of sexuality and a critique of porn exploitation, and challenged visitors to contemplate their own assumptions about innocence, sex and display.
  Chris Martin, Puppies Are Not Just for Christmas, 1998.
Performance still.
David McFarlane, Autoportrait, 1998.
Performance.
   
David McFarlane strapped himself into a custom-made fibreglass ball. Like a psycho-social experiment in trust, viewers could roll the artist and watch his facial reactions. Most people were respectful, but as a crowd gathered, actions tended to get physical. One boy – dubbed “Bart Simpson” – tested the limits of the artist by gleefully abusing the sphere.
David McFarlane, Autoportrait, 1998.
Performance still.
The Other Theatre, Recreation, 1998.
Performed by Stacey Christodoulou and Philippe Ducros.
   
The Other Theatre echoed the theme of confinement with a 1950s rec-room stage set skewed into the building’s freight elevator. Evoking the violent underside of suburban tranquility, their one-hour drama enacted the breakdown of middle-class ideals, where dreams of “the good life” mutate into horrific actions.
  The Other Theatre, Recreation, 1998.
Performance still, performed by Stacey Christodoulou and Philippe Ducros.
Kathryn Walter, Fool's Gold, 1998.
Performance.
   
Kathryn Walter's installation featured stones gathered from the surrounding landscape, which she washed, painted gold, and then gave to visitors. Walter made reference to the Canadian gold rush and her presence as artist-archaeologist-alchemist addresses the means by which value is conferred upon the landscape and how it is literally transformed by shifting political and economic interests.
  Kathryn Walter, Fool's Gold, 1998.
Performance still.
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