I’m going to be living on Toronto Island for an artist residency sponsored by Whippersnapper Gallery. Here’s a little about what myself and Maylee are planning for The New Traditions Residency:
How are rituals and emotions channeled through the traditional space of intimate experiences with family and home? In what ways do parental and familial practices affectively embed small ritualistic scripts of knowing and being? Normative family traditions such as Sunday dinner, holidays, music and craft making become a body of knowledge repeated and manifested over time. This body is a fluid and signifying system impacted by the shared energy of connection and disconnection. As such, we want to explore our intimate memories with ‘family events’ as sites of inspiration that have the power to challenge and transform traditional ‘family values.’
Often times being apart of a family involves taking part in various ‘familial based’ traditions (such as crafting, holidays and meals) alongside these events come various affects that are sites of warmth, connectivity, alienation and abuse. The dichotomy of emotions and rituals associated with our individual family experience and the various traditions are imprints that enable us to understand our subjectivity as women and artists. For the “New Traditions” residency, we want to collectively work to investigate our memories in an attempt to transform our energies that remember and cultivate ancestral rituals for better or for worse. We will combine our traditional-familial knowledge regarding performance, crafting, and affective her-stories in order to highlight the way identity and creative energies are impacted by familial rituals. We are operating with the belief that everyday family rituals (including the institutionalized construct of family itself) are embedded within sites of power and privilege that influence and informs self-making and artistry. How have our mothers/fathers/sisters and extended family informed and inspired our ways of being a woman and an artist?
Using our memories of familial rituals we will confront the notion of family and self-making through a series of dinners and crafting workshops. These dinners and workshops will act as not only a performance that exercises emotional endurance, but also a radical new community tool that seeks to understand the family traditions we love and hate. Within these workshops we will craft and embody our ancestral knowledge in order to exorcise our past and re-frame our future.
We plan to use found familial objects associated with or made by our family members, such as blankets, sweaters, and scarves. We will then use these materials to construct a giant Frankenstein-like female body. We will be using a sewing machine and we will need access to a kitchen and dinning area. We plan to film stories shared during dinner and sewing circles in order to contribute to our final interdisciplinary performance piece involving music and puppetry.
Pulling from the practice of feminist craft making and performance art we are looking to create a representation of a female body as it relates to our affective and embodied her-stories related to family rituals. This work will be a healing tool that purifies toxic traditions in order to mystically realign our relationship to the memory of family and subjectivity. Our hope is to fashion radically new connections with community in order to transform not only our affective experience, but also to confront institutional and commercialized notions that promise a particular and privileged happiness awarded to traditional family values.
“When you start to like pain things get interesting. Pain is the common result of a subordinate position. Traditionally, suffering is uncomfortable and undesirable. Perhaps it is more intelligent to cultivate pain as a means of liberation? Is it possible that enjoyment of pain can be subversive? When one does not fear pain, one cannot be manipulated. When aroused by suffering, one can control any relationship. When agony ceases to be a barrier, death is not forbidding. The implications are marvellous. Pain is not oppressive, but strengthening and most sublime. It is necessary only to deny the pleasure/pain dichotomy.”—
- Jenny Holzer
So much of my work this year has been dedicated to this concept. Though not even pain necessarily, but discomfort. Politics of sociability are not comfortable, art practice is not comfortable, thinking is not comfortable, but in my experience, particularly in the past couple of weeks, forcing oneself to explore and dwell in discomfort has been the most generative experience of resistance and empowerment.
In the wake of dissipation, in emptying out fixed notions of what we are and what we want, force and hope exist. It seems to me that the performative assumes these empty spaces where dynamism can emerge; not so much putting identity into action, but allowing new spaces of liberation to arise.