Marika Drolet-Ferguson’s solo work, gestes saisonniers, was performed in Caraquet at Galerie Bernard-Jean. A visual artist, and an architect by trade, this was Drolet-Ferguson’s first public performance art work. It was a gentle process work to create a closer awareness of Nature and the contemporary food economy. First, Drolet-Ferguson knelt on the floor of the gallery with paper bags, a wooden plank, three large mason jars and tools around her. Taking a long plant out of a bag, she held up the greenery for us to see, then individually removed its leaves lengthwise before placing the cuttings in a mason jar. It was a typical weed found in many gardens, vetch, not to be eaten. The next plant she held up was a large hosta leaf which she decimated with quick, jerky scissor movements before placing the cutings in the second jar.
A birch tree mushroom fungus was next (polypore du Bouleau). Drolet-Ferguson first held it up for us to see, then mashed it with a metal mallet into broken pieces on the cutting board. It was then placed into the last mason jar. A prepared mixture of water and ash was added to each jar, “preserving” each, at least in appearances, and suggesting the possible loss of any abundant plants.
Each action was interspersed with pauses as the artist contemplated the plants. She writes, “À travers ce moment, je cherche à ramener ou perpétuer des souvenirs de traditions en lien avec la conservation d'aliments saisonniers, mais aussi à questionner notre relation au territoire et notre capacité d'auto-suffisance alimentaire." (“Through this moment, I am looking to bring back or perpetuate memories of traditions related to the conservation of seasonal foods but also question our relationship to the place we live and our capacity for food self-sufficiency.”)
Stepping out from the recognizable action of preserving edible foods, this quiet performance is a metaphor for preserving the natural world around us; for consciously placing value on the plants, the weeds and the fungi, in our environment. Notice, she gestures, pay attention. She speaks through food processes, traditional food treatments necessary for survival, to also suggest that we could eventually be left with only the weeds and fungi if we do not take better care of our eco system...
Léger repurposed his untitled performance of rose and lily to each site, infinitesimally changed and redeveloped at each venue, yet holding the line in its message. In Bouctouche, on the tarmac outside, the work appeared stark, almost a warning. In Fredericton, the ambience of the old school (Charlotte St Arts Centre) added an element of education, of paying attention to the work. We live in stressful times of change and conflict where we are all repeatedly learning to respect and accept differences around us. That we live in the only bilingual province in Canada is something we can be proud of yet it is also a state of respect to be defended from prejudice. Respecting each other’s language (and experiences) and reaching across the language divide enriches us all as the PERFform crew repeatedly experienced throughout the province.
Dornan tested a new work, The Toss, in Fredericton. First, she emptied a large bag of sand into a rectangular pile on the front lawn of the Charlotte St Arts Centre. Then, standing approximately ten feet back from the it, she proceeded to toss words onto the sand. The words were wooden letters glued together (for example: joy, crazy, anger, lost, exist, guilt, love, turmoil, silence). Those words which did not land on the sands were picked up and re-thrown until there were no more words to throw. Sand, because of its character, always suggests the expression, “the shifting sands,” not a surface to lay foundations upon. The Toss resembled a game of skill (horse shoe toss) and chance, the words (in English) flying in the air to land on shifting meanings, a metaphor of our time—what is said is not always what we each understand...
|When Across the Oceans We Connected|
In Edmundston and Campbellton, in a reworking and updating of a 2017 performance now called, When Across the Oceans We Connected, Dornan carried a large basket holding dozens of letters and post cards from a lifetime of correspondence. She walked in a circle in the centre the room, examining each piece separately before dropping it to the floor. Every now and then, she placed small objects on individual letters—a crocheted doily, a skein of wool, a crow feather, a stone, a shell, a wooden stamp and so on. These objects seemed to hold personal importance to her. The correspondence on paper was a life’s history which travelled across lands and oceans to make contact and maintain connections. In the digital age, handwriting seems to be disappearing as we keyboard everything to communicate. Mailing letters is disappearing. Near the end of the performance, Dornan held a small bell which she rang as she walked the circuit of the floor’s words on paper. She then pulled out a miniature krank music box and continued on the circuit around the correspondence playing the music to each viewer. (The old song, “What a wonderful world.”) Questions of the handmade, the hand written, versus digital technology immediately arise. Can we successfully carry older skills forward into the future? (Please read text from Edmundston, 2017 for further thoughts on the earlier performance.
Both Léger’s and Dornan’s performances highlight the various ways in which acts of speech are made visual, whether public or private, to respond to the particular pressures of their time and each artists’ lives. The personal was intimate in Saab’s performance touching on memories through body and senses, while the personal in body was political and assertive in Gould and Landry‘s tableaux, and Drolet-Ferguson’s gestures offered both hope and a warning in her quiet poetic performance. PERFform 21 was fortunate to be able to perform during covid shut-downs within the province. We were often the only shows in town (-: Having emerging artists test the waters in performance art with us was wonderful and exciting. We will continue to build a performance art community here in New Brunswick!
Much appreciation is due all the participating galleries, Galerie Sans-Nom and Annie France Noël for their continuing and generous support, and to the Department of Tourism, Heritage and Culture, New Brunswick for their financial support without which we could not do this.
|Untitled, Mathieu Léger|
|It Could be Anyone's, Linda Rae Dornan|
|Untitled, Emily Saab|
|Untitled, Xavier Gould and Samuel Landry|
|gestes saisonniers, |