Friday 12 March 2021

 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.”)


gestes saisonniers

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...

The Toss

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,
Marika Drolet-Ferguson








Thursday 11 March 2021

 Sunday, October 25 at Galerie Sans Nom in the Aberdeen Centre garden on St. Georges St, Moncton.

In a new performance the next day, Exchange, Dornan held a wrapped canvas package closely to her chest, standing within the Aberdeen Centre’s gardens. Placing the package in front of her on one of the sidewalks, she gently unwrapped it revealing black earth from her own garden. She placed her hands on the soil, sensing it, before lifting a handful and distributing the soil with care and attention within the garden. This was repeated many times until all the soil was given back to the earth. She then began to pick up found garbage within the flower beds and grass. Items were left in the oil cloth, eventually wrapped up and taken away. Cigarette butts, a ping pong ball, a broken cell phone cover, a pencil, plastic, plastic, a chip bag, a battery and so on... A gesture of care, a gift of awareness to the earth. The anthropologist Mary Douglas said dirt is “matter out of place.” There was an exchange here, a gift of good soil/dirt for the out-of-place human detritus thrown on the Centre’s grounds.

The Toss

Léger re-imagined his untitled white lily and red rose performance on the grass. Léger creates aesthetically beautiful scenes revealing underlying meanings with quirky gestures. One is never quite sure what will happen next. He repeated the language performance with the salt pyramid, the charcoaled cheese round and the white lily/red rose, only with a slower pace and another flower layer (the lily) left pinned on top of the hybrid stalks. Lily to rose to lily. Léger owns each space he performs in using slow actions, meaningful gestures and evocative imagery.


The third performance of the day was by Xavier Gould and Samuel Landry. Both artists from Moncton, they walked into the central courtyard of the Aberdeen Centre in full makeup and clothing, dressed as drag queen stars, and struck poses. Dance music blared. Landry lit a cigarette. They changed poses and stared outwards, waiting as if at the bus stop, a most normal activity. They owned their space, insisting on being seen and accepted before eventually walking back into the Aberdeen Centre. Stand and be seen—we are part of you. This was their first foray into performance art— this striking a living tableau for a short time. There are a plurality of realities existing in our society, and Gould and Landry, in this performance, demand the recognition and acceptance of queer and trans bodies within the Acadian community as well as the broader Canadian one. It was a politically pointed, proud and courageous action. This performance was repeated in Bouctouche as well.


Emily Saab, an emerging artist from Saint John, joined PERFform 21 in Saint Andrews and Saint John. Her performance, untitled, was an exquisite measure of time. Wearing a sleeveless black dress, Saab sat at the outdoor table and calmly removed her jewellry (earrings, rings and necklace), placing them in a small bowl. Standing up, she moved over to where she had placed a large jar of dried herbs and a foam gardening kneeler. Kneeling on the foam, she lowered the top half of the dress, rested for a moment then opened the jar. She quietly reached over and lifted some of the dried herbs, gently crushing them within her hands before washing her arms, neck and face with them. This was repeated again and again with calm, rhythmic and ritualistic gestures, pulling us in the sensory and emotive world. When finished, she replaced the jar lid, pulled up her dress top, stood and walked away. Her pacing and gestures were evocative of something close to her heart and in the discussion following the event, Saab referenced her grandmother’s garden and her drying of herbs, as well as her continuing connection to her. The jar of herbs is in fact from her grandmother. In Saab’s quiet gestures, body memories surfaced within us, this touch to touch, scents released—from her grandmother’s growing and drying herbs to Saab’s rubbing them onto her skin, creating an alive connection from memories.


Thursday 4 March 2021

 This tour brings new challenges to the performers during Covid-19. For starters, we are masked or if not, at a great distance from the audience. We are out-of-doors working with each different site, aware of how actions, gestures and objects can be understood in many contexts (also with weather changes!)

Both Mathieu Léger and Linda Rae Dornan explored several of their performances, continually developing and refining each work. INvited artists, Xavier Gould and Samuel Landry, and Emily Saab redid their performances in two venues, adapting them to each environment; Marika Drolet-Ferguson’s solo work was only performed once.

The tour began on Saturday, October 24, after a two-week hiatus due to being Code Orange in Zone 1 and Zone 5 in New Brunswick. The first performance was in Sackville, hosted by Struts Gallery & Faucet Media Arts Centre. Both Mathieu and Linda presented two short performances each, outdoors, in the strip parking lot across from the gallery.

Linda commenced with It Could be Anyone’s, a performance carrying hundreds of wooden alphabet letters in a large sheer voile bag. After making parallel chalk lines on the tarmac she stood within two lines holding the bag tightly to her chest for several minutes. Then turning to the right, she rubbed out a section of a chalk line (as if creating a doorway) and entered the next space. Holding the bag, she faced the audience again. It was an awkward bag of shifting wood letters which she held in various positions for the next 15 minutes as she made doorways to each new space, then stood still and silent holding the bag of unformed words. Carrying one’s language with you? Many languages, a new language in each space? Language as worth holding, one’s own or n’importe quel langue, whatever weight. This work was developed more in Saint John, sponsored by Third Space Gallery at the Saint John Arts Centre. This time, Dornan carried the bag of letters (words, language) in her arms and on her back as she slowly walked around the periphery of the Arts Centre building, pausing regularly to tighten her hold on the large bag, shift its position in her arms, and feel its weight. The last position, on her back, resembled the carrying of a dead weight or possibly, the willing carrying of a loved one.

It Could be Anyone’s
                                            Breath, Melt

Dornan’s second performance in Sackville was more attuned with the human effects on the environment, called, Breath, Melt. She unrolled a blue towel with a cutout circle at one end in which she stood. Her mask also had a hole over the mouth, covered in clear plastic so you could see her rhythmic breathing. With a blue globe of ice in her palm, she held it out to the audience. As the globe started to melt, she would tip the excess water onto the towel. Her body heat melted the ice here, as human activity causes global warming, global weather changes, and northern ice melt. The rhythmic breathing was likened to the earth’s cycles. This performance was reworked several times in the course of the tour developing into bare feet, one foot covered with salt, the other with sugar, loud inhales and exhales, and the melting ice globe dripping onto the white commercial resources her feet were encased in.  

Mathieu Leger’s performances have their own finely paced rhythms, often unhurried and contemplative. With his first one of the tour, untitled, he laid out a marble board (6 x 12 inches approximately), with a clove of garlic and a pencil with sharpener. He sharpened the pencil, lifted one end of the board and balanced it on the graphite tip of the pencil. He then peeled the garlic clove and placed it under the board. Delving into his bag of supplies, he pulled out a thin cord which he carefully tied to the base of the pencil. Placing the end of the cord between his teeth, he slowly backed up and tightened the cord before pulling it hard, collapsing the marble onto the garlic. When the marble was lifted, the garlic was smashed and edible, which Léger did. This performance developed more suspense during the course of the tour, as he would back up with the string in his mouth, leaning down, waiting before pulling the string and we held our breath each time!








In Léger’s second performance, untitled, he arranged a paper bag, a round of Brie, a container of toothpicks, a flower bouquet and a 20 kg bag of Windsor salt in front of him. In measured steps, he held up the salt bag, then dropped it. Cutting it open, he poured everything out into a large mound of white salt. He held up the unwrapped round of Brie cheese (the package read “Le President”) then unwrapped it. Reaching into the paper bag, his hand was covered in charcoal powder which he rubbed into the Brie before placing it on top of the salt pyramid. He then unpacked the bouquet of a white lily and a red rose. After planting the lily in the centre of the Brie, he cut the flower head off with his army knife, then trimmed the rose stem, took a toothpick and attached the red rose stem onto the lily stem. Each action was methodical, first showing the flower, placing it, gazing at it, cutting the flower off its stem.

La fleur de lys is a stylized lily used as a decorative design or symbol of the French monarchy or France. In Léger’s performance, he uses a live lily as representing the french language with the red rose symbolizing the english language. With each successive cut of a stem, then the forced attachment of the other flower, the languages are successively attached, hybridized, placed in a hierarchy, possibly growing together. Finally, Leger placed the red rose in his mouth, then chomped it so that it fell apart to the ground. English is a second language learnt, maybe imposed—spoken well, enjoyed, useful and necessary for survival.

Each of these performances were reworked and further developed over the course of the tour. Elements were added, subtracted, and timing was refined with sites also influencing the presentations.