An important aspect of the O k’inādās residency is the opportunity to share knowledge and processes of creating with students in the studio courses.
Special guests to Troy Twigg’s performance class, Lori Blondeau, Adrian Stimson and Rebecca Belmore offered insight into states of process, dispelling romanticized ideas of art production. Every artist’s process is individual, influenced by varied styles of learning, coming from wide ranging backgrounds and disciplines.
Lori Blondeau spoke of her personal influences, as an aboriginal, indigenous woman, an ‘urban Indian’. She recounted the racism she faced, and the first time she heard the derogatory term ‘squaw.’ She also spoke of empowerment: how she reverted the term to its root meaning iskwew. She described her work at the Native Theatre School (now Centre for Indigenous Theatre), working with her brother in visual and interdisciplinary arts, exploring dance movement and ritual.
She spoke of the difference between performance and performing, the difficulty of getting work as an artist, the hierarchy of performing arts. Performance art is bewilderingly unstructured. Defining performance art is hard, and learning it even harder. It can only be done by doing.
She spoke of her performative personas, Betty Daybert– a B-movie star and surfer- and her grandmother Belle Savage. Playing with vaudeville and cinematic stereotypes. She spoke of actions: crushed berried gutted fish; ripping cloth; eating cheeseburgers to the tune of Hello Dolly – actions that explored trajectories of decreasing sustenance.
Adrian Stimson also articulated the difference between performance and performing arts, quoting Marina Ambrovic’s observation that in theatre they use ketchup, but in performance art, the blood is real.
Performance art necessitates putting selves out into the world and on the line. His persona Buffalo Boy (a frequent collaborator with Belle Savage) a two-spirited trickster character, explores the historical construction of tropes through wild west shows and Hollywood. He also presented work that explores residential school and colonialism, using the material culture, exorcising. He spoke of the importance of process, of creating work in response. He is always ready.
Rebecca Belmore walked us through the development of a work, aligning. She recalled Harper’s official apology for Indian Residential Schools on June 8 2008, which she watched on TV with Marcia Crosbie and Daina Warren. She had no response at the time, but this emerged intuitively, with a work produced for Hive 2, a theatre festival in Vancouver. The apology. Hive. Bees. The Monarchy. Queen Victoria, Victorious. The elements to her piece, her response, came together early in the morning on the day of her performance. She gathered newspapers, purchased honey and borrowed a chair. The resulting performance had Daina seated regally as Rebecca built a paper dress around her, and coating it in honey. The work was made in short time with limited resources and not in a studio.
Process is unique to each artist, grounded in always thinking and working, always ready, learning to trust, to wait for a good idea. It takes time to work through, usually appearing in the knick of time.
Following these presentations, David Garneau welcomed us into his studio, where he provided insight into his practice. The residency offered the opportunity for him to devote more than eight hours a day for still life painting, not his usual genre. The paintings he produced during his time here, one to two per day, are a centering activity. Each piece reflected on the content of the day: Cecily Nicholson’s poetry, Lori Blondeau’s performance work, his partner, Sylvia Ziemann’s, attempts to quit smoking, and particularly his concerns about rendering Indigenous knowledge into books.
Later that week, Ayumi Goto and Peter Morin hosted a performative provocation outside on the grass. In framing the action, they spoke of their process. Performance is a moment of making art, bridging emotion and thought. Every moment is an opportunity to be articulate and embodied, a private moment made public. The act is evidence of thinking – the mark is knowledge manifested. Audience, as witness, as participant, is integral. We were asked: How do we take our truths responsibly to a new level?
The performance began as we sat in a circle, Ayumi and Peter navigating, weaving an aural texture with rattle and bell bowl. They returned to the centre and offered each of us a stone, which we were invited to whisper to, a message we wanted to share, and give away. We then exchanged these stones, seeking individuals that we had a resonance with, someone we knew, or wanted to know more. We carried these stones away, for as long as we needed to, before parting ways.