Fluid Bodies: A Panel

Karolina Bialkowska and Tomas Jonsson

Peter Morin, moderator and orator, set the tone for the afternoon by introducing the question: How do ‘bodies’ work in terms of sovereignty and territory? More than an introduction, Peter’s conversation with us asked us to acknowledge each other, to hold the words we were about to hear within us, and to remember all of our ancestors in the room. The room felt full. “You should know who these people are, up here.” A reminder of the honour in being present, the imperative to recognize.

Having five audience bodies read parts of his statement on accessibility, Carmen Papalia simultaneously demonstrated and articulated an alternative way to think about how we offer support in an institutional setting, in so called ‘public spaces,’ and how to build a more inclusive experience for people to follow curiosities and interests.

Lori Blondeau took us to Venice to show us her practice, a performance, which, like the imageround table introduction held days before, held a body within a circular space, one that
resonated with a vulnerability for her. Recounting how she has to teach her daughter that having an indigenous body endangers her, Lori demanded we see the reality of missing and murdered indigenous women, missing because of what their bodies are. Whose bodies are allowed sovereignty?

 Adrian Stimson ran through the lecture hall, and then ran through a series of bodies that inform and emerge in his work:  Territories and sovereignty,  embodied shame,  fixed and unfixed bodies, the bodies of sacred rituals, bodies of white shame, bodies of bison- who even in death still sustain, honouring bodies of traditional knowledge and bodies of performance, acknowledging the active bodies of activists.

The body is present, the artist is present, the ego is present. The Body is simple and quietly present, even in the wrong places. Incongruent bodies, such as David Khang’s, predetermined by the decisions of three old white guys who carved up the political body of the world at the Yalta conference. The Chilean coup of 1973, the internment of Japanese imageCanadians, the FLQ crisis: bodies being disempowered in spaces considered ‘home.’ David questioned how we moved from, “Peace, Friendship, and Respect”, to “Peace, Order, and Good Governance”.  As David peeled back the layers, his army fatigues gave way to butterfly fatigues. David’s challenge: “How do we get from that (gun) to this (friendship)?”

Michelle Jacques delivered an art history class she would love to teach, an imagined space where artists recognize their appropriation of, what they labelled, non-western ‘primitivism’.  Rather than a reductive two-dimensional interpretation, she gave space to the rich multiplicity and fluidity of these practices.  She spoke of dance as rebellion and of the dis-ease and ruptures caused by the small movements of resisting bodies.  Michelle brought us back to our own bodies and to the rhythms bodies make to determine their own sovereignty. We moved with her.unitheatre

The question that greeted us at the door resisted being answered: so how do butterflies navigate sovereignty and territory?


For another perspective on this panel, see Michael Turner’s Websit blog

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