Let the festivities begin- 2:00pm
Alysse Bowd- 2:15
Alysse Bowd’s motionless body lays in dead man’s pose, a mound of plucked dandelions is piled on top of her head. Within the cold, empty, concrete gallery space the scene reminds me of an urbanized version of Ana Mendieta’s earthworks series. Her still body and covered face evokes a strong sensation of suffocation. I contemplate the use of dandelions, commonly thought of as an invasive weed.
Visitors start to enter the gallery space; everyone is silent as they gather around, waiting. Watching. Eventually her body starts to come to life. Slow hand movements evolve into arms and fingers reaching like roots, eventually finding the pile of flowers, and slowly, one by one, unburying her face.
Some unsuspecting insects that have hitched a ride on Bowd’s haul of dandelions scurry out of the way as she starts taping the dandelions one by one to her feet, legs, arms, and face. Awkwardly, the flowers stand erect, rooted in place by painter’s tape. The irony of planting the already plucked dandelions onto herself calls my attention to the way humans exist in nature and the artificiality of rearranging the environment around their destructiveness.
For a brief moment, even with tape stuck on her face, there is almost a goddess-like air about Bowd, humming while she harvests. Then without any warning she awkwardly pulls her foot to her face and chomps the head off of a dandelion that had been perched there.
One by one Bowd consumes the flowers. Giggles escape the audience members as they watch her contort her body to reach the most impossibly placed flowers with her mouth. Appetite satiated, she piles the remains of the wilting flowers in a long row beneath her, leaving a grave-like mound behind as she exits the space.
Thea Patterson 2:45
Crumpled in a mysterious heap in the corner, a large tarp haphazardly concealing what appears to be a pile of rubbish. The tarp, a muddy, reddish-brown, mimics a deflated womb, resisting its contents spilling out. Curious viewers approach the mound, unsure of the space. After a few moments of silence, the sound of the tarp crinkling informs the viewers that there is life within. The sound of objects colliding, scraping and falling echoes through the space, as the mound starts to shift with movement.
Patterson’s body slowly starts to emerge, entangled in a chaotic web of netting, tubing, fabric, and plastic–like remnants of a construction zone that have been thrown in a blender.
Her body struggles to escape the weight of the pile, every movement resulting in a cascade effect of objects falling, shifting, crashing. Somehow, all of the objects seem to be connected, fighting against her as she excavates herself from the heap. Watching from the sidelines, my palms start sweating and I feel itchy with frustration and defeat as she fights the enormous mass of junk.
The mound takes on a life of its own, writhing with each of Patterson’s movements, like a bizarre ecosystem–an anthropomorphic landfill bogeyman. She is weighed down by the objects attached to her, overwhelmed by stuff. Among the synthetic refuse and tools, natural objects, such as a grass-covered rock, and a piece of driftwood catch my eye. Finally she manages to break free from the grasp of the mound. There is an audible exhale from the audience; a wave of empathetic relief moves over the observing faces, now that the artist is out of the danger zone–no more risk of being crushed or suffocated.
She turns back, observing the vast array of materials she has escaped. Brow furrowed, she reaches down and starts dragging the pile across the floor. Screeching and scraping metal and glass on concrete punctuate the heaving motions of her body, as she drags the burdensome load along.
Mark Hopkins- 3:45
Standing in the shadowed archway in the back of the gallery, Mark Hopkins stares blankly across the space in a version of strongman pose, arms stretched out to hold what appears to be a roll of fabric. His unzipped sweatshirt exposes his bare chest, which slowly starts to redden with heat as his arms become fatigued under the weight of the roll. Shaky breaths echo throughout the space as he fights to maintain his posture. Arms giving out, the roll falls with a loud thud to his feet.
With a frustrated breath, Hopkins starts pulling and tugging the loose end into position before proceeding to unroll the fabric across the gallery floor. He shuffles the length of the gallery on his knees, neurotically smoothing out the periwinkle blue and floral fabric as he goes. Deep breaths demonstrate the strain on his body, bare knees pressing into the concrete floor with each shift forward.
He reaches the far wall, and stands up to look back at the runway-like path he’s created with the fabric. He looks on, with an imploring expression, exuding an intense vulnerability as he stands exposed in his underwear, chest exposed, tired, and alone. He walks the length of the runway twice, displaying his body, and stopping occasionally to smooth out a wrinkle, or pick dirt off the fabric. Then, he kneels down, proceeds to roll the fabric back up, and repeats the whole sequence over again.
The combination of material and Hopkin’s actions creates an interesting dichotomy of masculine/feminine and strength/vulnerability. There is a suggestion of macho display as he pushes his exposed body to its limits, while the object of his struggle and labour–the fabric roll–is reminiscent of an old fashioned domestic interior, like a grandmother’s wallpaper. He alternates his body between protective and exposing positions; walking upon and overpowering his runway, and then labouring obsessively over it. A sense of power struggle and expectation builds as he repeats the same actions over and over. The performative aspect of his tasks invites the viewer to contemplate the link between his repetitive tasks and the exploitation of his own comfort and privacy.
Written by Brittany Snellen.
Brittany Snellen has a master’s degree in art history from the University of Alberta. She’s spent the last five years facilitating collaborative exhibition projects between art historians and artists. In her spare time you can find her photographing births and writing about art.