Escapist Action: Performance in Recession

Black Friday: Nov 27, 2009 @ 8pm
Red Flag Saturday: Nov 28, 2009 @ 8pm
Grey Cup Sunday: Nov 29, 2009 @ 6pm

InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre
9 Ossington Avenue, Toronto
$5 / PWYC
Don Simmons

BLACK FRIDAY: November 27
1pm–4pm @ InterAccess
Association for Imaginary Architecture by Joanne Bristol
8pm @ InterAccess
Performances by: Julian Higuerey Núñez & Ignacio Pérez Pérez, Claude Wittmann, Rodolphe-Yves Lapointe 

1pm–10pm @ 3072 Dundas Street West (in the Junction)
Magpie by Tom Jonsson
8pm @ InterAccess
Performances by: Julian Higuerey Núñez & Ignacio Pérez Pérez, Joanne Bristol, John G. Boehme

GREY CUP SUNDAY: November 29
6pm–9pm @ The Gladstone Hotel Art Bar (1214 Queen Street West)
Grey Cup Party by David Franovich


Escapist Action: Performance in Recession
Curatorial Statement 

Daily media reports bombard us with the reality of the current worldwide economic situation. We are in the midst of a recession. Businesses are failing and offering discount prices on everything in the store, the stock market is volatile, companies are looking for bailouts, and government agencies are giving away bloated stimulation packages.

Despite these tough economic times, some businesses are experiencing a boom. Alcohol sales are up; Hollywood movies are experiencing a surge in attendance and theatres are reporting a rise in audience numbers. People need to escape from their problems and forget about reality. During tough economic times, art relating to escapism prospers.

Escapism is an immersive art. It satisfies a desire for sensual pleasure. It envelops the viewer in a hermetic and narcissistic space where reality is suspended. Stimulated by an individual’s need for escape the realm of the imaginary is opened and new possibilities arise. Non-places that do not exist make themselves possible, submerging the individual and leaving them in a state of confusion. Spectators who participate or view an escapist action become disconnected from their everyday surroundings and transport themselves to a place of contemplation or simply blank out. 

Escapist Action: Performance in Recession begins with a weeklong series of performance events that investigate economics and presents the audiences with alternative methods of exchange. The series culminates in three evening programs of performance entitled Black Friday, Red Flag Saturday, and Grey Cup Sunday. These three evening investigate the mixed emotions evoked by the volatile economic market. The performances navigate the sensations of fear, despair, laughter, and hope. The audience is transported from the dark emotions of Black Friday through the humour of Red Flag Saturday arriving at the celebratory Grey Cup Sunday

Julian Higuerey Núñez and Ignacio Pérez Pérez activate Escapist Action by creating an alternative barter system in which performances and time can be exchanged between the artists and audience. The exchange starts with an Open Barter Market on Monday, November 23, followed by a 72-hour performance (6 days / 12 hours each day). Tomas Jonsson’s work creates a redundant economy across the street from a storefront display he mimics. In the piece Magpie, Jonsson observes the shopkeepers display, purchases items from the shop, and then sets up shop across the street. Jonsson consciously contradicts traditional exchange structures by giving away items, available for purchase at the neighbouring store, to passersby who engage the artist in conversation. Joanne Bristol presents an intimate service based performance dealing with internalized space as a form of escapism in her performance entitled Association for Imaginary Architecture.

The first evening program takes place on Black Friday. Renowned as the biggest shopping day in the US, and an indicator for financial forecast for the upcoming holiday season, Black Friday also refers to the financial crisis of 1869. On Black Friday, Julian Higuerey Núñez and Ignacio Pérez Pérez start the evening with the last performance of their twelve-hour day. Claude Wittmann explores the fears we experience in times of economic uncertainty and the mob like tendency to blame it on the “other”. In this case Wittmann looks at the instances in history where woman have been labeled as witches and damned for financial hardship within communities. Rodolphe-Yves Lapointe addresses risk taking and responsibility in a final desperate act of escapism.

Black Friday is followed by Red Flag Saturday. The Red Flag signifies warning, defiance, left-wing politics and amazing sales at department stores. This evening’s tone is decidedly lighter than Black Friday, compelling the audience to escape from their recessionary blues and find some relief in humour. This evening begins, like Black Friday, with a portion of The Artist and the Beanstalk by Julian Higuerey Núñez and Ignacio Pérez Pérez. Then John G. Boehme explores adolescent escapism and Joanne Bristol encourages Torontonians to relocate to the “wallet friendly” city of Winnipeg. 

Escapist Action: Performance in Recession concludes with Grey Cup Sunday, a performance party in celebration of escaping the daily grind with cheap televised entertainment and the excitement of an annual national sporting event. David Frankovich’s Grey Cup Party mixes high and low brow activities, morphing the football party with an Earl Grey tea party to reveal hidden sexual truths.

~Don Simmons




John G. Boehme

Calentura (first in the series) intends to investigate autobiographical escapist narratives of adolescent disenfranchisement projected through direct akshun.

Joanne Bristol
Association for Imaginary Architecture

This performance involves architectural design and touch. I am interested in investigating relationships between our physical experiences of the built world and how we imagine and internalize those spatial experiences. The performance involves a one-on-one exchange between the audience and myself: I will ask audience members to verbally describe an architectural space. It could be a space from memory, a dream, or any kind of space in the built world that is of significance to them. As the space is described, I will draw a ‘plan’ of it on the speaker’s clothed back with my hands. Sessions will last no longer than five minutes. 

Joanne Bristol
My Winnipeg Can Be Yours...

In this twenty-minute slide-lecture performance I will describe the advantages of living in Canada’s low-budget cultural capital. This performance is especially designed for Torontonians who might like to experience the joys of living an in what is arguably North America’s most affordable city.

David Frankovich
Grey Cup Party

A team of dandies gather to honour Earl Grey's Cup over a cup of Earl Grey. The sports bar and the Victorian tearoom collide. Dressed in thrift store finery, they engage in male bonding over tea and biscuits while watching the Grey Cup final. Masculinity is reconstructed through a recession-friendly social ritual.

Tomas Jonsson

Magpie builds on a person engagement with a variety store that has been a long time fixture in the Junction District of Toronto, which is increasingly precarious as a result of the rapidly altering the retail identity of the street.  Creating a dynamic that resisted the usual flows of investment, speculation (eviction/gentrification) this performance installation piece is an ongoing adjunct redundant economy. By selecting, sorting and taking advuce from the seller the collection of items will be built to there after offered them on the streets to the passers-by for exchange. In place of monetary gain, other forms of exchange are favoured. The objects will function more or less as token opportunities for discussion about the economic and material transformations in the neighbourhood / city, the role and ritual of corner store shopping, and the determination of value and exchange.

Rodolphe-Yves Lapointe
Nut your way out!

The intensive use of the spoken word, nonverbal languages and the ingenuous manipulation of props is what typically characterises Lapointe’s Performance Art work (“textactions”, in his own words.) But, the thematic of ‘escapism’ induced a restrained use of expressive means and the Quebec-based artist radically reduces his display of objects to a plain hemp rope, and the flow of words to only two, “Pull it!” In Nut your way out!, as he leads the public through productive time-killer activities (knot-tying), social games (tug-of-war) and skills tests (rescue techniques) until he reaches the “highest stage” of escapism. The end of the performance virtually lies in the spectator’s hand.

Claude Wittmann
My First Witch Piece

Today, my first witch piece exists as an idea that has to do with my body and with escapist acts, which I see as impulses to avoid or to transform a certain system of beliefs. I am fascinated by myths about 15th century witches, and I allow myself to ossilate between believing and not believing that they had unusual abilities, such as “flying” or temporarily depriving men of their male organs. I wonder what kind of consciousness shift I would need in order to commit to their philosophical view of the world, and to see myself become one of them. What are my embodied psychological walls? Doubt? Fear? Judgment? My relationship with death? My goal with this work is to take my audience on a journey that makes visible our resistance to a shift of consciousness.

Ignacio Pérez Pérez and Julian Higuerey Núñez
Open Barter Market and The Artist and the Beanstalk

The artists arrived to Toronto on November 23 carrying with them 72 objects from home. Objects ranging from the absurd to the personal, trinkets, objects with stories. On November 23, from 2-9pm, they opened the doors of the gallery with a performance called Open Barter Market. The public was invited to bring an object of their own to trade and barter for one of the objects the artists brought. Or instead of an object, you could trade an hour of your time in which the artists would do an action for you, within reason, at a location of your choosing.

After a day of bartering and exchanging objects and stories about the objects, the artists have 72 new objects. Some absurd, some personal, trinkets, objects with stories.
From Tuesday November 24 to Sunday November 29, daily from 9am to 9pm, the artists create a performance for and with each of the newly exchanged 72 objects. All of the objects stay in the gallery space, and may become a part of the next performance. 
You are invited to come to the gallery anytime during the week from 9am-9pm and witness the performances created with these objects. If you exchanged an object at the Open Barter Market, you are especially invited to come and see the performance made with your object. 
To see images of the Open Barter Market and the exchanged images, visit the artists' website where they will post live documentation of the process.
Barter is a relational practice, and is as old as the wheel. In The Artist and the Beanstalk, Nunez & Perez create an alternative exchange and cultural economy, one based not on capitalist value, but on need value. Barter as an opportunity for performance. Performance as an opportunity for escape.
READ about the project in Spanish here and follow links these links:
[ Escapist Action: Performance in Recession ]

+ PHOTO GALLERY: Escapist Action: Performance in Recession - Wittmann, Boehme, Lapointe, Bristol
+ PHOTO GALLERY: Open Barter Market
+ PHOTO GALLERY: The Artist and the Beanstalk
+ EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT: On Escapist Action: Performance in Recession by Laura Paolini
+ VIDEO GALLERY: Calentura by John Boehme