Emerging Artists Series: Open Airway curated by Elle McLaughlin

Wednesday / Oct 26 / 05
7:00 pm

Spin Gallery
1100 Queen Street West, Toronto
Elle McLaughlin


Open Airway
Curated by Elle McLaughlin

Shanker Bhardwa
Erin Flyn
Lisa Young Kutsukake
Cameron McKittrick
Zeesy Powers
Fedora Romita
Jocelyne Tremblay
Natalyn Tremblay
Leslie Wyber
Richard Windeyer


Open Airway is an investigation of rhythmic and organized patterns that ensure the successful function of systems. The project brings together and negotiates five unrelated performance pieces, all dealing with different systems.

This concept reflects my interest in the hidden systems functioning throughout us. I am fascinated with the complex interplay between vital functions that keep us alive and the transmission of internal signals operating and maintaining our systems despite various inconsistencies and anomalies. My own anomalous anatomical structure is defined by a rare inverted positioning of all internal organs, known as situs inversus or mirror image anatomy. The uniformity of their inverted placement ensures that all systems operate in a relatively efficient manner. However, a significant percentage of people with situs inversus are also diagnosed with primary ciliary dyskinesia. For respiratory functions to operate successfully, cilia must move in a rhythmic pattern to what is called the ciliary beat. Ciliary disorganization, detected only under a microscope, is manifested by a lack of adherence to this rhythmic, swaying, sweeping motion. This inadequacy ultimately leads to the breakdown of systems that regulate our most vital function: breathing. Systems are maintained through constancy, and are dependant on a degree of uniformity. The rhythmic manipulation of seemingly unrelated elements culminates in a larger accomplished entity. When individual units fail, it creates disturbances throughout the system and leads to its eventual collapse.

Open Airway addresses the role of co-operation in fostering continuity. Interconnected elements have the ability to stifle or flourish. Our accepted naiveté of complex systems that operate around and through us, seemingly running on their own, independent of will or thought or purpose is examined and re-interpreted in this performative petri dish. This project also considers the collaborative nature of performance art. Artists working in this form often depend on the assistance of others. Choreography, technical support and documentation are all functions assumed externally to ensure the artist achieves a connection with his or her audience and that the work remains accessible even after the event has passed. The response from those witnessing a performance may shift and alter the direction of a piece, as well as shaping and informing the artist.

In Open Airway, the artists are aware and vulnerable to shifts in each piece. Many perform simultaneously, while attempting to maintain a sense of balance and respect for what each group has to offer. Most of the performances are collaborative works, testing trust and encouraging empathy between the artists. The exceptions are the first and last pieces, which feature solo performances representing autonomy within a larger system. The interconnectivity that exists between artists engaged in divergent trajectories often culminates in a similar destination. The systems explored are diverse. All the performance pieces were conceived independently of each other. Yet they complement each other with varying multi-sensory approaches and degrees of physicality. Some rely on video projection to convey inner processes; others, silence and restraint.

In Forced Function, Fedora Romita joins Jocelyne and Natalyn Tremblay, who have already established familiarity with each other’s movements. Fedora’s presence helps to disturb the rhythmic tensions already established by the two siblings, while methodically surveying and measuring the space they construct.

Erin Flynn’s Sanctuary 101 incorporates algorithmic patterns into a combined choreographed and improvised exploration of perception. Hinging on interaction and analysis, her approach requires the coordination and integration of diverse systems of subconscious motivation.

Lisa Young Kutsukake and Shanker Bhardwaj employ the interrupted flow of communication as a symbol of natural and imposed systems which govern our ability to relate to one another. Obstruction in the vocal apparatus, resulting from an inability to articulate our confinement within societal constraints, inhibits the flow of conversation. Hesitation becomes a mode of coping with uncertainty.

The development of empathy is intrinsically linked to the negotiation of personal identity as is evidenced in Slice, a performance by the sound trio Finger. Cameron McKittrick, Richard Windeyer and Leslie Wyber function through rhythmic attunement to one another's needs and wishes, monitoring their interaction and responses via projections and audio cues.

Zeesy Powers’ approach in Open Airway is a representation of the internal, and its reaction to external and sometimes contradictory systems. Zeesy’s work incorporates an awareness of the struggle to reconcile the multiplicity of our existence while maintaining order and balance.

SPIN's large open space and its delineation of columns provides a grid structure. Within this grid, the artists have been arranged in symmetrical, geometric configurations, corresponding to the principles of balance and harmony. Rhythm and organization, the conceptual impetus for the event Open Airway's structure adheres to numeric and spatial manipulation. Three of the five groups of artists have chosen to work behind screens, veils and a cell constructed of paper. Although these artists have the opportunity to work in a large, open and egalitarian space, they are aware of the need for compartment-alization. While this has the potential to hinder growth it is a necessary measure to ensure individual goals are realized.

The performance space tests the function of systems through collaboration, rhythm and organization. Under the microscope of the audience's focused eye, the artists learn to cope and avoid system overload through steady negotiation. Opening and maintaining airways allow ease of breath. A rhythmic action, breathing is our most constant reminder of the need for maintaining and monitoring systems. Obstruction of airways impedes the natural flow of tension and exchange.

So please, take a nice, deep, dizzy breath, and enjoy.

~Elle McLaughlin



Initiated in 2002 by Tanya Mars, FADO’s Emerging Artists Series was created to provide a professional platform for emerging artists and curators from Toronto and beyond. Working within a curatorial framework, the series is intended to nurture new work and ideas, as well as provide direction and mentorship. The series is also a vehicle to showcase the work of the community’s newest perspectives in performance art.


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