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Lisa Anita Wegner

I make stuff and sometimes write about it

Category Archives: art therapy

Lisa Anita Wegner (°1973, Toronto, Canada) creates performances, installations, films and conceptual artworks. By parodying mass media by exaggerating certain formal aspects inherent to our contemporary society, Wegner makes works that can be seen as self-portraits. Sometimes they appear idiosyncratic and quirky, at other times, they seem typical by-products of American superabundance and marketing.

Her performances often refers to pop and mass culture. Using written and drawn symbols, a world where light-heartedness rules and where rules are undermined is created. By rejecting an objective truth and global cultural narratives, her works references post-colonial theory as well as the avant-garde or the post-modern and the left-wing democratic movement as a form of resistance against the logic of the capitalist market system.

Her work urge us to renegotiate performance as being part of a reactive or – at times – autistic medium, commenting on oppressing themes in our contemporary society. By using popular themes such as sexuality, family structure and violence, she creates with daily, recognizable elements, an unprecedented situation in which the viewer is confronted with the conditioning of his own perception and has to reconsider his biased position.

Her works demonstrate how life extends beyond its own subjective limits and often tells a story about the effects of global cultural interaction over the latter half of the twentieth century. It challenges the binaries we continually reconstruct between Self and Other, between our own ‘cannibal’ and ‘civilized’ selves. By demonstrating the omnipresent lingering of a ‘corporate world’, she touches various overlapping themes and strategies. Several reoccurring subject matter can be recognized, such as the relation with popular culture and media, working with repetition, provocation and the investigation of the process of expectations.

Her works are saturated with obviousness, mental inertia, clichés and bad jokes. They question the coerciveness that is derived from the more profound meaning and the superficial aesthetic appearance of an image.

-500 Letters

Photo by Angela Chao at The Art Gallery of Ontario 2015

“Over the years that the way I pursue my work as been called amateur. Found objects and donated equipment have become my jam and I realize an unending burning desire to tell stories through any means possible. I take it a compliment as I will always been an amateur artist in the true sense of the word. I do my work for the sheer love and hunger of it, and I will never stop. Through volume I am becoming practised with a body of film, installation and performance work. I feel lucky that money will never be a motivator of my creative output.” -The Ubermarionette 2020

Photo by Angela Chao 2016

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I had been attempting to be more authentic in how difficult my days can be with two invisible invisibilities like complex-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Ehlers- Danlos Sydrome. It’s in my nature to focus on the positive and underplay how hard things get.

I get behind that philosophy, however I have been in a flare up state for several months now. If I’m honest I haven’t spent much time out of a flare up for several years. I’m tough and I’m strong and I’ve been working on self-care for fifteen years. But when the pain/nausea/brain fog/core spasm/exhaustion cocktail kick in, all my years of self-care expertise go out the window. I barely know who I am. I have no bandwidth to handle any experiences. My focus is entirely on trying to breathe and get from moment to moment. The world is too bright and loud and I am in more pain and discomfort and past the point of exhaustion many times more than I thought my body, spirit and soul could take.  

The other day I was chatting with a friend who asked how I was. I said “things were hard and I’m in a flare up and that in this moment I feel better.” That was true, and me still trying to be positive. For a few moments I could breathe and think while I was answering her message. Directly afterward my chest started to cramp up and I doubled over onto the floor. My diaphragm cramped up and I felt like my whole breathing system was cramped down. I felt like I was drowning. I was sure I was going to faint. At least I was already on the floor.  My friend well meaningly wrote back “I’m glad you’re feeling better!” I wondered how I could have given such a wrong impression. I don’t want to keep repeating “I feel like I’m drowning. The nausea takes up all my bandwidth. I can’t lift myself up. I can’t take the pain but each day it’s escalating. I can’t take the overwhelm. It’s scary each time my cognition drops out and I am floating in a wordless place of fear and pain and overwhelm”. I want to write another script for myself. 

I have a huge art project in the works, and I have only a faint sense of it happening. I don’t know how any human being can stand this place. I can get incredible amount of work done in say in one hour on a phone meeting. And then loose the rest of the day to just getting through intense symptoms. 

I’m sure some version of this feels familiar to many with chronic illness. 

These are versions of sensations I’ve had my whole life. I told my doctors and gym teachers all these feelings as a child and it was always put back to me that it there was nothing wrong with me. And if there was, it was my fault. I was lazy, I was told I didn’t want to participate and that I was weak. My digestion was poor; therefore, I must be eating poorly. No one asked me. They told me how it was. So as a child I stopped feeling the pain and just internalized this feeling of extreme overwhelm as failure. I was weak. I was lazy. It’s my fault. I must not want to participate. Adults asked me “What kind of kid is tired all the time?” I didn’t know but it made me feel like there was something wrong with me.  I could fall asleep anywhere as long as my torso was resting on something. And I was in this alone; I had to figure everything out.  I had to show the world that I wasn’t lazy. So I buckled up and internalized this incredible difficult experience of living with a connective tissue disorder.  It took seven years of intense therapy for me to be able to locate the body feelings I was suppressing in order to get by. Once I opened myself up to feel the sensations, my life got more difficult but the road toward healing could begin.  

So the best thing I can think to do is to record a day in all its agonizing glory, in order to honour and sit in the feeling. To be truthful about my experience and to let other folks in similar positions know they are not alone.  And honestly, this is what my days have mostly looked like for maybe two years. If I say I’m better I am faking it to some extent. All the time. 

So I’ll start recording my today. I’m two weeks away from opening a show called Intangible Adorations: Experience The Icon. I think it’s the best thing I’ve created to date. It’s part of a festival called Rendezvous With Madness, a peak artistic experience for me. I often hide in my art practise. It brings me joy and is what I’ve been using to hold on my whole life. I have can have a brutal day and then have some good news about the project. I can enthusiastically talk about the project news for a short while and pretend the rest of the day away. 

Dear Diary: I wake up in the morning and my first wave of nausea and emotional overwhelm engulfs me at the in-point of consciousness.  I realize I’m awake and often my throat tightens with overwhelm and I feel tears tickling my eyes. My first thought is “I’m not sure I have the strength to do this again”.  I move a little bit to get the sense of where my body is at. I breathe in deeply and my torso cramps and spasms and tightens around my diaphragm. I do my best not to panic when I can’t take in proper breath. I imagine releasing my shoulders and try to picture butter melting. Sometimes this helps me, this morning it starts the feeling that there is a burning tight knot from my left ear that burns through my body stabbing like hot metal though my lungs and it grabs onto my lower hip. This tightness cramps into a searing pain and if I think about it too much, it gets tighter. The more I try to relax, the tighter it gets. It cramped up my already immobile digestive system into another level of cramps. Breathe… no no no, don’t cramp up more.  I lie still hoping to get my breathing better before trying to sit up. I find a moment between cramps to sit up. I feel faint, I tear up with overwhelm. I use a roller to help me sit up. I feel faint again. My fingers and toes tingle and go numb. I breathe in again and slowly roll to my left toward the edge of the sleeping mat. My torso muscles scream in cramp-y pain, and I feel like I don’t have it in me to move or get upright. The pain and tightening is increasing, I must get up before I go into full spasm. I breathe in again reminding myself of the steps.  Roll over. Sit up. Stand up. Roll over. Sit up. Stand up. When I am this overwhelmed I lose sight of what I am doing mid action. I am out of gas, my body having exhausted itself already. I roll. I wait. What am I doing? Lying on my bed feels overwhelming as it feels more and more uncomfortable.

My thought cramps tight and it feels like there is a thread from the top of my head yanking a cramp into my chest. My heart races, I feel like I’m breathing though clay. I have to move.

I test my knees and stand up wobbly like I’m an extremely old person leaning on the wall. I catch my breath. My psoas tightens and spasms tucking my tailbone under which feels like hot metal. I try to stand up straight and support myself on the wall. I feel faint. I can’t breathe. What am I doing? Standing up. Another wave of nausea hits me and my sense of smell intensifies. I can smell the garbage in the kitchen and it makes me wretch and my mouth fills with saliva as it feels like I’m going to vomit. I can’t breath in as I’ll get more smell and more nausea. I rush to the back door and stick my head outside. I try to breathe in fresh air and the physical exertion of getting my body to the back door has my vision going spotty. I feel like I’m going to faint. My knees buckle so I hold on to the doorframe. What am I doing? I don’t know. 

I can’t get a deep breath. I am exhausted beyond belief. I can’t catch a breath. I feel like I’m drowning.  Slowly trying to move my body, which feels like cramp-y painful tightens that somehow keeps increasing past what I think I can take pain wise.  Now my upper back begins to spasm, and burn. I try three breaths, try to not cry from the overwhelm. My body doesn’t feel strong enough to get itself up from the floor. I feel like I have just run a marathon and written an exam. I am depleted mind body muscle and soul. I feel like I can’t do even one thing.  I’ve been conscious for maybe ten minutes this morning. 

When I think of tasks that need doing I get waves of panic that electrocute me to a place brighter than pain. My heart races, my hands and feet tingle sometimes I have coughing spasms. I was in trauma therapy for seven years at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto and learned how to lessen panic waves. These current ones are based in that I don’t know if I can complete any task, no matter how small. I am like a toddler with a bad flu and I’ve been asked to drive a truck while explaining a complicated subject. There is no way I can execute what is asked of me. Through determination and craftiness I manage to still get some things done. With a lot a help and a super human amount of effort execution help and planning.  

I put three towels in the laundry and I am fighting for breath. Bending over has me feeling faint. The tasks of soap, fabric softener and closing the lid have my fingers popping out of their sockets, and then I have to lie down on the floor to rest before climbing the ten stairs. The floor is freezing and hurts my back, I have no choice but to rest, maybe five minutes until I know what I’m doing and I have the strength to stand again. I crawl up the stairs and start making coffee. With sky-high nausea, coffee cuts my nausea most days. Making the coffee is challenging. I start by assembling beans, grinder and cup. I have to squat on the floor as the effort has started tears flowing down my face. I don’t know if I can do this. What am I doing? Making coffee. I stand up and pour my coffee beans. The grinder feels far too loud and is over stimulating my worn out senses.  I grind and then feel faint and lie down on the kitchen floor. Maybe I don’t need coffee I’ll just go back to bed. A wave of nausea comes over me. I can’t stand up. My mouth fills with saliva and it feels like I’m going to throw up. I walk a circle in the kitchen reminding myself who I am. Why I’m here and that coffee will make me feel better. I try again. I get the water into my cup. My wrist gives way and I drop the cup. Bending over to wipe up the water has me faint. I feel my system trying so hard to shut down. I don’t know what I’m doing. I smell the coffee beans. I fill another cup. I hold the cup with both hands so my fingers don’t give way. I get it into the kettle. I lie on the floor while it’s boiling. 

Left side of my hip flexor seizes up painfully and I’m on the floor seized over to one side. I can’t stand up all the way and the pain is so intense I feel I can’t breathe at all. I feel faint. My fingers and toes are tingling. I crawl to the fridge to get milk and a Banana Bag hydration pack. I get my milk into my coffee while doubled over and squat to try to relieve the pain. I sip my coffee but it doesn’t bring me the taste joy I’m hoping for. I taste nothing and gag. I feel like all that effort was wasted. It doesn’t even matter if I make coffee. Maybe I shouldn’t have even tried.

Then a temperature control flare starts. My hands and feet turn to ice and my core muscles start shaking. My teeth rattle together. I get so cold I am shivering and shaking. I feel like I’m faking it the way it shakes me like a rag doll. Then the chill turns into a heat flare. I am still shaking and then I start to sweat. I can sweat through several layers of clothes and then the cold sweat brings me to a freezing place when bedding and clothes are wet and cold. Sometimes I’ll have two or three temperature control flares in a row. These are one of the most exhausting experiences. And it’s gross. I’m soaking wet with drops pouring off my face and I smell like I’m in deep distress. I don’t know what’s going on but I know I can’t take it for much longer. 

I get a small wave of what feels like appetite. I have a paralyzed digestive system with EDS. I walk into the kitchen thinking I can make toast. I pop a piece in the toaster and lean on the counter for support. I feel faint; I forget what I’m doing. Toast pops up. The smell of the cooked bread brings on a wave of nausea and I double over. I can’t even butter the bread. I’m wrenching from the smell of the bread and butter and wretch into the sink. I know I can’t eat the bread and recycle it. I’m sad how much food I can’t eat. I’m malnourished with a protruding hard extended belly. 

There is an ongoing panic if I have any responsibility. I don’t know if I can do it. If I can get anywhere, or commit to anything but lying in my bed. Often I don’t know who I am or what I’m supposed to be doing. My hips, knees, ankles give way. I walk into things and walls, I feel like I’m just about to go down. If I’m carrying something I drop it. I barely feel like I can stand up for a few minutes. The idea of going to the streetcar stop has me in tears. Travel is so difficult when a system is shutting down. It takes it all out of me. When I am out, I am probably faking it to some extent. There are pain waves I pretend aren’t there. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know why I’m here. I’ll make eye contact and smile. I am beyond exhausted.  I am a smartphone with 4% battery left and I’m forcing it to run large apps. It won’t go. It’s can’t go. It’s too much.  I collapse to the kitchen floor.

A friend checks on me and picks me up some groceries. He walks my dog. I lie in by bed with my eyes half closed trying to release the insane tightness and muscle cramping in my body. I think I want to go outside. Just to the coffee shop at the end of my street. I’ll get dressed and go out. Even just ten minutes. I stand up to get dressed and feel faint. I start to put on pants and the act of lifting my legs takes everything I have. I realize the towels are still in the wash. Moving them to the dryer has me lying on the floor again. I put my pyjamas on and crawl back up the stairs. I’m not going anywhere. Instead I open my back door and try to get some sun on my face. 

To add some context, I used to run a film production company and ran complex creative projects. I am an extremely organized reliable person. It was not uncommon for me to work 16-hour days. So this experience is far from who I am and what I’m used to. Now I can do one small thing every two days. I’m extremely self-sufficient. It is humiliating to let people know what my days are like that I don’t know for sure if I can do something. If I try to do too much then I loose additional days. And the more I push the less cognition I have and the scarier my life gets. It’s a constant free fall and I don’t know what you’re going to get every day.  It’s hard when people refer to me as having “Time Off”. 

There is deep burning pain in my whole body that is eased by compression items. Today I’m too exhausting to put these on, and if I have a sweat out in compression items they get soaked and then they are harder to remove.  I think I’m disassociating when the pain gets too intense, and I lose time and feel like I wake up sometimes and suddenly have enough bandwidth to be aware of my environment. Sometimes I’m on the floor or I suddenly I’m on a streetcar. I don’t know what I’m doing. Sometimes it’s the automatic pilot of my life. I’m scared almost every day and I am so tired. I wouldn’t trust myself alone if there was any other way. And it’s weird to be so open about how impossible my days are.

I have been told I am currently too healthy for assistance. In the past I had an occupational therapist, a mental health nurse, a house helper and a caseworker all coming to the house. With four helpers I was ok. Now I’m told I am too mentally healthy for this help (and some has been cut by out government). And I have been told I’m not disabled enough to get in-home help. I live alone and sometimes have days lost in a pain haze, mostly lying on my floor.  I was able to get grip bars installed in my bathroom, which makes me less scared to wash when I have the strength.  I do have a lot of friends and family who chip in and help out a lot.

The anxiety around running a performance workshop and a large-scale performance when my pain is so severe makes me feel like I can’t hold on.  It’s scary and hard and I realize I have to tell the truth. So yeah my career is going well and I know I can look young and fresh and I have a lot of enthusiasm for my art. I need to be truthful that as well as that, I am barely holding on. And it’s been like this for a long time. If I say I’m feeling better, I’m telling you a version of the truth. And it might only be better for five minutes or an hour. 

So I am writing this out as a blog post because I needed another way to process this. I have been on a waiting list for the GoodHope EDS clinic since last January, and we’re hoping I get in January 2020. 

My show opens in two weeks, and I have to get to rehearsal this afternoon. I am so blessed for my incredible creative team headed by Scott White. Many of those on my team are volunteers, and they help me keep my creative vision online. Since I am in this much pain and cognitive distress, I guess that it is a miracle that the show will go on. Art saves my life every day. And everyday I hope for some relief. 

If you want to see what kind of a show someone with two invisible disabilities puts on, check this out. Get your tickets if you are in Toronto October 12-19 2019 https://workmanarts.com/rwm-events/intangible-adorations/

www.broadwayworld.com/toronto/article/Celebrities-In-Disguise-Tackle-Mental-Health-In-INTANGIBLE-ADORATIONS-EXPERIENCE-THE-ICON-20191001

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I haven’t written much lately, mostly because I’ve been in an Ehlers-Danlos Sydrome flare up that is using all my physical emotional and spiritual energy for the basics of living. The spoon theory is that folx with certain illness have a finite amount of spoonfuls of energy in a day. I feel like right now I might have ten spoonfuls in a day. One is used for getting up, three to shower, two to dress and two preparing a beverage. Then I have two left for the day. And that is a hard boundary. There are no reserves at all.  Most days that means forfeiting the shower or the fresh clothes so I can type some information or do a few minutes of creative work. Or if I am able to eat solid food, to prepare some cereal or toast. My executive functioning is very low so I can’t execute things with any steps. I get lost in the steps and often get overwhelmed which leads to system panic or overload which includes being unable to stand with incredible nausea. This state of being is so challenging: I am often struggling for breath, my large muscles will start to spasm, my throat seizes up and then I can’t quite remember who I am or what I am doing.   I basically sit or lie and wait for friends to come in and help out. Luckily I can still make stuff. Gifs instead of short films, or photos instead of videos.

 

I started teaching my Performance Art Salon via video conferencing and shooting from the floor. Anything to keep creative work flowing with the very limited amount of bandwidth available. I have been able to leave the house about twice a month with the help of a buddy.  I look forward to this changing soon.

 

This flare up will flare down and I will have more spoons and energy available. I just wanted to say there is a Spoonie at the Haus of Dada. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spoon_theory

 

 

Lisa is pictured posing with bracing, compression and other items that help in a flare-up.

 

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“I am working on a performance film series called Metamorphosis Human Realignment. This physical stretching practise has changed my life and now through that doorway I am creating a piece in which I tell the truth with my body. I am very excited about this work.”

After speaking at Open Show Toronto about two of my therapy videos I have become even more aware of the clear path my body of work is taking.

I created the Fictitious History of the Haus of Dada as a therapeutic art practise and the bulk of my film and performance work has stemmed from it. After using persona and then the Dada movement as parameters I now feel compelled to strip everything down and tell my story with my body. I’ll talk a bit about that in a moment.

I started here in 2008 when I was still very sick. I made this Eva and Bobby video series in my home with iMovie and started to find my voice

 

 

 

Mama Dada was going to host the installation but that didn’t feel right. Thin(k) Blank Human was born that night.

The work progressed with a library of videos like Marry The Night

A Collaboration with Steve Weiss and Leslie Barton

A solo performance at The Mod Club in Toronto

Thin(k) Blank Human: Metamorphosis is a performance piece by artist Lisa Anita Wegner (haus of dada) and musician Ray Cammaert (Pink Moth). It began as an extension of Wegner’s Trauma Therapy and represents a safe place in the search for one’s self after complete annihilation. It is both a confirmation of vitality and a call to action. The piece explores male and female layers of the neutral self and uses vibration of sound to assist in the expression of terror, hysteria, madness, resilience and joy on the journey to re-birth.

 

After this metamorphosis I realized that I will always continue to embody Thin(k) Blank Human but as for my personal artistic through line I have come through the structure of relying on artifice to find authenticity. My current work is based in realigning my chronically tight psoas muscles which have caused a leg length discrepancy and making my physical body unstable and chronically crooked. After going to a stretch class of Mary-Margaret Scrimger’s at Pursuit I understood the power of stretching my body and how I felt different immediately. Now every day I stretch for at least 10 minutes, some studio days I stretch up to three hours. In this stretching and realignment I am finding myself and who I really am as an artist without all the performance bombast that I so enjoy.

I am working on a nude performance / film series called Metamorphosis Human Realignment. This physical stretching practise has changed my life and now through that doorway I am creating a performance to tell the truth with my body. I am very excited about this work. It’s also the first time I am not sharing as I go.

LAW

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In Toronto Canada, an arrogant performance artist declares themself amazing while refusing to show any facial expression.

 

When we reached out to the haus of dada for comment we received the following message in German via telegraph from curator Fritz Snitz. “The Ubermarionette only does private performances for close friends, artists and cherished audience members and is not interested in speaking with you peoples.” -Ritzy Fritzy

Artist Would Rather Give Ownership of Her Work to Those Who Inspire, Than Those Who Can Pay.

Performance Artist’s Perceived Gender Affects Audience Reaction 

 

 

 

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Akemi Nishidera’s love of all things paper began when she was a small child, and her grandmother would bring her gifts of origami and washi paper from Japan. After studying printmaking at OCA, she apprenticed in Japan for three years, immersing herself in the study of wash (traditional Japanese paper making). She then returned to Toronto and opened KOZO Studio Gallery, where she focuses on letterpress printing, and offers workshops on letterpress and book arts.
Growth, her new installation for Gallery 1313’s Window Box, represents a new avenue for her work in paper, using self-representations on paper to showcase a sometimes difficult, but evolving relationship to her own body. The piece graphically depicts the movement from rejection to acceptance, and the blossoming of the artist’s full potential once that goal is reached.
To see into Akemi’s process, inspiration, thoughts and motivation see her tumbler blog ahdoerei.tumblr.com
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Curated by Lisa Anita Wegner for Gallery 1313.
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After having the pleasure of working with choreographer Brandy Leary on my performance piece, Sex & Candy Floorshow, I was intrigued when I heard about her 2015 Nuit Blanche piece ,GLACIOLOGY. It is part of curator Christine Shaw’s exhibition Work of Wind along the Toronto Waterfront. Glaciology is a human glacier made of 50 human bodies that slowly sweeps across the Toronto waterfront from dusk until dawn.
My art practice has always been relatively solitary, and for the past three years I have performed solo for Nuit Blanche. I was very much drawn to a different way of working and the opportunity to collaborate with a large group.
At first rehearsal, I was hoping that I was physically strong enough for this project. With the dancers, acrobats and circus performers warming up, I felt unsure. As soon as Brandy started the rehearsal with a performer massage, it felt right. Her meditative style “state work” is very much up my alley. My daily practice involves body work and meditating and I felt Brandy’s concepts for the Glacier made perfect sense. My body knew what to do.
I realized that this piece of 50 bodies was actually about doing nothing. It’s about relaxing and physically giving in to the glacier as a whole. It’s about radical physical listening and gracious waiting with your whole body.
I wasn’t sure about potentially being underneath a pile of people. I dislike crowds, and thought it might be too much for me. What was a surprise was that the glacier felt like being embraced. It was a benevolent place to be. If a foot or elbow was coming toward your head, someone would guide it away. I found the physical safety of the glacier was remarkable. I also found the feeling of being protected intoxicating. In rehearsals, when I was out of the glacier watching, all I wanted was back into the warm safety of the group.
Being in the glacier is one of the peak emotional experiences I’ve had in a performing situation, and we’re still only in rehearsal. I’ve been swept up in the movement of this physical entity of 50 bodies, and it is transformative. The first time I got flipped across the top of the group, I felt such joy. Many of the performers talked about how being in the glacier bends time. An hour in the glacier feels like about 10 minutes, and I am craving the longer sessions that we have scheduled for the actual Nuit Blanche performance. I am trying to figure out how to get this kind of emotional physical work into my daily practisc.
As with any public performance, I look forward to the plethora of images that will be collected throughout the night. Please tag your images #glaciology2015
I will write more about this experience after the festival.
2015 ADT Season FB Banners DRAFT A2
Cheers
Lisa Anita Wegner
Filmmaker Performer Curator Programmer
Here is the free link to download the soundtrack for an immersive experience next weekend: http://jamesbunton.bandcamp.com/album/glaciology-i-v
About GLACIOLOGY:
A glacier composed of 50 human bodies slowly sweeps the city for 12 continuous hours as part of curator Christine Shaw’s exhibition The Work of Wind. Anandam’s Glaciology examines the permanent effects of human and ecological disruptions in the converging wakes of colonialism, globalisation, wars and unsustainable economies by overlapping and contrasting these images with the indelible power of glacial movements across landscapes.

Using the movement of glaciers across landscapes as an entry point, this piece explores states of density, collaboration, collapse, overpopulation, relocation, disruption, environmental tipping points, disappeared people, mass graves, icebergs, and melting ice caps.  Glaciology combines site specific performance with human sculpture and choreographic installation to create a surreal, constantly shifting image of bodies as landscape and simultaneously as capsules of history and memory; both human and geological.

http://www.scotiabanknuitblanche.ca/project.html?project_id=1568

Choreography: Brandy Leary

Sonic Designer/Composition: James Bunton

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“One hundred new revolutionary materials riot in the piazza, demanding to be admitted into the making of womanly clothes.”           -Volt, Futurist Manifesto Of Women’s Fashion (1920)

Gallery 1313 is excited to have Paula John’s Celluloid Dress on display in the Windowbox for September 2015.

Celluloid Dress plays with the relationship between two technologies that creator Paula John uses in her art practice – sewing and 16mm celluloid filmmaking. Inspired in part by Volt’s “Futurist Manifesto of Women’s Fashion,” this wearable dress is made from over 250 feet of exposed 16mm film from one of John’s own films and nylon mesh. LEDs stitched into the skirt illuminate individual frames and project the images onto nearby surfaces for a truly stunning effect.

This amazing piece will be on exhibit in the Windowbox for September, during the period when the city’s attention turns to film with the Toronto International Film Festival. Celluloid Dress will provide viewers with an entirely different twist on what film can be, and stimulate their imaginations to consider other uses and convergences for familiar technologies.

Paula John is a multi-disciplinary artist and scholar based in Toronto. She has been exhibiting her work (including photography, film, textiles, installation, and performance) since 2003. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Photography, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Documentary Media from Ryerson University, and a Master of Arts degree in Communication and Culture from York University. Some of the themes explored in her work include, gender, sexuality, feminism, and performance. Paula is currently working towards a Ph.D. in Theatre and Performance Studies at York University.

Paula will be giving an Artist’s Talk at the reception on Sunday, September 13th from 3-5 p.m. This will be an excellent opportunity to meet a unique artist and view one of the results of her creative vision.

-Lisa Anita Wegner, Windowbox co-curator for Gallery 1313

Artist Statement

Celluloid Dress is a performance-based installation that combines the mediums of sewing and 16mm filmmaking to explore the numerous similarities between the two technologies. I was inspired by the early twentieth century Avant-garde art movement Futurism, and in particular the 1920 Futurist Manifesto of Women’s Fashion by Vincenzo Fani (Volt). In it he declares,

Women’s fashion has always been more or less Futurist. Fashion: the female equivalent of Futurism. Speed, novelty, courage of creation… Fashion is an art, like architecture and music…Women’s fashion can never be extravagant enough… The reign of silk in the history of female fashion must come to an end, just as the reign of marble is now finished in architectural constructions. One hundred new revolutionary materials riot in the piazza, demanding to be admitted into the making of womanly clothes. We fling open wide the doors of the fashion ateliers to paper, cardboard, glass, tinfoil, aluminum, ceramic, rubber, fish skin, burlap, oakum, hemp, gas, growing plants, and living animals.[1]

The Futurists valued speed, dynamism and new technologies, and were interested in transforming all sensory aspects of life. This extended to art, literature, music, food, architecture, and even fashion. In the spirit of the Futurists I developed a project in which I could combine two technologies that I use in my art practice: sewing and filmmaking. I merged the two technologies by first sewing a dress out of film. The handmade dress was sewn entirely out of 16mm celluloid film and nylon mesh, using approximately 250 feet of one of my films. I stitched LEDs into the skirt, which illuminate individual frames and project the images onto nearby surfaces. I then physically linked the two technologies in a performance, using a film loop to connect the sewing machine and the projector.

There are a number of similarities between sewing and 16mm film making, the most explicit being that Singer, the leading manufacturer of sewing machines, also made 16mm projectors. There are also parallels between the machines themselves. Both a sewing machine and a projector are threaded; both machines have a spool and a take up; both machines make similar sounds; tension is important; and the presser foot and the film gate serve essentially the same purpose on their respective machines. Even the movements of the machines reflect each other with the spinning of the reels and of the balance wheel. The process of editing a film is also similar to sewing, where shots are stitched together. The type of 16mm filmmaking that I personally engage in shares strong similarities with the act of sewing. Both processes take place within my home at the kitchen table. Both sewing and analog filmmaking are highly tactile and laborious practices where the physicality of the medium is emphasized.

For the performance aspect of the piece I project a copy of that same film through a 16mm projector on a continuous loop. The film loops through the projector and physically moves throughout the space through the use of pulleys attached to the ceiling. Approximately fifteen feet in front of the projector sits a sewing machine, which has been modified to add a film gate, allowing the film to pass through it on its loop. During the performance, I sit at the machine while wearing the film dress and sew the film as the projector drives it forward. The film is projected on both the sewing machine and my body, and as I sew, holes are punctured in the celluloid abstracting the image. Eventually through this process as more and more holes are punctured in the film the filmstrip is completely destroyed and breaks apart.

Bio

Paula John is a multi-disciplinary artist and scholar based in Toronto. She has been exhibiting her work (including photography, film, textiles, installation, and performance) since 2003. She holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Photography, and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Documentary Media from Ryerson University, and a Master of Arts degree in Communication and Culture from York University. Some of the themes explored in her work include, gender, sexuality, feminism, and performance. Paula is currently working towards a Ph.D. in Theatre and Performance Studies at York University.

[1] Volt, . “Futurist Manifesto of Women’s Fashion.” Trans. Array Futurism: An Anthology. . 1st ed. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009. 253-54. Print.



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Art Saves Lives is the first joint exhibition of Angela Chao and Lisa Anita Wegner, two visual artists whose work grew out of brain injuries they had experienced. Angela suffered a concussion at her work on a film set, while Lisa lives with post-traumatic stress disorder. lisa_angela

They connected over their art being the way out of their personal traumas, allowing them to both function and stay connected to their true selves. They share an understanding of art as something they need on a daily basis to nourish their souls, and are so simpatico on this, that they refer to themselves as each other’s “Brain Buddies.”

Angela and Lisa are eager to share their stories and their art, helping to spread awareness to others that art is a very real therapeutic option.

Come to see their show of paintings, post-production photography and collage now on display at the gallery at Richview Library: and visit their website at artsaveslives.ca.

After a concussion curtailed her first career, ANGELA CHAO discovered cranio-therapy and found herself able to think freely and begin to escape the personality and mental changes, PTSD, depression and anxiety that had plagued her since her accident. Even more exhilarating, she could sit still and accomplish things, an ability that had been taken from her. She started doodling and discovered her hidden artist, and a place where she can leave behind mental challenges and be free to create.

In her new career as an artist, she has already won an award at the Art Square gallery where her work premiered, as well as Flight Centre’s first prize of a trip to New Zealand and Australia in a competition with 1800 artists. She recently competed in Art Battle 2015, and has donated her artwork to an AIDs charity event at TIFF.  In addition, her unique story has generated coverage by the Mississauga News, Brain Injury Association and Hospital News. http://mindlessdoodle.ca/unnamed copy

LISA ANITA WEGNER is the creative producer of Mighty Brave Productions, a small award-winning multi-media production company based in Toronto. She has been exploring film, video, post-production photography and performance art for over twenty years, with an emphasis on emotional authenticity, collaboration, and – since experiencing a PTSD-related breakdown, the possibilities of art as therapy. Her work has been shown at the Phoenix Art Museum, the Art Gallery of Ontario, Gallery 1313, Moniker Gallery, Toronto Art Fair, Buddies in Bad Times, The Black Cat Artspace, NXNE Festival, Partners In Art’s ARTrageous In Motion, Scotiabank Nuit Blanche and, most recently, at the RAW Sensory show at Toronto’s Mod Club. www.lisaismightybrave.com

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