Feathers, Ether, Sand, Speech

Saturday June 16, 2018 - Saturday August 4, 2018

Lauren Marsden, Elizabeth Milton, and Sydney Southam

June 16 – August 4, 2018
Reception Friday June 15, 7:00 PM
Curated by Whitney Brennan

Feathers, Ether, Sand, Speech presents three contemporary Vancouver artists working at the intersection of performance and media art, and exploring sites of contested gender representation: the cinema, the landscape, and the strip club. Lauren Marsden, Elizabeth Milton and Sydney Southam experiment with the presence and absence of the body to articulate their concerns surrounding labour, materiality, and documentation within performance art.

Lauren Marsden’s work, Miss Department of Energy Has Left The Building (2009-2018), invokes a mythological 1950s promotional pin-up character, standing in the ambivalent space between a controversial nuclear energy station, and the serenity of the California beachfront. The work calls up the notion of “the evaporated performer”; when no trace of the performer’s body remains at the site, the leftover material must stand in as representative of the performance itself. With Punching A Pillow Until The Sun Rises (2017), Elizabeth Milton staged a hysterical melodrama of a diva caught in a tragic-comic cycle of perpetual destruction. Adapted from a twelve-hour performance, this split-screen recording emphasizes her interest in the relationship between live performance, documentation and mediated experience. Drawing on her experiences as a professional pole dancer, stripper and performance artist, Sydney Southam’s A Glorious Moment is a new artwork created for this exhibition. Translating aspects of feminized and sexualized labour into a material object, Southam’s work draws on the overlap of bodily performance in stripping, and the bodily labour performed in feminized domestic work, such as sewing and mending; skills often acquired by strippers who make their own costumes.

The artists’ various uses or refusal of documentation highlight the function of a photograph or video to capture a particular form of spectatorship. In challenging the voyeurship that surrounds female performance art, the artists present alternative perspectives that emphasize not the physical body, but its absence. The physical presence of the artist is not wholly visible; what we see are the piles of sand, the discarded blanket, or the woman in the screen, and what we sense is the ether that seems to haunt the space.

This project was made possible with support from the Killy Foundation and the Audain Endowment for Curatorial Studies through the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory in collaboration with the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at The University of British Columbia.

Public critique with Shaun Dacey to be held at 4pm June 18, 2018

Image credits: Elizabeth Milton, Punching A Pillow Until the Sun Rises, 2017 (video still)