On August 29th, SAD Mag held a publication event to present its 19th issue, MOVEMENT. The event was presented at the Remington Gallery (108 E Hastings), included a contortion performance by Vixen Von Flex and improvised ballet by Christoph Von Riedemann and Livona Ellis, and the exhibit included the Points of Inflection project alongside some original works featured in the issue.
By Ileanna Cheladyn
The MOVEMENT issue, vetted as SAD’s “most agile issue yet”, contains a beautiful array of images and writing based on the multitude of ways that movement can be perceived, experienced, and communicated. From ‘physical to political, literary to metaphorical’, the exhibition’s blurb noted the many forms that movement can manifest.
The event, undoubtedly built upon its careful construction and preparation, was fun. Faced with the horde of good looking, well-dressed, well-versed gallery-goers, I felt the comfort of yet another event with clean presentation and good drinks (hello bourbon iced tea). Nonetheless, I was naïve in thinking that physical movement would dominate at a physical event that was celebrating movement in all its forms. The biggest surprise, aside from my infallible naivety, was the response to the performances. The majority of the responses centered on how viewers didn’t “get it” and most of the attendees enjoyed their social media more than the warm bodies performing in front of them.
Thankfully, the Remington had really set the stage; after flipping through the MOVEMENT issue, I began to see how the gallery had been transformed into a real-life version of the magazine. From the poetry and the paintings and the photographs on the walls to the performers themselves – stepping through the front doors of the Remington was like stepping into the wardrobe to Narnia.
Downloading the Layar app allowed me to “discover interactive content” that was embedded in a few of the photographs on the walls – the photos are part of the Points of Inflection project which is a writer/filmmaker/composer/ photographer collaborative project where you scan the photo through the Layar app and the photo essentially comes to life accompanied by writing and a soundscape (check it out in the magazine). I also engaged in conversation about the works on the walls that were also featured in the issue; having the publication in hand, and simultaneously seeing the original works and the warm performers do their thing, was so immersive it made me feel like I might have my finger on the pulse of what’s cool in Vancouver.
Brassneck beer flowed as swiftly as the tunes played by the DJs (City of Glass & DJ Midnight Snacks) and as naturally as the works in the exhibition flowed along the walls, there was definitely a change of rhythm surrounding the form of movement I love most: dance. I am fascinated by how physical movement can be such a dense form of art and communication; had the performances been presented in a way that was equal to that which was shown on the walls and in the magazine, I think the audience members would have been more receptive and willing to comment on the physical art forms presented.
I am deeply thankful that SAD Mag included the realm of physical performance into their event as dance and performance. Yet, the programming was so short (approximately 4 minutes per set) and demanded the audience to stop and watch instead of experience or absorb. This oddly caused the viewers to disengage from the live bodies in front of them.
Of course proscenium arch presentation has been shoved down our throats for centuries and even in a gallery we collectively feel the need to sit still and be performed at. But in a community where the white cube rules over the black box, physical performances no longer necessitate a sedated audience. Giving the performers designated moments in time to capture the audience’s attention seemed to act as a confrontation for the event’s attendees. I was taken aback by an individual’s reaction to the evening’s events: after offering me a courageous interpretation of The Origin of Language (a piece in the Points of Inflection project) where they drew a parallel to Ronnie Burkette’s Penny Plain, this same individual whispered during the first dance performance: “Hm. I’ve never seen this kind of thing live before… cool… I wonder what its story line is supposed to be.” And they promptly left halfway to smoke a cigarette.
I am eager to get angry at this person, and every other viewer who was more consumed by documenting and instagramming the dancers than watching their live, sinewy bodies express and communicate. But, I also see them as victims to the cultural system that undervalues the ephemerality of dance and movement. Some event attendees stood in front of one of Ed Spence’s meticulously cut and re-arranged mosaic-type photographs for 90 minutes. Then when confronted by a medium that asks them to interpret on the spot, or in a different medium than they’ve been generally exposed to, they opted out of engaging with the art. Perhaps if, like a photograph on the wall, the movement was presented in a way that one could have stepped back to look at the art of movement, marinate in their thoughts and associations, the viewers wouldn’t have been so afraid of misinterpreting the work. Ultimately, Von Riedemann and Ellis were improvising; there was a universe of interpretations one could have drawn.
John Graham notes in his Systems and Dialectics of Art that ‘form, (both in nature and in art) has a definite language of great eloquence which is open to those who have eyes and to those who can read.” So perhaps it comes down to the demographic that attended SAD Mag’s publication event had simply never come in contact with the language of dance. But the audience’s unwillingness to engage in the movement may have been caused by the feeling of obligation to include those physical movers featured in the magazine to be featured at the event.
With free admission, a well-priced magazine full of beautiful articles, photographs and illustrations, $5 Brassneck beer, and an immersive event experience, the night was a success. Going alone may have been a poor choice, but going home with SAD Mag issues 17, 18, and 19 was satisfying.
Images courtesy of Ileanna Cheladyn.