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VISUALEYEZ 2005 JOURNAL: MAY 21

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The festival opening night was last night. It's a relaxed and festive atmosphere, with performances by Lance McLean, TL Cowan and Mark Templeton.

Lance McLean's performance was ongoing throughout the evening.

Two at a time, we are given envelopes with stickers in them, knotted T-shirts we're meant to put over our heads and instructions that seem complex at first but turn out in the end to be quite simple: once we have the T-shirts over our heads, we are supposed to walk into the room and put the stickers on Lance's naked body.

Once we have the t-shirts over our heads, someone lets us in the door and one at a time, we walk in. The room is quite large and at first I'm wondering, how am I going to find Lance? I hear some knocking sounds to my left, as though they're meant to give me a cue. I soon find him (my fingers brush against naked skin). The stickers are quite difficult to detach and I spend a long time trying to peel them off. I end up placing the stickers on his body in different places, including ‘unlikely' places like his feet or the back of his neck. When I touch the back of his neck I realize that he's wearing a shirt on his head identical to mine.

I'm aware that Lance is placing himself in a vulnerable position and so my first impulse is to be as respectful as possible. In an earlier conversation, Lance talked about making himself vulnerable, and by doing so, allowing for others to also be vulnerable. The performance is doing exactly this. I'm aware that this is a young and physically fit body and wonder how the experience of touching might be different if it were not. However, the fact that we can't see him, and he can't see us, took the performance away from the spectacle of the performer's body he was concerned about, as he mentioned in the conversation earlier (so often associated with the use of nudity in performance art). The fact that we can't see the stickers either also avoids the cutesy-ironic-kitsch trope that might be their obvious association. The work for me is above all about a negotiation of trust and vulnerability.

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Following the performance was a reading by TL Cowan, entitled ‘The Twisted She Poems: A Performance Cycle'. It's a series of poems about femininity, social conventions (especially those framing us as ‘good girls' or ‘bad girls') and relationships. The poems are grounded in everyday experience, sometimes poignantly so. I feel that they're meant to operate on this immediate and accessible level; they're about situations we instantly recognize, at least for those of us inhabiting North America at a certain time. The ‘she', the protagonist of the poem, seemed to stand in for the author at times, at other times became a fictional character in narratives of varying length of complexity, ranging from the re-reading of a single sentence “she wants to make/take your life”, to a story about two twin sisters, one who feels “proud of the fact that her husband still has all his hair”, the other who plays in a punk rock band and makes angry collage/fridge magnets of her family.

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