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|VISUALEYEZ 2005 JOURNAL: MAY 26|
There were three performances today: Kathryn Williamson's workout in the park, Simone Moir's Unison Union and David Jacques and Dominique Sirois's Kitchen Feedback.
Kathryn Williamson's workout took place in a small park on Jasper and 102 nd St., in the downtown business core. There was a variety of exercise equipment in the space: an exercise bike, weights, a step machine, skipping ropes etc. There were several people exercising, some in ways that were semi-serious (some people, including me, were glad to have the chance to work out while on the road and some as a parody of fitness culture (using the equipment I absurd ways).Katherine walked around with a clipboard, checking to see if people had a pulse, in a parody of fitness instructors. What I found interesting was that we looked like everyday people, we weren't wearing special (expensive) fitness outfits and the equipment came from the thrift store.
It reminded me of the Participaction ads from the eighties: about getting everybody to be physically active, not just the beautiful people. This is something I feel nostalgic for at a time when people on TV seem increasingly, impossibly perfect—which implies it's all about having those perfect abs, not your general state of health, and that if you can't reach that sort of state of (chemically or surgically enhanced) perfection that there's no point. The police showed up and asked us if this was a promotional event put on by the City. Many people stopped and asked what we were doing, but the only person who joined in was a man who had studied martial arts, and started to teach one of the participants some moves.
It also made me think of appropriations of forms we would generally associate with mainstream or jock culture, something activists have used: the Radical Cheerleaders, the “People's Prom” anti-prom fundraiser in Vancouver. These activities are an attempt to mess with how we define the ‘mainstream' and perhaps to reclaim it.
I was left in the end wondering what the intentions were. Was this an intervention, a similar appropriation of ‘mainstream' forms for another purpose? Was it a parody of the fitness craze? Or was it more about a kind of community event, such as how the policeman interpreted it, “to encourage people to get active”—similar in spirit to Participaction—to say, anyone can get active, even if your equipment comes from the Value Village? There seemed to be elements of both approaches. The project seemed to me primarily to be a community event, although there were certainly elements of parody (Kathryn walking to around to make sure everyone had a pulse).
This also raises a question for me of how and when we call something ‘art', in relation to already existing activities (exercising in the park for example), especially when working with activities that are so ‘mainstream' in their associations. What if these sessions took place in the park on a regular basis for a long period of time, and then a community would start to develop around them over time?Certain traditions of conceptual art begin with a hypothesis or proposition: “I will do X”; whatever happens in the live situation is left open. The potential of this approach is that it allows many interesting and unpredictable things to happen. However, in this context, where one sets up situations and whatever happens just happens, how does one take responsibility for one's intentions?