From 2007 to 2010 I was facilitating workshops with various communities of marginalized women and youth. As artist in residence at Crossing Communities Art Project in Winnipeg, I facilitated the production of many individual and group artworks and videos. The projects address the interests and personal narratives of the participants while introducing new skills and concepts of art making. Some reoccurring themes in the women’s works were addictions, sexual abuse, overcoming obstacles, being transgendered, aboriginal issues, and violence against women. Through Crossing, I also facilitated video and art workshops with youth from the Nadinawe Centre, Gilbert Park and for The Urban Hip-Hop Project, as well as facilitating the creation of content for the NFB funded web project entitled Looking In Speaking Out. Some of the works I created with the women and youth were later presented in The Aboriginal Film Festival in Winnipeg, Imaginative film festival in Toronto, as well as the National Museum of the American Indian in NY.
To see some samples of videos made with the women and youth:
Collaboration with Sam Jones (N. Ireland)
The project ‘ring the bells that still can ring’ is situated in Worpswede in the North of Germany. We were invited as part of an international project to commemorate the death of the painter Paula Moderson Becker. The organization of this event reflected a self-invested interest in the cultural development of Worpswede. The reinforcement of cultural narrative uses the contemporary to enforce the mythology of the past. The film questions the mythology of the artist within this context, a village in which cultural tourism dominates the local economy and identity.
The video challenges the relationship between metanarrative and the subjective human experience by combining setup fictional situations and characters with non-fictional interviews. The historical narrative of PMB forms the structure of the fictional scenes in the film enacted by local participants. Holes were created in the fictional scenes with the intention and hope that the participants would take a constructive role in directing the film. The imaginary roles that the participants invented revealed social structures and the fantasies/illusions of individuals.
On our first arrival in the town, we were instantly taken by the narrative history of “the Worpswede artists” that have been passed down through the generations. We explored what these stories symbolized for contemporary residents. Through the use of recollected narrative and participation from local residents we enacted the story, in present day Worpswede, of Paula Moderson-Becker and Clara Westhoff ringing the church bells. The participants in the re-enactment, which was a process of self-scripted characters and improve took a constructive role in the film’s direction. The project culminated in an event and shoot on the church grounds with the climax of the film, the re-enactment of the towns people gathering in a crowd around the church tower to see there was no fire after all.
While living in Germany I created a series of projects, frequently collaborating with other artists, to raise awareness of the human rights violations at Weimar’s youth prison. After completing a poster campaign, animation and blog I constructed a “roadside” style memorial on the prison fence, with flowers, stuffed animals, candles and text from articles and reports about the prison conditions, recent suicides and other traumas. Flowers were added and candles lit everyday for a month. Articles were written about the work in the local papers, adding to the prison’s visibility. For the final part of the project, a public discussion was organized to take place in front of the memorial with local social workers, politicians, students and former prisoners. www.jugendknast.blogspot.com
Since 2005, I have been collaborating with artist Hazel Meyer (under the pseudonym The MacMeyer P_______ Project) in various Canadian cities creating localized interventions and performances. The MacMeyer Palliative Project: loss is okay used visual catalysts such as tape graffiti, guerilla mosaics and ribbon-breaking ceremonies, in an attempt to rethink the current paradigm for dealing with day-to-day loss. The MacMeyer PRO-pree-o-SEP-tive Project: emotional anatomy is an amorphous project sympathetic to its environment employing a socio-artistic relational structure to create collaborative opportunities.
In 2007 I tied a quote from the CPT report about the human rights violations happening at the local youth prison (Weimar) to the prison fence. With six balls of yarn, and intending to make it to the center of town, I began slowly walking away from the prison letting the red thread fall behind me and follow me.
“A few hours later I got the courage to go and see what had happened with the string. To my surprise, it had been moved further into the city, quite a ways from where I had left it. This meant somebody had continued my task after I left it. I followed the string, curious to see where it would take me. It blew across the road in front of the Gauforum and continued on its way. There were so many people everywhere, I watched a frustrated couple trying to untangle their baby carriage from the thread. I found the other end at the crosswalk, it was in a young boys hand. He was crossing the street… I watched him continue towards town dragging the thread behind him.”
In this project I construct a series of internet personas on YouTube. Within the frame of current global internet communities, I aimed to highlight how identity formation, representation and the media on the internet relates to surveillance. These constructed personas interacted with each other and the YouTube community to problematize concepts of visibility/representation as legitimacy and manipulation as safety/security, while simultaneously initiating dialogue and critique of these same processes. Seven channels/personas were created, together uploading a total of 70 videos.
Touched isa site-specific installation and public performative intervention in which I dust for fingerprints in both the gallery and city, mapping the physical body in relation to touch. The combination of performative action and forensic methods are used to expose the unseen motion of human touch and its relation to the shifting political climates that enforce criminalization. The use of scientific and law enforcing materials to display public physical interactions with space destabalizes dominant ideologies of safety, surveillance, and freedom by recontextualizing touch and identity within unseen power structures.
In this interactive performance I went to people’s homes and brushed my teeth with them on the sidewalk, leaving the toothpaste to stain the concrete. Without the usual confines of the bathroom, we gaze at each other instead of a mirror. The taboo act of spitting conflicts with the sanctified act of personal hygiene. Our speech is temporarily impaired while our mouths are full; the awkwardness isn’t alleviated by small talk.
Weeks and months later I would come back to document the stains, until they disappeared. The “stain” is an area of sidewalk that is cleaned by the toothpaste, disappearing as the spot is dirtied again over time. The ongoing accumulation of photocopies and Polaroid photographs of spit stains, taken from the multiple sites of performances, were displayed in the gallery as part of an investigation into the possibility of systematizing the documents.
In Hold My Hand I placed an ad in local newspapers inviting people to hold my hand in public while sitting on a park bench. I proposed to hold hands with each person for ten minutes and the participants were encouraged to negotiate all the details with me (when, where, how etc) based on our mutual needs. This undocumented ‘performance of self’ highlighted the awkwardness of social contact and physical communication while challenging notions of authentic interaction. There was no obvious spectacle for the public who would assume we were a couple or relatives. In the end, many of the participants held my hand for over a half hour (some for up to 2 hours) and the sites ranged from parks to churches to malls. The piece was documented by various oral histories instead of images.
“MacCormack does not exercise a privileged authority over the performance; it is in all respects a mutual effort. The role of the artist is thus also called into question. There is the relationship between the two performers. Two strangers engaged in an intimate act; an act which works to subvert the status of its agents and itself. It is a signifier of intimacy without also being an expression of the same sentiment. As such, it calls into question the status of meaning as an expression of an emotion. At the same time, however, there is an intimacy involved; one that unfolds between two people who should not be this intimate with each other. This is a transgression of a code of conduct and it should be received as an intrusion. But it is not. A brief relationship begins with the act – one that is at odds with the meaning of being a stranger.” Alan Reed (participant), There Is this