How The West Was Won - essay by P.J. Kachmar
aimée henny brown performs
photos by catherine kuzik
the woman playing the guitar with the open guitar case in front of her, back pack and shopping bags stashed behind her, asks, “is it theatre?” julianna and i, who have straggled behind as we watch and respond to the street life and the questions of various edmontonians who want some information as to what this strange procession of people with flags and flares and whistles and lanterns and call-response phrases are doing, stop to answer her.
the woman continues, “is it a rehearsal?” we respond by saying it is a kind of street theatre led by one person. the woman wants to know if this is fiction or real. we communally decide this theatre is a fiction, the artist’s fiction who is leading the procession. “her story?” the woman asks. yes her story we say nodding our heads.
so yes, it is a kind of fiction, this parade down jasper street in edmonton. it is as if we are a group of scouts on an urban survival training mission with a very organized and enthusiastic leader who tells “facts” of the colonization of this piece of land from the proud perspective of the colonizer. a colonizer who does not tell the “facts” of colonization from the perspective of the faces and bodies of the displaced aboriginal population who populate the area we move through.
the colonizers “facts” are delivered with an evangelical fervour all the while making sure the congregation are all accounted for and shepherded together like new converts to a religion that requires communal ties. aimée henny brown delivers her sermon standing on a small stool with a music stand in front of her displaying a score of words. wearing a bright orange suit and holding a flare in her hand she preaches to the converted. and a good preacher she is. her congregation responds to her with enthusiasm spouting the appropriate phrases to the preacher’s calls and clearly enjoying her sermon.
there is something decidedly surreal in this procession of converts brandishing lanterns casting candle light and waving high tech reflective flags. at one of the locations where aimée stops to stand on her stool and deliver her speech there is an outdoor screen streaming the news. a woman with an enthusiasm not unlike aimée brown is telling her audience the news of the day. i am struck by how both women compete for the attention of their respective audiences, although aimée brown might not have been aware that on the screen behind her an image of a woman preaching her own sermon was being projected.
i enjoyed this walk, this walk along jasper street. i noticed people and buildings and an active street life in edmonton i had not witnessed before. for although i was not an active convert in the congregation of aimée’s followers, i did let my gaze wander and take in sights i had not previously noticed. it is quite an amazing street with a diverse and shifting clientele. for colonial historians i am sure the “facts” of aimée’s sermon were of interest, “facts” as to what building was built when and who populated the street back in the day. interesting fictions of a brutal and greed centred population who wanted, above all, to take what they could.
Introducing Visualeyez 2011
Today we’re very happy to announce the lineup for Visualeyez 2011!
The festival takes place September 13–18 of this year, with the curatorial theme worship, and will feature ten artists: Aimee Henny Brown, Michael Dudeck, Gillian Dyson, Danny Gaudreault, Amy Malbeuf, Emilio Rojas, Turner Prize* (Jason Cawood, Blair Fornwald and JG Hampton), and Helene Vosters. We’ll also be hosting Festival Animator Karen Elaine Spencer who will keep those of you in blog-land updated with the festival-goings on at visualeyez.org.
Over the next few weeks we’ll have lots more about the festival artists and programming, so stay tuned!