Exploring the avant garde and untraditional
Considering unconventional practices of art, invoking mystery and disconnection for the viewer, and having meaningful conversations through artistic form—Phenomena Festival once again traverses the avant-garde.
The festival is an annual multidisciplinary arts event that showcases diverse art practices, and is presented at various performances and locations throughout the city. Phenomena began in 2012 as an annual event presented by the creative company Les Filles électriques, which was founded by artist D. Kimm in 2001. The festival focuses on interdisciplinary works that challenge traditional styles and forms of art. This year’s theme, “Théâtre d’image,” highlights art that uses poetic images and transcends traditional theatre by leaving mystery and interpretation to the viewer to navigate and consider, according to D. Kimm’s curatorial statement on this year’s festival.
Artist Jesse Orr’s performance, Learning How To Steal, was presented at La Sala Rossa on Oct. 17, followed by Nadia Myre and Johanna Nutter’s collaborative performance of A Casual (Strikethrough) Reconstruction. Both pieces focused on themes of Indigenous and colonial relationships and identities, and the navigation through these specific topics. The respective works by Orr, Myre and Nutter also connected to the theme of “Théâtre d’image,” using a mixture of media within the performances. Different narratives intertwined throughout the projects, creating complexity and allowing the audience to explore and consider more deeply what the artists were presenting.
In a conversation with The Concordian, artist Jesse Orr shared that since first becoming involved in the festival several years ago, she has seen how Phenomena and D. Kimm have worked to further include the greater Montreal arts community in the festival. Some of these community connections include collaborations with Patsy Van Roost, also known as the Mile End Fairy, who works around the city, creating urban projects and art activities that involve the community. Another project at Phenomena this year is the photography series, Portraits of Lao Women On Imaginary Landscapes, in connection to Quebec’s Laotian community and the Santisouk co-op, which works to help Laotian immigrants integrate into Quebec.
Learning How To Steal was inspired by Orr’s position as a white settler in Montreal. It approaches the conversation of identity and belonging within Canada. Using puppetry, movement, theatre and image projection, Orr navigated through her family’s history and her personal current interactions with events focused on the Indigenous communities and rights. This included the recent vigil and march for missing and murdered Indigenous women, which Orr included in her performance. Through the intermittent use of contrasting media—paired with the switching narratives of the work, from family history to present day interactions—the complexities, grey areas and intertwined nature of the relationships and conversations about colonialism are further acknowledged and explored.
In the same realm and with a similar focus, Myre and Nutter’s A Casual (Strikethrough) Reconstruction discussed the complexities of identity in connection to indigeneity. During their performance, the artists invited six members of the audience to read the transcript of a conversation Myre had with five others discussing their Indigenous identities as culturally mixed individuals. Through the work, the audience was invited to hear explicit and honest descriptions of the individuals’s feelings, understandings and experiences. Furthermore, through the participation of the audience members with differing cultural identities, a greater narrative on the aspect of identity and the relationships between settlers and First Nations was explored.
Portraits of Lao Women On Imaginary Landscapes will be showing at the Maison de la culture du Plateau-Mont-Royal until Oct. 28.