I wrote Tomas the following email in preparation for my participation in the Mountain Standard Time Performance Festival. Later, I included the text as part of a collaboratve reading. I see the email as a kind of a dream - that later, through hard work, became a reality.
Date: March-28-14 1:02:51 PM
Subject: Check in
Reply-To: bogdan cheta
At the risk of writing a super-convoluted email, I want to get back to our last conversation and draw more details for the way I visualize Distant Touch. The way I envision working with the platform in “Distant Touch” is more like a delivery of an entire world rather than a project, similar perhaps to the way you are engaging with TNG. And like the real world, which is unsafe, dangerous and mysterious, DT also strides along a tension between doubt and faith and my problem is to translate that tension in a performative context. I’m interested in the ways in which someone can be alone, but without being lonely in the city, and how one finds tenderness and love in the most unlikely places and situations. The wall-based text piece we talked about, is important in describing the atmosphere of the project. I imagine a substantial wall (or number of walls) that can also hold accompanying images - which could be printed directly on vinyl? and I am wondering if the text pieces could be printed on vinyl, in the form of large notebook papers (i’m thinking 5’x3’) rather than individual vinyl letters - which could also be more cost-effective, and also at the same time, suggest a feeling of intimacy. From a graphic point of view, the walls will be painted a colour (I still have to determine what colour and why). I could elaborate on the content of the text here, but this part is still in flux and my plan is to gather more feedback through the residency i am doing in Toronto. As a timeline, I want to finish the text based content by July, and then begin the layout- printing process. Is there a graphic designer i could work with/ collaborate through M:ST? I’m also researching a way to share content via my website - and my developer suggested Ustream for live video updates - can live streaming be supported by Stride (assuming that using one of the basement spaces is a possibility).
When I chatted with you, I was unclear of the context through which my work would be presented and I was preparing myself to deliver DT without a physical place in mind, which is why I resorted to imagining a character, and the janitor figure was of interest to me because this is a character I am familiar with from my writing and real life. I am also interested in finding more quiet, and almost invisible ways of articulating and describing psychological landscapes through which I develop characters that inhabit and form the shape of my stories. For the sake of clarity, I think it is better to drop that idea and concentrate on the original project which introduces a psychological frame (manifested via the printed wall piece) for a middle-man character that encounters the city as an imaginary companion, as he connects participants through a slow delivery of objects. The live-streaming will connect the outside experience to the inside, while the new texts, images and objects collected along the route will find their way into a new publication project (a 2015 date seems more likely, as I want to apply for an AFA grant to help support this leg of the story).
To help illustrate my vision of the text/image wall combo I would like to direct you to Diana Sherlock’s recent curatorial project at the Nickel Arts Museum - FOLLY: CHATEAU MATHIEU, where the didactic material used to describe the mood/atmosphere and parallel story-lines, was organized via a wall text-image assemblage on the wall outside of the exhibition space. My version would be more simplified of course, but I think the role of the didactic material is used in a similar way - but rather than staging and re-counting an event that had happened, my didactic wall would stage a live event, happening at the time, in silence and in the background throughout the city; transforming the city into an experimental platform for discovering/inventing forms of emerging queer intimacy through encounters with strangers and new stories which (ideally if I can figure it out in time) would be live-streamed back in to the gallery space (assuming I have the go-ahead with the Stride project space). After encountering the didactic panels, those interested, would be encouraged to use my delivery service. I would go to theirhome/workplace and pick up the object. In exchange, I will offer them one of my studio-objects, as a kind of insurance. My objects, like my texts, are made of things I find along the way as I travel. I have 20 sculptures - therefore my project will be limited to 20 participants (I’m hesitating to use the word sculpture, but for the sake of communication, I have to). I will document the encounter/ exchange of objects and the necessary paper work meant to facilitate the journey to the receiver, and then I will be off on my slow-paced journey. To get to the receiver, I will be walking/ biking, and only small packages are allowed. Daily email notifications will be sent with the estimated time of delivery, and each receiver will also get a package I will put together for them with the things I will find - including stories that emerge on my way - therefore a delivery can take place from anywhere between 30 minutes to 6 days or even a month, depending on the narrative lines emerging along the way. Island Night, a project I developed across 2 different festival platforms in 2012, flexed a similar logic, taking place both during the day and the night during the course of 5 days, where chance encounters, and the kindness of strangers allowed us to find places to sleep, food to eat and in the end - meaning. In 2013, as part of the platform I delivered for Wreck City, a parallel story line developed where a man that participated offered his home to us, where my collaborators and I, were able to use the internet and upload new writing, videos etc., but after realizing that his motivation was more sexual than generous, we had to breakup (further documentation of that encounter is on my website + the Wreck City blog). The Klee Wyck parallel I made earlier was a loose marker, similar to the way I’m referencing the architecture Diana built in staging her project. (it’s like finding faded markers while you’re trying to find your way out of the woods in the midst of a precarious situation). As I approached the M:ST platform, my aim was to make use of this opportunity as a way to further articulate the process I have developed in previous projects where the studio, writing, traveling and thinking are interlinked in a process of making sense - or where sense begins to emerge, but not necessarily settles. Although challenging, by solidifying this language through M:ST, I am able to move the work forward to other future platforms.
On another note, I do like the idea of the Stride basement as location for Distant Touch since it is central, low key, and intimate. The reason I asked you on Tuesday for the time frame available for this location is that I want to think about the location as a genuine part of the narrative, rather than a place of exhibition. In that vain, I’m wondering if I can start building a psychological relationship to the basement by cleaning it. I did something similar when I did an installation at Pith in 2012, where I would sneak in and sleep during the night (Jennifer gave me the keys without knowing my plans). Through my constant relationship of sneaking into the space, I met an older woman that introduced new elements into the piece - she told me that I reminded her of her nephew which died that year and through her I introduced silk roses. I also liked how I would always meet her at the same time during the night, outside of the gallery door, as if she was a ghost, but I think she had a mental disorder and had to walk to feel better. The subsequent walk I did at the opening was a response to the things I learned from meeting this woman. In contrast, I envision the Stride environment as a clean didactic space of presentation - kind of like a footnote, rather than an active installation, but I think it is important to me to develop the psychological space through which the character inhabits DT - the delivery man, prior to the festival. I can also do something more useful than cleaning - like if Stride needs help with organizing their archive or whatever else they might want/ need help with - painting, answering emails, etc. - as long as it is something invisible and quiet. And Stride might also need real help now with things after the flood (although not sure if everything has been taken care of). Also, is it too complicated if I used the space to sneak in and sleep during the DTfestival run? Like in previous projects, I want a complete separation from reality. To that end, I’m also trying to negotiate something with the Knox United Church since it is a place I have used to write in, and I also know that they sneak in homeless people to sleep inside during the winter. They also have a “Healing Touch” room where strangers touch each other to overcome difficult situations, but i haven’t heard back yet. To touch others I have to take a course, which I’m prepared to take. I think they might be nervous of the queer angle I’m using - even though they welcome LGBT. I know that Sandra Vida is connected to that church as she has done several murals for them and her sister works in the main office and I am hoping that through continued dialogue with them I can reach some kind of collaboration if possible. I also did tell the church about M:ST.
I’m sorry for the lengthy email. My aim is not to complicate, but to simplify/ focus on specific details - and details are what make a world emerge as a complete experience, and my hope is to offer a fully functioning world rather than give a taste of it, otherwise it’s like a light fantasy - which is what I want to always avoid. I have a large number of background details and prep work to do, and what I am hoping to accomplish is to have some concrete information as to the venue, dates, vinyl-prep, equipment and video streaming support. I recognize that there are other projects as challenging, or maybe more challenging that you have to equally accommodate, and I hope I am not too demanding.
Considering the above, here is a short point form re-cap:
- confirmation of venue - length of time available and if there is the opportunity for quiet character development prior the festival
- live streaming option - is there support? alternatives? thinking about presentation - ideally I would show this via an iPad fixed on the wall - as the projector would need darkness and I need light for the text part. I need to find an iPad wall bracket. I also have someone in mind to help me with the technical side of the video component - is there a fee I can offer them? Also, is there a festival AV technician I can work with?
P.S. It takes me a while to think about things, and I thought about something in relation to the squatters in your house. There is a recent project by Sophie Calle, from 2010 when she did a residency in Istambul. There she asked a number of people that have lost their sight as a result of a violent incident (like being beaten, or shot, or car accidents...etc) to describe what were the last things they ever saw. They were able to provide vivid descriptions of what they saw last because one can never forget what happens in a violent situation - especially a situation where sight is lost, and these last visions are played over and over in their mind. In a similar way, I wonder if these people are the last thing that the house will ever see before it is demolished (which is a violent event). I wonder if there are gentle ways to form an idea about who they are - not necessarily meeting them, but just a way to form a sense of their presence - like establishing a last link with touching something that is untouchable. I find it interesting how Calle’s work is about unplanned miracles that emerge out of the everyday - and maybe the squatters could become like an unexpected, distant gift.