Blink Gallery would like to thank Karina Bergmans and Héléne Lefebvre for bringing performance to the capital. During the Blink picnic on June 14 the artists staged two very different pieces.
Karina Bergmans’ recent exhibition Ligaments and Ligatures at City Hall Gallery, featured vital organs in the human body. Her performance Lymph Nymph draws on a similar theme, this time creating an animated being to illustrate the inner workings of anatomy. As Bergmans explains:
A lymph node is part of the endocrine system. There are hundreds of small nodes found in specific locations of the human body, such as the neck, the arm pit, and the groin. Lymph nodes work as part of the cleansing and drainage system of the blood as well as the site of production for white blood cells, the body’s defence system.
A nymph has two definitions. First, it is a character of Greek mythology, most often a forest-living female deity. The second definition of a nymph is a larvae form of invertebrate animals such as an insect. The LYMPH NYMPH is being developed through the creation of 100 lymph nodes, a body suit and a parachute!
At 1pm on this fine sunny day in Major’s Hill Park a slinky green creature crept from Header House’s garage and went in search of lymph. The lymph took the form of chains of a green gossamer substance which attendants of the performance helped the nymph recover. She then linked these chains to her person in the locations that swell up when our bodies are “fighting something off”. The performance was concluded with the artist and audience participants converged around a parachute. The parachute was then drawn upwards and downwards to mimic the workings of the endocrine system. The green trees and grass of the park were certainly an ideal location to cleanse ourselves of any toxins we may have accumulated over the course of the week.
At 3pm Héléne Lefebvre emerged from the bushes to the right of Blink’s back patio dressed in black to perform Space of the Other. As Lefebvre states:
The performance took into consideration the specifics of the location, that is, the historical context including the proximity of the Ottawa River and Victoria Island, Parliament Hill and the Supreme Court as well as St Paul’s cathedral. The performance was ritualistic in nature and lasted some thirty minutes.
Lefebvre walked quietly from the right side of the outdoor space and turned her head to listen to the church bells of St Paul as they chimed from across Sussex. This was serendipitous as the piece dealt with cultural and religious conflict between Native peoples and Europeans. Lefebvre talked expressively to the spectators in an unreal language she often uses in her work, perhaps bespeaking an earnest effort to communicate but an ultimate failure.
The performance took the form of a stripping down. Lefebvre removed her black dress and shoes and then, with the help of a young girl seated on the flagstones, she unravelled a long bandage from her torso until she was naked but for a pair of nylons and a camisole. Towards the end of the piece, Lefebvre picked up a bouquet of long stemmed red roses and held them pensively. Then with a shocking show of force she whipped one of the flowers downwards causing the bloom to explode, its petals scattering across the ground. To our relief the remainder of the roses were passed to the viewers perhaps in an act of peacemaking.
Lefebvre states adamantly that what she does is not about acting but about abandoning herself to the audience and the place. The performance was poignant and very emotional. There was a painful bond between the artist and the viewers. The artist stated afterwards that she had difficulty leaving the performance space because she felt she was still held by our eyes. Abject exposure, communicating the incommunicable and attempting to reconcile for horrendous past transgressions all figured in Lefebvre’s piece, leaving the viewer with equal desire to look on with undivided attention and to look away.