Non-Action #3 (keeping it in the family)

Non-action #3, as part of res(is)ting / repos comme résistance

June 6, 2021
Berge du Crochet,
118 Boul des Prairies, Laval, QC

I think difficulties – whether technical, environmental, social or otherwise – are part and parcel of performance. The unexpected situations that compel (more like force) you to have to make snap decisions and (hopefully) have the capacity to own these wholeheartedly. Of course it’s those unpredictable facets that make performance what it is – a live art that responds to situations, environment, others and time. It’s what makes performance (to my mind) an inherently site-specific practice. At times a bit taxing on the nervous system, but this too is how it encourages a practice of “letting go.”

And so: the specificities of our gathering on June 6 came with the surprise of the Verticale vehicle not being able to leave the parking lot. A mechanical issue had befallen Villa (as it’s known); a solid, but finicky (and let’s face it, ancient) truck, which left us scrambling for another solution to get all our stuff over to the site.

Somehow, with the previous gathering’s foibles (namely not being able to put up the banner) none of this fazed me. It was more a matter of once again not so much abandoning the script but relinquishing my preconceived ideas about how things should – or will – roll. In light of this development, the even bigger surprise was suddenly having access to a camper van, via my intrepid companion Jean-Philippe – a performance artist with a robust practice in his own right, and a keen capacity to meet this kind of “performative of circumstance” head-on. Enlisting his parents’ help (and their wheels), we were able to schlep our chairs, banner, and Covid paraphernalia in one go, as opposed to carting this stuff somehow on the back of my bike, or just not having it there at all.

The reason why I mention this all is twofold. I again want to acknowledge the role of failure (in this case of an initial plan and, further, of a technical resource) and how the resulting creative “effort” required to quickly figure out how to solve something in a pinch – like I said, a phenomenon of live art – can drive or impact a work in interesting ways. It added another layer, flavour, hue – and relationship – to the ensuing interval that followed. For coming together with JP and his mom, we mobilized the non-action toward its location with this “interval of beginning” (the space before the non-action “formally” started) providing an unexpected “back-stage” encounter with my colleague’s family.

Which, to my mind, at once set the tone for our time together while unwittingly abiding by what seems to have become an established (non) protocol with the unfolding of this series, namely to not have things be perfect – not even have things prepared – prior to guests arriving. This slow-fade in beginning now becomes part of the non-action, and riding up together, bumping slowly along Boul. des Prairies while chatting about Laval & JPs mother’s history with this section of the north shore, the opportunity to share in the finding of solutions and setting up contributed to the camaraderie and informal quality of this series of (non) actions; very much in line with the decisions that spontaneously arose from the time before.

The fun paradox of this day’s assembly was how JP and I got the banner up in a matter of about 3 minutes. A veritable contrast to the prolonged and several failed attempts of the previous non-action. And then the rest continued, lounging on Adirondack chairs and chatting.

In the company of Jean-Philippe, his dad (NL) and mom (SC) and MB, we sat, relaxed, listened to NL play his flute and had various spontaneous discussions ranging in topic from MB’s experience being in the first cohort going through UQAM’s studio arts PhD program to SC’s recent discovery of these welcoming green spaces.

I was delighted, in fact, to learn that SC – an intrepid birder, lover of trees, experienced explorer of local and national landscapes, and socially active inhabitant of Laval, although living here for several years, had never really discovered the riverside parks (les berges) peppered along the shoreline. Existing right here in her neighbourhood and the surrounding areas along the water, this moment hanging out virtually “in her backyard” was apparently a revelation. In all her years here, this was her first visit.

And this time to stop, look around, take advantage of this space, and in the company of her family, seemed to contribute to the specialness of this extra-ordinary occasion. And how quietly gratifying and also quite (extra) ordinary for me, to be able to witness this.

With thanks to Jean-Philippe Luckhurst-Cartier for the photos

Author: Victoria Stanton

Montreal-based performance artist, writer, and educator Victoria Stanton explores live action, human interaction, video, film, photography, and drawing.

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