“Tell me the worries in the back of your mind, your concerns for the future, your childhood phobias, your baseless terrors and paralyzing fears, and I will take them away.” So begins Lalie Douglas's performance project, wherein “fears” collected in Montreal serve as the basis for three intensive weeks of unannounced performances, ephemeral installations and furtive interventions in the public spaces of Calgary. Working out of Stride’s Project Room, Douglas will attempt to symbolically overcome or diminish the power those fears hold. Concurrently, new fears will be collected and taken back to Montreal to complete the process in a series of performances at Articule gallery.
Montreal artist Lalie Douglas creates impromptu in-situ performance and installation projects outside of traditional gallery spaces. Douglas has shown in group and solo exhibitions in Canada and internationally, and has received research and creation grants from the Conseil des arts et des letters du Québec and the Canada Council.
/TAKE YOUR FEARS AWAY
Lalie Douglas clearly enjoys the art of making. Her constant search for ways and means of expression has led her to serially adopt a great number of materials and processes, and to successfully develop the skills to make art using all of them. Once she has said or done what she has set out to accomplish with a particular set of materials, she can easily move on to another means of expression, seemingly without remaining attached to her previous materials or techniques. Her only obvious attachment is to the physical and even meticulous tactile process of making.
Most of her performances involve making something in a public setting. This began with her production for an exhibition of sculptures having domestic objects or found pieces of clothing as a point of departure. Existing objects were transformed, often using very repetitive processes, or in other instances, symbolic non-functional domestic objects were created as stand-ins for herself and her family as a means of dealing with questions of personal identity and the experience of motherhood. Most of these works required a great deal of time to produce, and some of the production techniques were quite portable (sewing, beading, knitting, embroidery, etc.). The combination of labour-intensiveness and portability led to the works in progress being taken everywhere with her through the various stages to completion, and inspired her to work outside the studio.
Later on, as her work evolved to encompass subjects outside the realms of identity and motherhood, her focus moved from home to the community at large. The act of making the very objects in her exhibitions became a performance within the gallery space. The production became as important as the product, if not more so.
Unlike Douglas’s approach to earlier performances, which did not require viewer involvement, her more recent work has sought to include viewer interaction. For the work titled Small Dead Birds as a Unit of Measure, Douglas beautifully rendered a series of small dead birds outside and left them in various locations around Montréal, to be found and kept by someone or, because they are so convincingly lifelike, to be left in place and disintegrate without ever having been touched. This activity could be likened to a form of three-dimensional graffiti, since the events were unscheduled and isolated, and public involvement relied mostly on chance.
Subsequent work involved casting small, clay, A-frame houses on the street and leaving them for passersby to find. Larger and more visible than the bird sculptures, this clandestine public art was more easily noticed. The architectural reference made it more likely that chance viewers would identify these objects as art, and stop to observe the unfired clay houses dissolving in the rain or the melting snow; maybe passersby would overcome their initial reticence and take the house home.
Douglas’s current performance work, Take Your Fears Away, requires direct community involvement. People are being asked to write down their fears, which will eventually be taken to another part of the country and be used as a starting point for installations. This activity is more generous towards participants than her previous work, in that the artist is straightforward in offering to perform a very comforting service: liberating people of their fears and worries, inviting them to suspend disbelief. It is also a more demanding work, since in return it requires a form of co-authorship between the artist and her audience, revealing a stronger need to connect and a wish to eliminate the distance between herself and the public.
/CAROLE BEAULIEU has exhibited her sculptures and installations in Canada, the U.S. and Europe, and has participated in residencies in Banff, Wales, and Saint-Jean-Port-Joli. Her public art, official and clandestine, ranges from murals to graffiti to permanent installations. She was involved in the Poetry in Motion project on Montreal buses and is currently working on a narrative poetry project.