Canadian Art: CHROMA issue

JUSTINE A. CHAMBERS
Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver

Viewers were first introduced to And then this also (2020) by its score, printed in a fuzzy handwritten font on bright pink paper and offered as a handout at the entrance of the exhibition space. I picked it up and squinted, trying to read through the instructions, leveraging the paper away from myself as if the problem were my eyes. I looked to the people around me for hints: perhaps holding the sheet at the right distance or viewing it through 3-D glasses would finally bring the writing into focus. Some words I got, while some remained obscure. But as the score suggested — with the words I could make out — I didn’t stop, didn’t pause. I continued reading and I moved on, placing myself by the wall as Chambers welcomed viewers into the room. Her performance was part of the group exhibition “The Artist’s Studio is Her Bedroom, ” and it took place among that exhibition’s other works.

The score had already tuned viewers’ bodies in to the uncertainty, distraction and care that Chambers practiced as she danced the score and worked through it in movement. She sequenced quotidian gestures as she advanced through the space in a straight line. Her movement was continuous. She kept looking at people, greeting friends and acquaintances, listening to something on her earphones. She only stopped when her timer rang and she took a break. She hung out, she rested, and then she began again from the place where she had stopped. Chambers acknowledged people entering and leaving the space responding to the ever-changing situation, while previously featured movements loosely established themselves through repetition, advancing her trajectory until the timer rang again.

A specific quality of being together developed. Chambers’s greetings and her capacity to acknowledge the concreteness of every moment (a sound, a child running around, a technical problem) slowly relaxed the stiffness of the performance. One person dancing in front of many motionless ones stopped feeling like a demonstrative act and began feeling like a collaborative one, in which viewers could share in a space of uncertainty, distraction, time, togetherness and care.

Chambers’s hyper-reflective clothing and solo performance combined with her totally unpretentious attitude brought viewers into the shared endeavour of her activity. The demanding and almost impossible nature of the score, in both its written and performed shape, disarmed expectations and developed a common attention able to hold Chambers’s investigation of what the exhibition text called “a near-constant experience of being in multiple places at once….as a working artist and a mother.” – VALENTINA DESIDERI

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