sittin’ with moncton (4)

September 29, 2011

 

jè-st’ : un festival d’art performatif et d’intervention, moncton new brunswick, 2011.

today is my last day sitting on the bench in front of city hall on main street in moncton, new brunswick. today photo and video documentation is arranged. i am watched as i watch. the day unfolds, the scenery changes, two new flag poles are placed in their slots and two new flags are raised. picnic tables and blue garbage drums are brought in. i recognize some of the “users” of the place while other people coming and going are new to me.

three days is not long. but maybe it is long enough. when i watch people i am touched by certain figures who catch my attention and enter my imagination. today for instance, a woman. older, probably in her late seventies, small figured, hair white and curled, dress pink and flowered. she strolls towards city hall. i remark the determination in her stride. one hand is holding the corner of her cardigan, the other hand hangs loose as she swings her arm back. her gait is uneven, one leg is shorter than the other. her spine is curved round. her head leans forwards towards the ground. when she returns from where she came she walks towards me, and, for one brief instant, her head raises up. i notice her face. she is smiling. to herself. if hearts can bloom from the unseeing glance of another, my heart bloomed in this instant. what you love is beautiful says sappho.

and so, yes, to answer my question for myself, yes, i perform “as if” bodies passing each other can and do “mean” something. and yes, i will continue the performance in my memory as i hold these moments inside me. and yes, i will hold these memories, for these moments of gifts received unbeckoned, when we believe ourselves to be unseen, when we are engaged in our daily tasks, when we are not performing for another – these moments of “being” transmit a kind of “grace.” a grace given freely and openly to a stranger who glimpses the face of a woman who smiles to herself as she walks by.

sittin’ with moncton (3)

September 28, 2011

jè-st’ : un festival d’art performatif et d’intervention, moncton new brunswick, 2011.

it is an interesting question. how do we judge what “counts” as a performance  and what defines for us the word “performer?”

but first, some thoughts on today. i understand as a white female who practices an acceptable level of hygiene and portrays an acceptable appearance, that i get by. i mean, i can do things in public without being a suspect in advance of any crime. i am not male, not black, not homeless…

and so, i get to think of other things while i sit. i get to be seduced by the “place” where i have located my body. and today i was. seduced. the place is constructed like a theatre with the benches circling the perimeter. safe. back to the wall kind of feeling with the world before you. the world performing for you. today the leaves were beautiful. they had turned yellow, fallen to the ground, curled into themselves and were now ready to be picked up by the wind and led in the dance. and all the while they made that dry leaf scurrying over each other and the ground sound, and their leaf sound could be heard over the motors and brakes screeching from the road sound and the water hitting water from the fountain sound. and today i saw again the man in the blue plaid shirt and blue jeans who walks with his neck bent forward, and i saw again the blonde haired woman in the high heels and black skirt who pulls the empty dolly behind her on her way to the bank, and pushes the full dolly in front of her on her return. and again the woman wearing the faded pink pants and the pale green shirt stood at the bus stop for a good hour until she boarded her bus.

i wonder. about these people i see, whose paths cross “my place.” i wonder about the nearness and the farness of our bodies in relation to each other, and i wonder how this moving past each other affects us. i wonder, do we mean anything to anyone we pass? or are these other bodies merely screens? screens who reflect back to us those “other bodies,” the known bodies in our lives, our mothers, fathers, lovers, sons, friends. i wonder what i can possibly “mean” to anyone who notices me sitting here…again. i wonder if i will remember any of these people i have watched. will they come to me in my dreams? will something of the way they move, or a particular incline of the head, a swing of an arm, a manner of holding a cane, will any of this be held by me?

and what does it mean to be the stationary body, the body that occupies a “place” that is not her own, in this space of passage?

and here i rejoin my initial question. can a non-doing constitute a performance? can i claim this sitting as a performance because i declare it to be so? can one perform a pause, the comma that comes before the sentence is finished, before the definitive mark of the period?

sittin’ with moncton (2)

September 27, 2011

jè-st’ : un festival d’art performatif et d’intervention, moncton new brunswick, 2011.

sitting on a bench in a public space is something we want to believe “anyone” can do. but if we stop and reflect for a moment we will realize, like most privileges in life, there are people who are unable to access this “right.” specifics of body can pose a barrier, for example, if your body can’t tolerate exposure to the sun, or you are confined to a wheelchair. however, there are also socially constructed barriers, enforced through laws. one of these barriers has to do with whether or not you are marked as homeless. generally speaking visibly homeless people are discouraged from accessing public spaces like parks and plazas. this “discouragement” can be engineered through the construction of the bench itself, with a metal bar being placed in the centre of the bench so a person cannot lie down, or quite simply, benches will either be removed or never appear. as well, fines can be levied for misuse of city furniture which can include putting your feet up on the bench, loitering, or spitting.

to date i have not seen one visibly homeless person sitting on the benches at city hall. if you know these benches, they are not constructed to discourage homeless users. however, as an aside, i have discovered the benches are not as they appear – their material of construction is not wood. rather the benches are made from a metal that is then covered in a material mimicking the look of wood. i wonder if my body was marked, covered in a material that mimicked the look of  homelessness, if i might find out why no visibly homeless person is sitting on a bench at city hall in moncton, new brunswick.

sittin’ with moncton

September 27, 2011

jè-st’ : un festival d’art performatif et d’intervention, moncton new brunswick, 2011.

i am the intervention. my body taking up space, here, in this public square. for 3 consecutive days, september 26th, 27th, and 28th, i will be here, at place moncton, 655 main street, in front of city hall, in front of bmo financial group. i sit on a bench from  9:00 to 17:00. with breaks, lunch and coffee. three days is not long. i am not sure what will happen, if “anything” will “happen.”

as i watch people moving by me: smoking (or not,) holding hands, on skateboards, riding bikes, wearing suits, phones to ears, high heels clicking, clutching keys, sporting backpacks, hands in pockets, carrying bags, wearing baseball hats, holding tim horton coffee cups…

i am struck by the realization i have no idea what is going on in their hearts.  this man with the blue plaid shirt, is he happy to be alive? the woman who comes outside to sit on the bench and smoke, is she feeling worn and tired? and the man pacing back and forth with his hands in his pockets, is he waiting for someone, is he anxious?  i have no idea. i do not “know” them. they are strangers to me, as i am to them.

walking moncton (2)

September 27, 2011

it took me awhile to find a place with a bench that felt “public.” i passed by this rooming house with no rooms.

walking moncton

September 27, 2011

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

this morning i walked moncton looking for a place to sit.

 

 

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