title: ramblin’ man

year: 2001

location: streets of montréal

duration: one month

supported by: articule gallery, montréal québec


photo: paul litherland


a month-long performance of ramblin’ and singing. a solitary action repeated daily, always in a different location, always in a state of not knowing. not knowing where i am or where i am going.

after the month, an ad is placed in the classifieds (employment section) of two weekly newspapers. ten people are hired to ramble.

somewhere out there someone is ramblin’

ramblin’ man
Karen Elaine Spencer is in the streets of Montréal. She drifts from here to there. She strays. Every once in awhile she bursts into the “ramblin man” refrain :

Lord, I was born a ramblin’ man,
Tryin’ to make a livin’ and doin’ the best I can.
And when it’s time for leavin’,
I hope you’ll understand,
That I was born a ramblin’ man.

Ramblin’ Man
by Forrest Richard Betts
© 1973 by No Exit Music Co.

Spencer is ramblin’. She performs not to be seen, but to be. You know of, but do not see, the performance. She gives no justification, produces no object, leaves no trace. And yet she insists, she is performing, existing between the realm of fantasy, “I am a man, I am without aim”, and reality, “I am a woman, I perform a purposeful activity”. An activity whereby she attempts to be in the moment. The moment where nothing happens. Where nothing can happen, caught between the already realised past and the yet-to-be future. A moment punctuated by song that is received both in her, and the world’s ears.


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