There is a nervousness of pitch living today when real existential threats -- a global pandemic and climate change -- loom large. Current research linking ecological devastation with pandemic outbreaks heightens the urgency. Moreover, ours is a time when ancient remedies and crops nurtured over millennia are being patented by Global conglomerates, affecting our food, the environment and the control of our natural resources, including seeds and plants. Land use is not decided by working individuals but by omnipotent commercial entities. Yet, ‘Big Pharma” offers us the way out of this pandemic. Within this conflicted and unsettling space, my work situates itself as a way of "staying with the trouble" (Donna Haraway).
Variant of Concern explores our entangled relationship with the living world: the hazards of tinkering with biological evolution (transgenic species in our food, our forests) to the race today — viral variants (of concern) infecting our bodies. Performance, video, installation and living material (trees grown from seed) combine to create a kind of ethnobotanical theatre destabilizing and problematizing power relations between us and the other living things. A type of speculative fiction - seeds and seedlings supersede oil or money as the commodity of ultra-value, subverting capitalist patriarchy and the military-industrial complexes tied to techno-agriculture, forestry and medicine. The project explores the ambiguities of human nature and our human condition as irreconcilably caring and destructive.
Variant of Concern develops Lucy, the artist’s alter-ego. Subversive. Adaptive. A rabble-rouser, of sorts, challenging the status quo. At Tanzfabrik, Lucy will emerge as a kind of hybrid figure, approaching something closer to Mary Shelley's fictional character than Florence Nightingale. Endurance gestures of repair test the limits of her body while satirizing her Promethean will — always over-striving, over-reaching until something goes awry.
Delirious times demand delirious measures: Absurdity, disorder, disorientation, and repetition shape the work. Irony and disjuncture will convey the dread and psychic tension living on the cusp of a world gone mad.
Variant of Concern strives to uncover something about who we are: our hubris, our resilience and our will to survive.
Supported by the Ontario Arts Council.
Performance: Patricia Coates
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