Susanna Hood is a compelling and virtuosic performer in dance and music. She began her career as a member of the Toronto Dance Theatre from 1991 through 1995.

PUSH BACK: a reading group

Sunday, May 15, 2016, 2:00 pm

PUSH BACK is a semi-regular critical reading group that seeks to complicate, investigate and compare contemporary works of writing and art. The first iteration of PUSH BACK is a reading and response to the book Clearing the Plains: Disease, the Politics of Starvation and the Loss of Aboriginal Life.  

Sunday, May 15, 2016, to Saturday, October 15, 2016

Saturday, June 18, 2016, 2:00 pm
Saturday, June 25, 2016, 12:00 pm

Anna Banana: 45 Years of Fooling Around with A. Banana

Saturday, September 19, 2015, 4:00 pm to Saturday, October 24, 2015, 5:00 pm

For 45 years, Victoria-born artist Anna Banana has defied contemporary art through her involvement with Mailart, artists’ stamps, performance, and love for all things banana. Her artistic career began in Victoria in 1971, when she personified the Town Fool in Bastion Square to try to connect with the city’s community. She quickly became involved with Mailart, a popular artistic movement centered on sending art through the postal service. Through Mailart, Banana asking for banana jokes, tidbits, and information, but also began receiving banana items-- 1,158 all told.  

Art App

Thursday, June 6, 2013, 2:00 pm to Saturday, January 18, 2014, 4:00 pm

Inspired by the historical art movement of Fluxus and the creation of intermedia forms of expression, Open Space will present a programming year that aims to re-draw the interdisciplinary boundaries between concrete poetry, graphic scores, and performance art. Our goal is to embrace as yet unrecognized forms of contemporary art expression. Open Space introduces the Art App.

Sandra Meigs: The Basement Panoramas

Friday, November 1, 2013, 12:00 pm to Saturday, December 14, 2013, 5:00 pm

Victoria artist Sandra Meigs explores expressive terrain in her new project, The Basement Panoramas, connecting drawing, painting, sound, robotics, and perception into an experiential installation. Taking as a point of departure the invisible underthings of architecture—basements and crawl spaces—Meigs resuscitates forgotten, and often neglected, storage spaces and charges them with potent psycho-social intensity. 


For centuries, the human body has been a standard metaphor for architecture, a device that Meigs pushes into the untravelled psychological spaces of memory and loss, experience and interiority. The Basement Panoramas are brilliantly hued large-scale paintings that overwhelm the spectator’s field of vision. In each, Meigs charts a passage, annotated by handwritten notes, loosening the confines of subject matter, opening other spaces and unexpected interplay. Grief propelled Meigs’s new series: her paintings refract emotional intensity.

This interview was conducted on July 6, 2013, by curatorial assistants, Benjamin Willems and Regan Shrumm, in conclusion of Heather Cosidetto’s teacher-in-residency and Valerie Salez’s artist’s residency, Play, Fall, Rest, Dance at Open Space. The photos, taken by Valerie Salez, are of the children the artist worked with during her residency. For more photos, go to

Currently you are both working with families and kids. What made you interested in working with these groups?

Heather Cosidetto [H]: The most obvious answer is that I recently had a child, so it’s on my mind. But prior to that, through the Wayward School, Stefan [Morales], my husband, and I…lectured together a lot and we also did the Wayward School stuff together. The Wayward School… is a series of thematic curatored skill and knowledge sharing events— that would be a loose way of describing what holds them all together. We were always particularly interested in the multi-generational audience. There were many times throughout our professional time together, that whenever we got that mix [of] people, such lovely things would happen. We just knew that that was something that we would always want to encourage. So we just made it a part of our mandate for [the Wayward School] to make sure that people of all ages would feel comfortable there. So if you’re writing some lecture notes for a seminar, you make sure that if you happen to have a fifteen year old at the table and a seventy year old—who are going to come there with very different vernaculars—that the words that you are saying will work for both of those audiences. 

Valerie Salez [V]: This residency, Play, Fall, Rest, Dance, was specifically just to work with kids. What made me interested in working with kids, well, I’m pretty kid-like myself, I always have been. In my art practice, I mostly deal with adults…curators and educators. At a few openings, curators would have their children while I was setting up an installation, so I became more interested in being in an art gallery space when there was a kid there. There was a period where I just like, I think I make artwork solely for kids. That could be seen as something bad, maybe I wasn’t being critical enough or intellectual enough. My stuff is pretty tactile and it’s more for the senses. I can go on and on about the critical reasons for my work, but it has never interested me and I only seem to be doing it for the adults. That’s the only way the adults could access the work.       

I’ve been way more interested in how children access the work because I think it is more where I’m coming from. I don’t see any shame in that. I think that we discredit their experience in the contemporary art world, and that means we discredit the child’s mind. When they come to a gallery they are not even allowed to touch the work, which…almost hurts me. I want them to touch my work, and I’d have proprietors going, “No, no, no, don’t go near the work.” So it [this residency] was really just to allow kids to go hog-wild with my work. To allow it to be something that is touchable and something that can be re-invented. I don’t want my work to be precious. That is another thing that has bothered me when it goes to the institute—it becomes precious. Myself and many artists I know, that’s not what we are doing in the process. We’re messy, we’re dirty. I wanted to come back to that, and I thought a child would really be able to kind of take my work down a notch and re-invent it into something that we [adults] cannot imagine. Also I don’t have kids, I never will have kids, but I’m constantly surrounded by moms and kids. I just have a really easy and special relationship with kids. This comes easily to me, to spend time alone with the kid and barely give them any instruction. Yet I can with a few words and with my stuff, inspire them to just kind of let go. The point is just to let go.

What are your thoughts on how, traditionally, art opportunities have been shared with families and children?

V: Besides my own personal art practice, I have had many jobs. I’ve been a substitute teacher in schools, I’ve mentored youth and children, done the after-school programs, the teaching in galleries. Those to me seem to be the traditional way to work with kids and families. At some larger events, like Nocturne in Halifax, there seems to be a section for families and kids. It still seems to be separate thing, and not taken seriously. I still don’t feel like it’s on an even kneel [compared to the adult art sections]. Then with after-school programs, there are art classes or in the galleries, [but] again, it’s a little bit of the old send the kid to the class and let them be creative. There are still a lot of constraints, there are still a lot of rules. That seems to be the basic traditional art-making with kids.

H: The picture that you paint is accurate from where I’m standing too. In general…traditional art opportunities, aren’t even great opportunities. They are just really activities to pass the time. Now, as a parent, I get to look through all these things like Island Parent and different community calendars—and I used to look through those before as well, because I was interested in working with kids—Now I have a slightly different lens on it, where I am desperate for something meaningful to do with my toddler… Most activities are for thirty minutes, or maybe they cost a lot of money, or they are for very narrow age groups, or they have a limited registration, or they are in a difficult to reach location. It is kind of like you are chasing this ghost, [meanwhile] you are surrounded by...actual real art opportunities, such as just coming to Open Space—but you don’t know about them. Then the stuff that is advertised to you is almost like check the box, kind of “Oh, we enriched our child today.” But there is not a lot of letting go. In [Victoria] in general…partly because I’m dealing with an infant, which is very different from what is available for ten year olds… but if I go in a drop-in group there is not an area to do art in. If there is [an area, then there is] like the box of crayons at the library, [which] have been there, I swear for maybe thirty years…I just keep wanting to go to those places to drop off some really good art supplies so that there is actual art opportunity there. It’s frustrating.

V: It’s funny, I cannot totally put them [traditional art opportunities] down. I’ve worked a lot with them. It’s work and I love it, and I love working with kids, but there are a lot of perimeters. You do feel this sense from parents, that you are checking the box, “I’ve had some art experience.” I find it sad because I think for me the real meaning of art is that it is about life. It has so much more to offer than making something to take home, than making a picture and going, “I’ve done that, and now I’m going on the Internet to watch Dora [the Explorer] and then I’m going to go play soccer…” Art is looked at as a separate thing, but no one is really using it or recognizing it as a whole life tool. It is about process. It’s about not always making something to keep. It’s about sometimes destroying something—to leave behind and [ask] how did you feel and what did you go through. I think that is an opportunity that is not seen anywhere.


In your work, both of you situate your actions as a kind of continuation of the education system, in that you both teach others and share resources. However, your philosophy is different from schools since instead of standardizing you are trying to promote creativity. How do you think art helps children, and why is it important to continue the arts in school?
V: Schools need a drastic change, but that is most of the way the education system works now. It’s not just art—it’s everything. Every curriculum needs to be changed in my book. To be able to educate children who learn in different ways…I cannot just speak for art in institutions and schools, it is everything.                                                                                                                                                                                                    
Art needs to be looked at by parents differently. There is a huge value and there needs to be more programs or outside of the box thinking because I think there are a lot of kids having a difficult time coping with just being a human. There are a lot of constraints and rules, dos and don’ts. Art can really give them the chance to expand a bit and let that stuff fall away and find what their little unique thing is. I think that art can give them the chance to do that in a really safe and productive way. Nothing that anything on the computer could do, no program, could match the experience of physically touching things, physically being in a space. Being six years old and being given a giant pair of scissors and being trusted with that. Parents don’t even trust their kids to do very basic things. Society doesn’t trust kids to do very basic things—there is all this safety. But give a kid a job, responsibility, and a precious space, and they will take it seriously. There is just so much more than just making the thing.
H: There are these very tiny pockets of space, and with these particular learning outcomes that the teachers need to fulfill by allowing that art activity to happen in their classroom. They usually want it to line up with some social studies or maybe math. Art is used as a tool, as just yet another language that you can explore math, science, and the language arts, [but this] is not what is happening in schools as far as I can see. Instead, it is treated as a subject, and I don’t think that art should be a subject—it is just another way of being and expressing.                          
Then notice of precious space—that is really important because usually when you go into doing a program at a school...usually those schools have very small budgets. The schools basically covered the cost of materials and we did the thing for free because we were so anxious to get that program in there... So in other words, you go in there and you wanted to really shine but you had to buy stuff at dollar stores. That was really counter because I think the great thing about getting an art centre to come into an elementary school is that you get to show the kids what real art materials are and how it is about process and not about an object that comes out of the end. But we usually had to use the crappiest of materials. People think that kids won’t respect the nice materials, but if you give a kid a gigantic tub of glitter... it isn’t precious to them and will for the lack of a better term “just waste it.” But if you give them a space where they are told that these things are precious, they start to respect those things, then they will use them more meaningfully. That would be the sort of thing I would like to see change in arts programs… We always have this notion that in order to buy the quantity we need for these kids, we have to buy the cheaper stuff. But I would like to see it go the other way around, and let it be quality over quantity. But I would hate to think that if that got taken up, the end result might be less arts programming too…
V: The thing you said about art being a subject and everything else being a separate subject. That has always been a thing with me too, believing that. Luckily, when I was substituting in the Yukon, I got sent to Banff to an international conference It was really exciting because I was surrounded by people for one week that are really pushing that every subject should integrate these different ways to teach to different kinds of thinking minds. For instance, there was a math teacher—he was super inspiring. He needed to teach a lesson to grade fours about graphs, and he showed us in less than an hour…three different exciting ways on how to engage the kids in graph making. One of the ways was literally using your body, standing in a row shortest to tallest. So that was a physical way of acting or showing a graph…So I mean there is definitely people out there that are trying to steer education…into being more multi-disciplinary and to reach different kids.
H: Yeah, I’m not sure where the problem lies because teachers get a bad rep. They are the ones who are constrained too… in terms of learning outcomes and…how much time they need to spend administrating. So, I wonder… I’m not qualified to say where the crux of this problem lies…You know, it’s like where is this getting stuck because most people I talk to who are really interested in education, know that it needs to change, so where is it getting stuck?
V: We will take forever, honestly, like the change in institutions and not just in education… but everything, our governments, everything. So I really think in the importance in things like this [artist residency]. Again art centres and artist-run centres, I think they are changing. They don’t want really traditional, upper crust, contemporary art, and a lot of over-intellectualized talks. I think that art is changing, and it is now more about how we can involve different kinds of audiences. How can we let go a bit and see what happens instead of just trying to construct an end result so that our institution has this big name. I think that the artist-run centre is one of the kinds of places in the world that really has the opportunity to do everything that everyone is talking about, but it is having a difficult time doing it. An artist-run centre can have a higher turn-over and, with the right kind of people in them, interesting things can happen, they can include kids, people with disabilities, seniors, dogs, everything.
H: Exactly, they are well situated. We are talking about how art is not black and white. It allows for not black and white thinking because when a kid gets some sort of substance, like a piece of clay, they get to learn just how plastic the world is. It looks like this one second, and it looks like that the next. That internal [thinking] makes them able to think creatively out of many, many problems that a paper and pencil cannot necessarily do. Artist-run centres are much more plastic than let’s say a museum or gallery—they are far more constrained than a place like Open Space is for a number of reasons. I mean all the things that make spaces like this have a hard time surviving sometimes, and [are] in turn what makes them possible to be really experimental with their audience.
The major overlap between your projects is that you both want your participants to have delight in creating. You both want to enable those that participate to Open Space. But you manifest this so differently. I wonder if you could talk about the way you're hoping to inspire your participants. 
H: I’m surprised by how many people in the city haven’t heard of Open Space—it is quite shocking. It astounded me because I have not lived here that long but before I came here, I knew about it. So my goal in this space was thinking,  “So if I’m going to be trying to get people in here that don’t necessarily know about this space, I want to make it very comfortable.” I know that I have set it up so that it looks like it is for babies, and it is, and that is because I want babies to be comfortable there. But also if I make it comfortable for babies, then it is comfortable for anyone, in a sense because anything can be messed with there. It is completely accessible, you can bring someone in who doesn’t know anything about [contemporary art]…and they can sit there and they are not worried because it is not precious…It just brings everything down a notch and there stops being so much pressure. So that’s how I generally try to inspire people…
V: [I’m] definitely not interested in educating about art. We just need to dive in and do it, and then education will come out of that… With certain kids, I can see that there is something that they are really interested in. They have this specialized interest that can seem quite bizarre and unique, but then if we have a conversation, I [understand]. I actually showed [a child] today two videos, Fever Ray and the Knife videos, with contemporary dancers in them, who wear a lot of crazy outfits and swarm around. That is what she [the child] was doing. I mean like sometimes I will be like,  “Hey, do you want to check this out?” and that be just a subtle way of, “Hey, this is out there.”                                                           
I have been surprised that a couple of the kids knew certain things about art. One of them was just splattering fabric on the ground, and said  “You know, this is like that guy, but his name isn’t Michael Jackson, but that is kind of like part of his name.’ That was an eight year old saying that, so she had an awareness of Jackson Pollack and [the fact that] he splattered things. So then we can ensue a conversation about Jackson Pollock, which is interesting—so the education part comes up.                                                                                                                                                
The part about delight, the fact that I’m trying to set up a delightful situation, that can happen with kids. [It has] been happening only for the reason when they really realize that they can do anything they want. They come in with a lot of tension and a lot of apprehension because they really feel like I’m going to say  “No, you can’t touch that, you can’t do that, don’t use those scissors.” So the first hour can be a lot them going, “Can I do this? Can I do that?” So the delight isn’t there. It is quite intimidating for them to come to a big space, to be alone in the space with me, and these are even some kids I know. They are waiting for the rules or for the hammer to come down. The delight only happens at some point when they realize, and I just basically don’t say anything much, and just go  “I told you, you don’t have to ask me.” Then delight does ensue.      
 I also find, even with the delight part of this, it is like anything in life: there is an undercurrent of disappointment. Feeling they are not being perfect enough, not being able to make that thing stay where they want it—that the thing doesn’t look like what they thought it would look like. I mean it is exactly what artists go through everyday. So in art-making, we have this conception that there is a delight, that artists are in their joy, in their bliss, delighting in every moment—and it’s the opposite. There is doubt, there is frustration, there is insecurity, there is feeling like “Should I be doing this? Will I be seen as crazy?” I have been noticing that the kids have the exact same fears and joys in art-making, and that is almost exactly what I want them to experience. I’m just there to go  “So what? It doesn’t look like what you thought, but look at it, what do you think? I think it is pretty cool” or “You’re frustrated that that isn’t working. Well, why don’t you try it a different way.” So it isn’t always about delight. That is another misconception about art.                                                                                                                                                                                 
There was an art symposium a few years back—it was for social art practices and engagement…One person in the audience termed this phrase that has always stuck out for me. I know that people can see what I’m doing with kids as a social art practice, and [there is] a little bit of the danger of doing this, and she called it Robin Hoodism. So she said, “You artists come into a community and enlighten people, you just swoop in like Robin Hood to show people the way—then you leave, and what happens then?” There can be a bit of a danger in Robin Hoodism, so it is interesting. 
I feel responsible when I do this. I’m having these kids come in to totally be blown away, and then I don’t talk to them for a week for two. There is a danger in that. You are giving a kid this experience they haven’t had, you have stirred something in them…You need to keep contact. I think especially with children. This [residency] cannot just end like this. I can’t just go,  “Well, now I have some art material and some footage, and I’m going to go out to the adult art world and show them.” I need to continue to engage these kids. It’s just a challenge I have to figure out.
 Heather, you co-founded the Wayward School here in Victoria, which is concerned with education, re-education, and learning opportunities for anyone who is interested. How is your residency at Open Space augmenting your other work?
H: This actual keeps in thread with what you were talking about, Valerie. This notion of keeping contact is the problem that I’ve had before… [When] developing curriculum for galleries or for field trip environments, you would swoop in, give students all this great stuff to do and then leave, and not necessarily get to see how that played out later. So you never got any feedback from it. With this residency, I get to try stuff out in time and I get to change stuff as I go. I get to sit down and write a lesson plan, someone comes in and I try it out with them, and they say things that make me think. Then I get to try that out the very next time.                                                                                                                  
Teaching is not often allowed to be thought of as a creative practice with changes in time. So I have been really excited [that it has been] shaping up to be exactly that opportunity that I have been looking for in a lot of different ways, like with the Wayward School. The notion was to take learning into non-institutional environments… but to have the people doing the teaching, we would be teaching each other… So here, I get to expand on that in another way, a much more personal way, where… I get to look at the role of teacher and think of that as a creative process as well—and not just as, “I’ve got this set of curriculum and here I’m going to teach you this thing.” But rather, as a conversation between the person who comes in and myself. It is more about the enabling or being there to inspire or spark or stir.                                           
Permission was another word I wanted to go back to…The very first time I had an actual paid teaching job, I was so stunned, because… anytime anyone phrased a statement, they turned their head and looked at me. I was like,  “Oh my god, they are looking at me for permission.” Every time I was looking at them thinking, “your opinion is your opinion, you can say whatever you want to.” But it is very difficult to get rid of that notion that if there is someone called teacher or tutor, that people will look to you and expect that there is a right answer. So ever since then I have just been trying to figure out a way to be a resource to people. To say yes, I have a bit more experience than you, but I am learning from you too. I don’t have the answers, [but] we are going to figure them out together…
Valerie, your residency has you doing a lot of facilitating. You're letting kids re-invent your past work, such as Fourth Nature and In the shadow of our own dust. So your work here is really affecting your art production. Do you have any surprises or thoughts about what's happened in your space so far?
V: I get over some of the surprises pretty fast…I knew it would be chaotic. I had a lot of materials and I had a lot of thoughts—should I have less materials, or just ten kinds of material? I thought, no [in] my art practice, I do collect a lot of things a mash them together. So I thought I would just bring it all. So I knew that chaos would ensue, that wasn’t surprising. What surprised me was how considerate each participant was at putting the chaos together. I was surprised that they were so attentive. I was really surprised and pleased by how they dealt with all the overwhelm of all the material. I thought that I might have to home things down or find that one object to start with… [They would] quickly be able to choose one object that was kind of their starting object…I didn’t need to talk for about an hour after.     
How it is affecting my own practices, well, it has brought me back to video and photography, which has come in and out of my practice because I really don’t like working with technology. The children are becoming the object, when I turn the camera on, they are now the object. I’m surprised at how well they are responding—how okay they are with that. How parents are signing releases without any question. I thought there would be more discussion from the parents about that, but they seem okay. The camera thing seems at ease for parents and kids. So that has been a surprise to me.                                                                                                                                                                                                                
I have not had the biggest confidence in what I have made in the past… I usually change disciplines… and subjects often, and I have been really hard and critical on myself. I don’t have a theme to stick with. Somehow I still seem to be functioning out in the art world. What has surprised me is watching kids be chaotic and let go— it gives me permission to even go crazier with my materials when this is finished. To quit wondering about what I am doing, what should I focus on. I should get it together and be more professional. I actually feel like… it [the residency has] kind of given me permission to go further avant-garde, further off the wall, further chaotic. This is really relevant and needed in the world today…                      
I am just trying to find the value in something that is considered really non-valuable. Like letting kids just staple things to the walls and use glue guns. It doesn’t need to mean anything or be related to anything, any art history. I don’t need to have that discussion and I am starting to enjoy that. I do want to eventually make some sculptures with the stuff on my own, but I want to pair it up in an exhibition with the works of these kids. So either recreated some of the stuff they made or show a video alongside. The dream thing is that I would be invited to an exhibition and I can bring two or three of the kids, so I can further their experience. The dream-dream is that I can grow with two or three of these kids, and as they grow into teenagers, that we continue to work together.

This interview was conducted on  June 6, 2013, in anticipation of Tanya Doody's upcoming artist's residency and exhibition, Impression Formation, at Open Space. 


In much of your work, you pair raw clay material with gestures. Could you talk about why you decided to pair these ideas?

They’re in the process of becoming…whether it's an actual performance that's unfolding—or clay that is mutable, plastic, still able to be affected through gesture and action. To me, it made a lot of sense to bring ceramics and performance together.

I started along this trajectory with a piece called Examining Social Gesture. I was trying to bring people together to have tea. I was going to film their hands, and I was going to film the tea set [as a way of] going back to the tradition of ceramics. It's functional, that's the tradition of clay, and I have a long history of working with clay. I posed the question “What else, or, what more can clay do? Where can it go and how can it be stretched?” I wanted to look at how people use these things. Well, everyone knows how to drink from a cup, but I felt like there could be something therethe social and ceramics. I started in this really traditional way. We'd come together over tea or coffee or a meal. The table staging a social contract and the gestures associated with that. I was looking at ceramics and its role in social exchange.

Clay and gestures are loaded with potential. I was trying to get away from the “doneness” of a thing, the permanence of it. I liked that both were still active, or, that they were wound, tight with potential. Performance is like that for me too. It's not about rehearsing and rehearsing and doing really well. It's more open, or about leaving openings. Especially when I bring other people into the work.


What is the role of your viewers and participants, and especially non-artists, during your performances?

Ceramics gain meaning from use, and that led me to set up situations of inter-subjective exchange. The clay and ceramics perform various roles in each situation of performance. What I ask of the viewer is different with each piece, but what holds together throughout most of the work—or at least the socially engaged works—is that the viewer is no longer viewer. They are viewer-participant. They complete the work. They're very active in the outcome of the piece.

There's a whole spectrum in which you can situate the public: viewers, participants, co-collaborator, co-author. I like to move [my viewers] past [being] viewers, but I haven't given over my work so completely that I start with nothing. I set up variables and I set up a situation—usually a timeframe, objects, the space, the room that they operate within. But they could go and do something very unexpected. So, it is open. Nothing very extreme has happened yet, but there are always differences between each participant, and the potential is there.

I think people respond very well to the clay as non-artists. There's a familiarity with clay, an everydayness, an accessibility. I don't know anyone that could reach the age of twenty without touching clay. It's part of our cultural vernacular, and especially if you start presenting it in a more traditional form, like ceramic cups, by inviting people to have coffee. People are really drawn to the material. 

I use clay often as an interface between bodies. Sometimes that interface can shift depending on how you look at it. It becomes a buffer to separate rather than to draw people together in exchange. [Like] my Greeting Gesture / Poetic Prosthetics piece, with the really long prosthetic clay arms. [Or] creating touch in Moment + Momento, where there was raw clay still in a malleable, plastic state, impressionable. 



In Moment + Memento, your recording of the communication interrupts the habitual, normal handshake. Why do you want to alter non-verbal rituals of communication?
To value touch as a sense. As an artist working with such a seductive material, with such immediacy, the material is so responsive. Touch is of primary importance to me. Through my studio practice, it is that way through the materials that I choose to work with. Not to forego the visual, but to be more thoughtful about how we interface with our world. I used the clay itself in these works to document the works, rather than relying on photography or video. The clay itself became a substrate to bear marks from the encounter. People are always drawn in through the sense of touch. That's what a lot of the work was trying to do. There is always that in the background, the primacy of the visual. I’m trying to circumvent that a bit, trying to elevate touch as a sense that is valued. 
Would you say you respond more to touch?
Well, I'm trying. My sense of touch is quite elevated, I guess. Through practicing, just like anything. But I don't think it is always the case; we're a visual culture.
By interrupting normal, everyday touch, like the handshake, you're de-mechanizing the human body. I wonder if you could explain that.
I like to do things that take the usual, expected thing, and just translate it into a different material, or change the scale of it, find ways to disrupt expectations. If you're drawn into a handshake greeting, when it's not skin-on-skin contact, but skin-on-clay contact, it becomes a very different thing. That iteration of the handshake is transformed. It's hard sometimes to gauge it in terms of quality, of experience, for each person—since everyone has their his or her own individual experience within the piece—and I don't always get feedback from that. 
When I do those kinds of pieces with people, generally I feel success, and I feel pleased that I did them. Critical thoughts come to me. How I can do them differently, how I can move forward? And just to be able to stop and be in the moment of exchange with a participant is really the work. But afterwards I have to go around and gather the pieces. Was it filmed, did I photograph it, what's left to show? I try to work around the performance document in a way that's not uncomfortable for me. It's uncomfortable for me to ask people to interact to begin with, because that's asking something of someone. And then to go further and say, "As well, you're being filmed. And do you mind if there's someone photographing this?" It adds a few more elements that could be uncomfortable for the participant. I'm always trying to be respectful and trying not to scare them off but to get them in a situation where they can actually experience the work and not have the apparatus surrounding the work detract from the experience. Just really have a moment. The documentation of a lot of my work is not great.
Using physical objects as a record of communication—there's a history to that with clay. Clay tablets were the earliest record of communication. It was a method of historical recordkeeping. If you think of it that way, it's a fallback to tradition. 
Tanya Doody is an independent Canadian artist working performance, video, and ceramics. Her work will be featured in HOT MUD: Emerging Canadian Ceramists in September 2013 at the Burlington Art Gallery. Doody holds an MFA from the Nova Scotia College of Arts and Design University (NSCAD) in Fine and Media Arts, a BFA from University of Victoria in Visual Arts, a Diploma from Sheridan College in Crafts and Design (Ceramics), and a Certificate of Fine Crafts (Ceramics) from the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design. 


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