Review: The Shooting Gallery Performance Series

 Photo Courtesy of  Cara Tench

Photo Courtesy of Cara Tench

The bi-annual Shooting Gallery Performance Series is a “breeding ground for raw works of dance and performance art”, said co-curator Julie Chapple at Saturday night’s performance. Produced with Sarah Gallos, the two women sift through submissions of established and emerging performance artists interested in exploring new approaches performance. Held at the artist collective The Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret, the series offers a much needed experimental clearing for Vancouver’s performance-based artists.    

The Dusty Flowerpot Cabaret is entered through an alleyway that intersects with 5th and Scotia in Mt. Pleasant. Located on the ground floor of the The Artiste Live/Work Rental Lofts, The Dusty Flowerpot is the dress-up closet you never had as a kid; filled to the brim with aging nylon costumes, eclectic set pieces of furniture, and posters of shows past, the space emanates a long and whimsical history.

The audience sits in old church pews facing a 400 sq ft stage, enveloped by a thick black curtain—one of the few formalities within an otherwise DIY vibe. Performers descend from a lofted space above to audience left. 

Five extremely varied performances ensue.

Luciana Freire D’Anunçãicao’s improvisational score ‘Vocation/Vacation’ relied heavily on audience participation to build a score based on the time we spend working vs. not. Written on pieces of paper by an audience member, Luciana taped the words,  ‘Thriving’, ‘Free’, and ‘Another Type of Free’ to the curtain and then interpreted the words through a short movement improvisation—to a song chosen by the audience, and in a costume chosen by the audience: a synthetic, sea green costume salvaged from The Dusty Flowerpot itself.

 Photo Courtesy of  Cara Tench

Photo Courtesy of Cara Tench

The rest of pieces were slightly more traditional, albeit still with more audience interaction than one might typically encounter. ‘See Me By the Way That I Feel’, by Antonio Somera Jr in collaboration with Joanna Reyes and Joshua Ongcul, who were fabulously emotive, began as a rather typical pairing of spoken text and seemingly unrelated choreography but, surprisingly, morphed into a lip singing extravaganza of "Kill the Lights"—causing the audience to squeal with pleasure.

Both Katherine Eileen Neil’s “Signs of Explosion—Essentially Dependent, Necessarily Incomplete” and Daniel O’Shea’s “Are We Not Drawn Onward to New Era” relied heavily on setpieces to build  unique environments. Neil’s use of stuffing cotton and a large block of clay brought a beautifully evocative auditory element (think the squishing of wet mud) to her otherwise task-oriented exploration. Beginning wearing a dress and holding a pillow made from the same material, Neil used the duration of the piece to unstuff the pillow, take her dress off, stuff the dress, and then stuff the pillowcase with clay. The piece ended with two characters: Neil and her newly stuffed, clay-headed friend.

O’Shea brought us into the world of private eye Mr. Jones’ relationship with the agency he is employed by. The complicated stage set-up of tape decks nestled into trench coats with sculpted tin foil heads, brought inanimate objects to life—creating multiple characters for O’Shea to interact with. Using pre-recorded tracks, a one-man-show ensued, reminiscent of the podcasts Homecoming and Limetown.

 Photo Courtesy of  Cara Tench

Photo Courtesy of Cara Tench

“ISO”, created and performed by Jessica Wilkie and Laura Avery, closed the show with an episodic work. They used frequent blackouts to quickly frame dynamic vignettes. The vignettes were held together through the gentle and cleverly crafted humour of a soft buzzing sound (emitted by one of the dancers), allowing these two women to deliver a compelling narrative amidst its non-linearity.       

Within each work there were precious ideas and provocations, incredibly hard to fully explore within only ten minutes; however, each artist brought commitment to and acceptance of the unfinished nature encouraged by The Shooting Gallery Performance Series. The show left me intrigued by the further possibilities of each piece, but also excited about performance art in Vancouver at large. The Shooting Gallery has truly evolved into fertile ground for emerging experimental artists—with past participants continuing to develop their works and show them at New Works, 12 Minutes Max, the upcoming Revolver Festival, and various other venues throughout the country.

 Photo Courtesy of  Cara Tench

Photo Courtesy of Cara Tench