Making Nothing

During the second day of my residency at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, I thought a lot about performance as an artform, and particularly about artforms that create no permanent art object.

Nothing Gold Can Stay
By Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

I love this about theater, the fact that the art disappears in the same moment it is created, that you have to be present when it happens to know what it was, that it was. Cooking is the artform that seems the most analogous to me, especially after watching chefs like Jeung Kwan or Magnuss Nilson at work. There is something shockingly extravagant, futile, and honest about creating an ephemeral experience for an audience, investing hours, days, months, or even years into the creation of a moment of connection, communication, emotion.

If art is a form of communication, how does the artist who makes nothing communicate with her audience? Does that communication leave any trace? Where does the artist’s labour go if it is not invested into an object? How do we value the ephemeral? Can the ephemeral resonate? These are among the questions guiding my residency project, RITES, especially today. You can read about today’s rites here.

 

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