Anthea Black’s Queer Survival Campout Snowcave

Queer Survival Campout Snowcave is a performance video that takes place in a quinzee, which is a DIY structure made from a big pile of snow that is hollowed out to make a cave and sometimes used for winter survival and shelter. Snow occupies an important place in the Prairie, Northern and Canadian imaginations; it can be a benevolent, insulating and feminizing part of the landscape, or it can be a hysterical, cruel and blinding force of nature. Here, snow, and all of its associations set the scene for a video where local queer artists were invited into the cave to campout, celebrate, eat, drink and performatively take shelter from the hostile forces of nature and culture that surround.

Inside the cave, a set of custom “liberation suits” that are constructed from recycled wool sweaters are worn to reclaim the feminist history of the one-piece long underwear synonymous with winter outdoorsmen. Textile objects by Canadian women artists, many of whom are from the prairies including Mireille Perron, Mary Anne McTrowe, Cindy Baker and Wednesday Lupypciw, were solicited and collected for use as insulation in the cave. These objects and artworks act as totemic reminders of the live presence of their makers, members of a queer/feminist art community that could never be unified in one geographic location.

When these textiles form the insulating layer between our bodies and the cave, they form other bodies: a body of work that represents the labour and the production of other artists, the bodies of others who used these sweaters and blankets for warmth and shelter previously, and the body of land that both unites and separates us. When covering us, they unite our own bodies in a much broader collaborative fabric.

With participation by Cait Harben, Jamie Q and Kelly O’Dette.

ARTIST STATEMENT  My practice is informed by my participation in Albertan/Canadian artist-run culture and focuses on themes of love, friendship, mentorship and community exchange as queer sites for creative production and inspiration in gettin’ through the tough times together. Lately, I’ve used the metaphors of “the scraps” (of textiles, of food, of culture, of identity) and of “the self-sustaining universe” as organizing principles for the aesthetic and conceptual direction of my video work: the leftovers from one universe are scavenged, appropriated and used to fashion a new one. The creation process for these works interrogates my collaborative relationships with other artists, dependence on community and notions of home, gathers resources for what can be described as creative or cultural “survival”, and then attempts to site queerness in relation to a geographical location, however fantastical. Objects and artworks by other artists are solicited, collected and appropriated for use as totemic reminders of the live presence of their makers, members of a queer/feminist art community that could never be unified in one place. The artist-run ethics of Do-It-Yourself (DIY), collaboration and collectivity are, in part, my answers to questions about how to sustain an art practice in relative isolation from one’s peers, and have thus become strategies of making and being that overlap with both a prairie aesthetic and a queer survival instinct.

Anthea Black is currently pursuing graduate study at the University of Western Ontario. She will be giving a talk about her work November 14th at the Art Institute of Chicago.

25. October 2011 by Mackenzie Kelly-Frère
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