“Presence and absence converge when four people spend one night together, in a one-time piece about being here and translating experience.”

A performance experiment for the Live Art Series at SummerWorks Performance Festival

Sunday August 12th-Monday August 13th, 2012

I invited three strangers to begin a festival evening in three separate locations. After midnight we came together, and tried to share everything that happened apart. We sat talking at a table from 12-6am, when we decided we were finished. We went outside together and parted ways.


Sunday January 15th, 2012 marked the one year anniversary of my homecoming to Toronto. On this day, I invited friends and acquaintances, old and new, all members of my community here, to a 'members brunch'. Sixteen of these people participated and, following some loosely, but carefully choreographed instructions, prepared and ate a meal together. The brunch took place in Communication Gallery: an intimate exhibition space, visible from the street through a large window that spans the length of the gallery. We packed the room with set tables, chairs, cooking, eating and conversation.

Throughout the gathering, I photographed participants as members of clubs, political parties, professional associations, unions, rock bands, families, libraries and more.

* * *

There was a place setting for each member and an envelope on each plate. The envelope contained a different set of instructions for each person.

For example:


Thanks for being here!

1. Put your portrait props somewhere along the long wall of the room where you can find them.

2. Give your orange(s) to Phillipa

3. If you brought a crépes topping/filling, place it on a table. If you’re not sure where to put it, ask Jane.

4. Give your lemons to Hannah.

5. Coffee: You are on the french press. Nuan may go around and ask people who wants coffee, if she isn’t feeling too shy.


Throughout SummerWorks 2011, I approached people, mostly strangers, in a number of ways. I asked them to spend some time talking or walking with me before and after performances. Sometimes the encounters were more brief and spontaneous... At the end of each meeting I gave people the following invitation in a small envelope:

I’d like to invite you to meet at the SummerWorks Art Bar
952 Queen Street West (MOCCA Courtyard)
Sunday August 14th, 4:30pm

I’ll pour you a drink, we’ll roll up our sleeves, and
spend some time together as strangers who share a city.

'...Imagine a future for creative buildings, called theatres, which are at the heart of civic life... They would be the kind of buildings that were either designed to last or fall down, depending on the needs of the people...' **

With this in mind, please bring an object to contribute to our gathering.
It should be something significant, but that you are are willing to part with.

We’ll raise a glass to the hope that whatever we make together will both last and fall down.

We made an exhibition of our objects and talked with each other about them.

I told some stories about some of the other people I had met throughout the festival and performed a script with Alison, one of the people who accepted my invitation.

I proposed and gave reasons for us to learn a dance together. The last reason was this:

"And when I was 12 years old, my father took me to the circus, the greatest show on earth. There were clowns and elephants and dancing bears; and a beautiful lady in pink tights flew high above our heads. And as I sat there watching the marvelous spectacle I had the feeling that something was missing. I don't know what, but when it was over, I said to myself, 'Is that all there is to a circus?' Is that all there is, is that all there is? If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing. Let's break out the booze and have a ball. If that's all there is…"

We learned a dance together to Peggy Lee's Is That All There Is?

We did the dance in our exhibition and knocked much of it down.

We made some toasts.

View Images Here

**Quote adapted from BAC vision document and a 1960s Leonard Cohen CBC interview

With thanks to Peter McMaster.


One day in 2010, Nevena Paunovic and I wanted to celebrate both the bicycle as a way of public life in Amsterdam, and the act of collective singing.

Stages of this bicycle choir:

1. People in Amsterdam were invited to sing Life on Mars throughout the day, wherever they were, whenever they cycled. Some invitations were made and attached to bicycles around the city.

2. People gathered and scattered, in a particular area, at a particular time, and sang Life on Mars while biking

3. When the whistle blew, mass bell ringing followed.
Following the bells, people met at the designated meeting point.

4. People formed a temporary, cycling choir...

These were the instructions...

1. Learn as much of David Bowie's Life on Mars as you can. Focus on the Chorus. If you can’t memorize all the words, just learn the tune. Humming is welcome.

2. If you like, print the lyrics provided below (you can bring them with you on Tuesday!)

3. On Tuesday the 25th May, sing Life on Mars, wherever you are, whenever you cycle.

4. At 5:30 be anywhere in the area indicated on the map below while cycling and singing Life on Mars. You can do this on your own or with another person. You can put the song on your MP3 player and sing along with it, or go solo.

5. When you hear the whistle, start ringing your bell and then bike to the spot indicated with the arrow and red dot on the Map. Don’t worry, you will see us! We will be singing: stay on your bike, but stop and join in! From there we will ride and sing together for around 6 minutes before saying goodbye and riding off our separate ways...