Mission Site

Colette Jacques, Hélène Lefebvre, Roy Lumagbas, Mariana Lafrance, Julie Lassonde, Laurent Vaillancourt

October 24 to 30, 2014

residency from October 24th to 30th
evening of performance art Thursday October 30th at 5pm

this city, this moment, this site…
Six performance artists embark upon a mission where their performative experience will doubtless take as many cues from each other as their encounters with downtown Sudbury.

The most recent initiative from the Galerie du Nouvel-Ontario (GNO) in regards to the explosion of performance art in francophone Ontario, Mission Site is a performance artists’ residency project bringing six performance artists to Sudbury.Once gathered, they’ll explore, by means of all things performance, the concrete and conceptual spaces of the nickel city’s downtown.

The participating artists — Colette Jacques (Larder Lake), Hélène Lefebvre (Ottawa), Roy Lumagbas (Gatineau), Laurent Vaillancourt (Hearst), Mariana Lafrance (Manitoulin Island), and Julie Lassonde (Toronto) — each bring their own distinct approach to performance art, an interdisciplinary artistic tradition with an ever-increasing number of popular currents. The artists’ residency at the GNO gives every freedom to the participants who will establish among themselves the particular nature of their coordinated efforts and eventual collaborations.

While the artists will certainly offer a number of surprise performances in the downtown area, some of these will be announced through the GNO’s social media. Follow the GNO on Facebook,Twitter or Instagram.

With Mission Site, art once again escapes the gallery context in order to infiltrate day-to-day life in downtown Sudbury. Having explored the area during the residency, the artists’ “mission” concludes with an evening of performance art at the GNO (174 Elgin St.) on Thursday October 30th at 5 pm.

Colette Jacques (Larder Lake) has been working full-time as a visual artist since 1986. A multidisciplinary artist, her work explores the mediums of performance, painting, sculpture, multimedia and installation. Propelled by the discovery of her algonquin ancestry, her artistic pursuits are intimately related to her heritage. Her work has been been shown far and wide in Ontario, Québec and the United States.

By linking art, culture and society, Hélène Lefebvre (Ottawa) investigates questions of identity and otherness. Since 2001, she has worked with textile sculpture, painting, printmaking, performance and video. She has shown many exhibitions and performance pieces in Canada, Poland, Germany, Mexico, Turkey, Chile, Argentina, and Colombia.

Originaire de Montréal, Julie Lassonde est une artiste de la performance qui s’intéresse à la féminité et à la masculinité en art et en justice sociale. Formée en mime corporel, Julie a présenté des performances solos et improvisations avec divers musiciens et danseurs à Montréal, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria, Berkeley, San Francisco et Édimbourg. Elle a aussi étudié le droit à l’Université McGill. Elle est membre du Barreau du Haut-Canada et du Barreau du Québec.

Laurent L. Vaillancourt (LLV), from Hearst in northeastern Ontario, is a self-taught visual artist who works primarily in sculpture. He is a founding member of Perspectives 8, BRAVO and la Galerie du Nouvel-Ontario. In recognition of his 40 years of work in the cultural world, he was awarded the Prix du Nouvel-Ontario. Recently, LLV has been actively exploring the possibilities in found objects and the practice of performance art.

Originally from the Philippines, Roy Lumagbas has been unleashing his performance work in Canada since 2007. In 2008 he was nominated for the Golden Cherry Award for performance artists of the year in the Ottawa-Gatineau region. He has participated in many contemporary art events such as the Symposium international de Baie-Saint-Paul and the Festival international d’art performatif at l’Écart… lieu d’art actuel in Rouyn-Noranda.

Mariana Lafrance est une artiste interdisciplinaire œuvrant à Sudbury et à l’île Manitoulin. Malgré qu’elle soit connue surtout pour son travail en photographie, traitant de l’espace urbain et des phénomènes sociaux, plus récemment sa pratique plane sur les matériaux naturels et l’authenticité du moment présent. Son travail en performance favorise la recherche d’une véritable connexion entre le corps et la matérialité physique de la nature.

Mission Site: notes on performance artists in residence in Sudbury

by Guylaine Tousignant

I’m just back from a mission in Sudbury and I’m terribly afraid to tell you about it. I don’t want to talk nonsense or to have you believe that through my words, you will share what I experienced. I lived an experience that can never be reproduced, but nonetheless, it can be lasting.

Like childhood.

Like snowbanks as high as the sky.

Note 1, from a recent conversation with my mother: “Here, the snow is over my head. I can’t even see the houses across the street.”

The morning I left Sudbury to return home after the mission, thick powdery snow was falling on the city. It was Halloween day and the first snowstorm of the season.

I walked to the bus terminal wearing clothes and shoes that weren’t appropriate for the weather, like a Northern girl who’s been living down South too long.

I haven’t forgotten where I’m from and I haven’t been away very long, but still, I fell prey to hope. You always hope the weather will be better than what you should logically expect.

Note 2, a quote I found online by googling the word HOPE: “… man is always ready to hope, even when convinced that there is no hope.” [1] »

I was cold all week. I was afraid, too.

  • Afraid I couldn’t successfully complete this mission.
  • Afraid I’d be a poor observer.
  • Afraid I wouldn’t understand anything.
  • Afraid I’d misunderstand everything.
  • Afraid I’d be too afraid.
  • Afraid I’d mislead you.

Note 3, a quote I found online by googling the word FEAR: “People don’t like to think; it’s because they fear being wrong. Thinking is moving from one error to the next. Nothing is totally true.”[2]

On m’avait invité à observer six artistes de la performance en création sur un site précis à un moment précis. Je devais suivre leurs actions et ensuite écrire, témoigner, laisser une trace.

I had been invited to observe six performance artists as they created works on a specific site at a specific time. I was to watch their actions. Then, I was to write, to bear witness, to leave a trace.

Note 4, a quote I found in a book while researching the art of writing about the art of performance: “Performance honors the idea that a limited number of people in a specific time/space frame can have an experience of value which leaves no visible trace afterward. Writing about it necessarily cancels the ‘tracelessness’ inaugurated within this performative promise.”[3] »

So, the trace is awkward. How do you bear witness to artistic actions performed in a present that has become a past for the future?

I have a notebook full of notes that already have lost the meaning they held when they were written.

I’d better not think about it too much. Otherwise, I might begin to write a sentence, then erase it, and repeat the sequence till the end of my days.

I’d better not attempt to aim true. I’m always a bit off the mark anyway.

Maybe it’s because of the snowbanks as high as the sky. They shape your view of the world.

[1] Alberto Moravia, Le mépris, trad. Claude Poncet, Livre de Poche no 5088, p. 78. / Contempt, trans. Angus Davidson, New York Review of Books, 1999, p. 64. (Accessed online.)

[2] Alain, Propos sur l’éducation, P.U.F., 1969, p. 76.(Our translation.)

[3] Peggy Phellan, Unmarked – The Politics of Performance, Routledge, 1993, p. 14.


What is being here?

Note 5, a personal observation: “I am here, now, in constant movement.”

I’m a passenger on a city bus and I’m observing Roy Lumagbas as he marks on a whiteboard the latitude and longitude coordinates of the passengers who agree to take part in his geolocalization project. Each consenting participant must then hold the board while Roy takes a photo.

Note 6, said by the artist: “This is your GPS location now.”

The artist wears a helmet, property of Giggle Corporation, complete with flashing lights and small plastic cups containing hidden cameras that take 360 degree panoramic photos.

Note 7, a personal observation: “Am I here, with consent?”

Note 8, said by the artist: “I like the fact that people don’t challenge you as an artist when you ask them to do something.”


Note 9, a quote found online by googling the word TRAIN: “Should one react against the laziness of railway tracks between the passage of two trains?” [1]

Note 10, an excerpt from Roy Lumagbas’ journal during his residence in Sudbury:

I am making an art piece, a performance turned into an installation art piece.

It is inspired by trains.

By how nothing stops with trains:

By how even when seemingly at rest,
Something is happening to keep them moving,
To keep something happening.
The piece is entitled “En train de ___________”
Loosely translated, “In the process of ___________”

[1] Marcel Duchamp. Quoted in André Breton, Anthology of Black Humor, trans. Mark Polizzotti, City Lights Books, 1997, p. 281. (Accessed online).


What are we searching for?

The artists notice the train. The train passes alongside Elgin Street in Sudbury.

There’s the gallery, the sidewalk, the street, the parking lot, the fence and the train tracks.

Note 11, a question asked by Hélène Lefebvre: “Can someone’s silence be invaded?”

Note 12, a personal observation: “While Hélène asks herself that question, a fire engine passes by on Elgin Street.”

Hélène walks through Memorial Park in Sudbury and scans the planet through the holes of two yellow swim noodles.

A man mows the grass in the park.

The man turns off the mower’s engine, approaches Hélène and asks her if she’s okay. She moves on without replying.

She’s okay, I think.

She’s connected to the ground by her feet. Her eyes are in her noodles. She scans a line that seems to show the way.

Note 13, said by the artist: “My feet are my eyes.”

Note 14, a personal observation: “Hélène scans the corner of Elm and Lisgar in downtown Sudbury with her sensitivity detector. A passerby says: I hope she finds it.”


Note 15, words I’ve added when revising this text: “I still don’t know what I’m searching for or even if I’m searching for something. I don’t know if it’s true. I’m forcing myself not to delete these words. I might be interesting for the reader to have access to the words that could have been deleted.”


What do we want?

In the gallery’s exhibition space, Mariana Lafrance lies upon a large sheet of white paper and makes charcoal drawings by moving her body. She wants to perform anew the performances of other artists in order to gain intimacy with the art. At this point, her inspiration is Heather Hansen.

The body’s movements leave charcoal traces on the paper. Large dark circles are formed by the arc of the arms around the body. The charcoal hisses against the sheet of paper spread on the hardwood floor.

Note 16, a personal observation: “The movements of the body and the charcoal on the paper produce a calming sound. The sound of the cars and the train quickly invade the space when the body movements cease.”

Mariana says that the idea of the city no longer inspires her.

Note 17, said by the artist: “I don’t believe I need an audience to do a performance. I’d like to be in the woods right now.”

In the woods, Mariana crawls over rocks.

Note 18, said by the artist: “It’s not easy.”

Note 19, another comment noted in the woods: “That’s why people don’t crawl.”


What do we have?

Colette Jacques squats beneath low bushes growing between two telephone poles in the parking lot between Elgin Street and the train tracks. She’s right beside a sport utility vehicle, branded RDX, colour chestnut brown. She’s burning sage.

Her loud cries are covered by the sound of railroad machinery on one side and street traffic on the other.

Note 20, said by the artist: “For the past five years, I’ve been living a tragedy. I’ve lost my centre. I’m trying to find my centre again. My performance right now, for me, it’s a healing process. Today, I’m going to try to regrow my roots.”

Railroad workers hear her and come near. They observe her through the metal mesh fence that separates the parking lot from the train tracks, like they would observe a wounded animal in a cage.

She is wounded and she delves into her inner self.

They watch this woman cry out her pain, their pain.

Note 21, a personal observation. “Those men look like they prefer to be here, near her, rather than over there, with the machinery.”


What is being in balance?

Julie Lassonde explores the gallery space with her body. She stretches out on the floor. She feels the floor with her hands, the walls with her feet.

She goes and gets a cedar beam.

She plays with the cedar beam.

The beam is balanced on her shoulder. The beam is supported by the whole body in balance as it strives to maintain the beam’s balance. She sets the beam on the floor and lies on it.

Note 22, said by the artist: “This wood smells good.”

She rests.

Outside, Julie balances her body on a train rail while an ambulance on the Bridge of Nations sounds its siren.

Note 23, a personal observation. “The sun is shining for the first time this week.”

A train rolls by.

Julie stretches out on a wooden guardrail in the Lake Laurentian conservation area.

She rests.

Note 24, said by the artist: “It’s crazy how something simple still requires an adaptation.”


Note 25, an excerpt from a conversation overheard among other conversations:

– The Ave Maria, what does it mean for you?
– There’s religion and aboriginals, abuse, war and destruction.
– There’s religion as a unifying concept for communities.
– There’s… I don’t know. I need to think about it.


Note 26, observing my action at the moment: “I’m sitting in front of my computer. I’m typing words slowly and I’m often backspacing to erase them.”


Note 27, a quote from a book I found while researching the art of writing about the art of performance: “The desire to preserve and represent the performance event is a desire we should resist. For what one otherwise preserves is an illustrated corpse […] that stands in for the thing that one wants to save…”[1] »

[1] Peggy Phelan, Mourning Sex, Performing Public Memories, Routledge, 1997, p. 2-3.


Who can help us?

I helped Laurent Vaillancourt become a woman. I helped a man find a bra that would be sturdy and practical to put on and take off. Laurent’s body was already carrying three men.

I walked in the rain with Laurent to the Salvation Army. The ladies in the shop had fun helping him put together his fourth character. They rummaged in the basement and found him the perfect bra. They gave him free of charge a necklace of plastic pearls.

I made my way back with Thérèse Lagacé. I walked by her side as she tried to define herself. I walked by her side knowing that she would soon disappear. I laughed with her knowing that she would soon die.

Note 28, said by the artist: “My characters are all characters who fail at what they attempt.”


Note 29: “A woman took Hélène in her arms to help her regain her balance. Julie took Colette in her arms to comfort her in her sorrow. Mariana brought the woods back to the city. Roy fulfilled the dreams of Sudbury by burning them in his chimney. And a cedar beam stood in equilibrium in the middle of a room full of people both living and dead.”


Note 30, words I’ve added when revising this text: “I can’t find a conclusion for this text. I can’t find the words that might give a final meaning to all of this. I want to be true to what I’ve seen, but I can only be true in my way here and now, with the tools I have. I feel that it’s not enough. I feel that I’ve deleted too many words that didn’t seem to bear meaning in the moment when they were written. I feel that I’ve missed parts of performances, parts of humanity. I’m still on a mission. I’ll always be on a mission. There is no conclusion.”