From the series "Discoplasma" (Andrew Harwood)
The title of this trippy new multimedia show by Winnipeg-based artist Andrew Harwood is Séancé -- as in "rhymes with Beyoncé." Blending the traditional séance with some pop superstar glamour, Harwood has put together a bedazzled mash-up of our city's historical spiritualist movement and the contemporary gay club scene.
Seeing the dance floor as a site of 21st-century queer spirituality, Harwood transforms the Platform Centre into a disco, with black walls, psychedelic lights and a pulsing DJ'ed music mix of "trance and the Beyoncé songbook," as Harwood calls it.
For the show's interactive performance opening, Harwood -- a Toronto transplant currently completing a master's degree at the University of Manitoba's School of Art-- will appear as drag alter-ego "Madame Zsa Zsa, the two-dollar psychic." Surrounded by an ethereally beautiful "lace" curtain made with a hot glue-gun and Dollarama sequins and sparkles, Madame Zsa Zsa will preside over a séance table and offer "glitter blessings."
During the run of the show, Harwood will drop in to do more psychic readings - you can follow his schedule on Platform's blog - while the gallery showcases the "performance remnant," an evocative mix of objects, video, audio and photographs.
You can see Harwood's large-scale digital prints, which channel the so-called "spirit photographs" taken at the home of Winnipeg doctor T.G. Hamilton. (The Hamilton photographs are now archived at the U of M. Check out this fascinating video.
The spiritualists of the early 20th century searched for evidence of ghostly ectoplasm in their photos. Harwood offers what he calls "discoplasma" in black-lit images of faces marked by the strobing, multi-coloured lights of the dance floor.
You can also see Beyoncé herself, who presides over the space in a ghostly - but still fabulous - found-footage video. (Harwood was kind of hoping Beyoncé's baby would be born the day the show opened, but Blue Ivy evidently had other plans.)
**Also this weekend, check out the Margaret Mead Traveling Film Festival at Cinematheque. Named in honour of the pioneering anthropologist, the fest features documentaries that explore the complexity and diversity of human culture. This year's offerings include a look at the impact of climate change on a small Polynesian island that is being swallowed by the sea, and an investigation into how robotics and artificial intelligence are challenging our notions of what it means to be human. There is also local content: a short film by Matthew Singer that exposes the shameful link between substandard housing and tuberculosis on Lac Brochet First Nation.