Heads up — you haven’t missed it yet: the biennial Mountain Standard Time Performative Arts Festival (M:ST) kicked off last Monday and runs until October 27. Particularly capturing the essence of the festival — by both celebrating the art of performance and a long-standing creative partnership — is Between One And Another, a collaborative exhibition by Sandra Vida and Pauline Cummins.
The show gathers media works selected from the past few decades of the artists’ careers, which, considering the feminist perspective of their art, offers viewers a historical trajectory of the ideas they’ve been exploring.
“It’s not a narrative, but it’s a flow of images that’s maybe like experiencing visual poetry that begins to add up to a certain essence or theme in your mind,” says Vida of the exhibition, which showed in Paris earlier this year. “From there, there’s an additive quality to seeing some of our work from different eras.”
While neither Vida nor Cummins are performing live at the exhibition, you’ll still see them within their art, such as Vida’s walking figure in a piece called “Elegy,” and Cummins spinning in “New Spin,” both accompanied by atmospheric soundtracks.
“Our practice is very performative-based, though it may not always be actual performance,” explains Vida. “It’s almost like we’re performing to the camera, which is really making our presence known to the viewer.”
The earliest work in the collection is “The Autonomous Eye,” a collaboration the two artists created in 1992 with the intent that it “would be seen as emblematic of second-wave feminism, where women were achieving a certain amount of equality but they also wanted to control the means of their representation within the art works.”
The two artists appear naked in the work, and using mirrors, lenses and their own eyes, they explore the idea of capturing particular images and female representation.
From there, Vida and Cummins tackle other types of social issues from a feminist perspective. Cummins, who is Irish, took the troubles her country has experienced and interpreted them through an artistic lens. For example, “Entrenched” focuses on a tense domestic battle between two women who are arguing about the placement of a chair. “You get the idea that any conflict can start with such a minor, ridiculous point where no one will give up any ground, and they will not compromise,” says Vida.
“I think you’re never going to change the minds of people whose minds are totally made up on either end of the spectrum, but I truly believe there are people in the middle zone who might wake up to a way of looking at things that’s different from the way they walked into the exhibition,” she adds.
Performative art can admittedly be an acquired taste. “Understanding it is a language,” says M:ST director Tomas Jonsson. “When you see it at first, if you’re not versed in it, it can be very disconcerting. It’s challenging, but if you get some time you can understand what’s being said.”
At the end of the day, though, it is work with a lot more depth and nuance than a mere soapbox. And while Vida hopes that viewers will “spend a little time within the issues that I want to explore... take a little journey with me, and take away something they haven’t thought of before,” she also wants them to “appreciate the visual and audio beauty of it.”
“There’s something really magical about the experience of walking into a space and being surrounded by moving images and sound,” she says.