Inside / Out

Entry from Acts of Transfer:

Duration: 11 min 28 sec
Original Format: ¾” Umatic

This digitized document from the Western Front archive is a selection of video excerpts of various performances and sets during the artist Cathy Quinn’s multifaceted performance production in the Grand Luxe Hall. The composite nature of the footage (entered into the archive only as a series of video excerpts, not as a finished work) is evident in the following synopsis:

The excerpts begin with a close up of a female figure wearing a white balaclava turning her head back and forth, side to side, acting as a projection surface for the faces of two other women whose eyes confront the viewer and are overlaid onto her form. A female voice-over recounts a story set in a small cabin in the mountains whereby a mother, sister, and friend spot a cougar on their property and rush inside the cabin for safety. The cougar, initially chased off, returns to stalk the women, who quickly realize the cabin door will never withstand the animal. The cougar, which is described as having  “human qualities,” enters the cabin. In their attempt to fend it off, the women slit the cougar’s head open. This violence is followed by a break in the continuity of the story as a new character, introduced again by the narrator, observes this scene from their car, saying: “…realized it was a turning point.” Such disruptions and breaks of continuity characterize the tape, a series of interrupted plots and fragments that accumulate to reflect on sexual representation and the mechanism of state surveillance.[1]

In another scene, a desk lamp turns on. Two women sit at a table dressed in white reading from paper scripts. One begins to read about the physiology of fear, describing its effects on the body, and its evidence in handwriting. The reading performance continues until the scene abruptly changes.

As the camera surveys the scope of activity contained in the room, the scene reveals a set of unusual performance conditions. In place of an audience, the room’s chairs surround monitors and other cameras. In the view of one camera, videographer Cornelia Wyngaarden records another performer behind a transparent screen of plexiglas. She is being fed food by a man; food she then projects from her mouth onto the plexiglas, splattering it with food and smearing it around with her hands. A jump cut reveals a new vantage point, this time looking through the plexiglas, giving the illusion of food stuff appearing directly on the camera lens.

Throughout this sequence, an off-screen Hank Bull can be heard singing and playing a bar song on the piano, while overlapping female voices talk about domination, social construction, identity, violence, experiences of being stalked, and the female gaze. The steady build-up of information eventually breaks to a black screen and a single female voice. A pre-recorded flirtation with an unknown lover, her monologue reflects on technology’s mediating distance, evoking memories of words they have shared, speaking through, of, and with the tape. The final moments call to question: Is it a conceptual sex tape? A record of longing? A diary between the woman and the object of her affection? Or does she merely perform this role in a defiance of surveillance?


Live Performers: Sandy Scofield, Joss Hurtig, Annette Hurtig, Susan Milne, Act McP
Taped Performers: Joss Hurtig, Hank Bull, Donna Zwarich, Kate Craig, Elizabeth Fischer, Cathy Quinn
Audio: Iain Macanulty, Elizabeth Fischer
Video: Cornelia Wyngaarden, Kate Craig (documentation)
Slides: Tammy Basaraba, Donna Zwarich
Photography: Craig Condy-Berggold, Eric Metcalfe (documentation)
Lights: Matthew Myers
Conceptual Consultation: Karen Henry, Annette Hurtig
Produced by: Eric Metcalfe
Written and Directed by Cathy Quinn
Thanks to Bruce Fraser, Myrna Mclaughlin, Chrystal Ordge, Western Front, Video Inn

1 - Wallace, Keith. Whispered Art History: Twenty Years at the Western Front. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 1993.

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Original Archive Entry:

Excerpts of Inside/Out by Cathy Quinn. Performance explored sexual representation and state surveillance mechanisms.