Oh Yes, Oh No

Entry from Acts of Transfer:

Duration: 9 min 38 sec
Format: ¾” Umatic

Jane Ellison has been a critical participant in Western Front’s multidisciplinary experiments merging art and life. As one of Western Front’s early artists, Ellison is also the sole dancer to have contributed to its activities. Over the years, Ellison has collaborated with many artists, musicians, dancers, and choreographers, and continues to teach out of the studio of EDAM Dance which has been located at Western Front since 1982.[1] Ellison began teaching exercise dance classes at the Front as a means to make a small income, as well as process what she was “learning about and interested in” by way of teaching and researching it through the body.[2] The class eventually developed the multifarious monikers “Boing Boing,” “Boing,” or “The Boing” at the suggestion of fellow peer and dancer Margaret Dragu, illustrating Ellison’s love for playful and organic processes.[3] While some may consider Ellison’s class a performance,[4] hers is undoubtedly a praxis that seeks to create conditions for participation, improvisation, collaboration, and emergence using the body and its many abundant expressions as a form and mode of research.[5] The loosely guided, meditative format of the class incorporates the practice of finding presence and freedom within oneself: one that is open to a continual unfolding and processing.

As demonstrated by her presence in Oh Yes, Oh No (1979), Aboutabout (1979), and MOVEMENTARTS (1979) on the Acts of Transfer timeline, Ellison is a frequent contributor and familiar face in Western Front’s archives. All made in the same year, each work uniquely demonstrates Ellison’s range of skills and interests while maintaining choreography as its foundation.

Oh Yes, Oh No (1979), is a performance collaboration between Jane Ellison and Western Front co-founder Eric Metcalfe (“The Tootaloonies”) that explores themes of consumption and desire through humorous object comparison. Fourteen brown paper bags are lined up in two rows on the stage. As Ellison and Metcalfe move down the rows and investigate the contents, one by one, it is revealed that each bag contains a consumable commodity. These include: a newspaper, reading glasses, cigarettes, a mascara tube, a tie, a bottle of Pepsi, a bottle of Coca-Cola, a bracelet, an oil can, a condom, a soiled women’s serviette, a green apple, and a red apple. Mimicking the style of a TV commercial, Ellison and Metcalfe, with objects in hand, turn towards the camera to evaluate each object with an exaggerated “Oh yes!” or “Oh No!” The connections made between the objects gradually become more gendered and sexualized until they reach the end of the row and the final object is consumed. Oh Yes, Oh No (1979) can be found here.

1 – EDAM is an acronym for Experimental Dance and Music.
2 – Ultraviolet (Interview with Jane Ellison)—Project Rainbow. Produced by Project Rainbow. Featuring by Jane Ellison. 2013. Accessed April 2018. https://front.bc.ca/events/past-is-prologue-project-rainbow-screening-and-talk/.
3 – Ibid.
4 – Ultraviolet (Interview with Hank Bull about Jane Ellison)—Project Rainbow.
5 – Ellison, Jane. “About Jane.” Jane Ellison Classes. Accessed April 2018. http://www.janeellisonclasses.com/about-jane/.

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Original Archive Entry:

The Tootaloonies appear with 7 pairs of paper bags in formal arrangement, and extract from each an object that is Oh Yes or Oh No. A humourous performance that uses objects and language recognizable anywhere in the world.

Part of the Vancouver Living Art Performance Festival.