Meet the Artists – Lauren Marsden

Lauren Marsden is a “recovering performance artist” with roots in Trinidad who now acts as a collaborative director of her projects. She has a Visual Arts BFA from the University of Victoria and an MFA from CCA in Social Practice, and currently teaches at Emily Carr University. While she was a graduate student, performance began to take a more integral role in her work, whether she was making photographs, videos or collaborative works. There was a marked shift in her practice where she transitioned from being a performer to a director. She felt that she couldn’t get her performances to a level that she was satisfied with, and suffered from exhaustion and boredom with her own ideas. The isolation she felt with being the sole practitioner of her work began to wear on her, and as she matured as an artist she “wanted to expand my perspectives and my world…I didn’t want to only be dealing with my obsessions immediately with my body or my voice, so that led me to collaborate with other artists”. Lauren feels this shift allowed her to gain more control over the work, and has led her to bigger ideas and bigger projects.

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This way of working brings up questions around authorship, something that Lauren is very conscious of. In the film world, authorship around certain aspects of a work is very clearly defined, whereas contemporary artists don’t always give credit where credit it due. This is something that Lauren doesn’t agree with, and she “gives as much credit and authorship to my collaborators as I can, which is important to me, but then you still have to maintain control, so it’s a difficult balance”. As a former collaborator of Lauren’s on her project “Birds of Paradise”, I can attest to her ability to allow the performers the freedom to develop the work in a way that holds meaning and significance for us, while also maintaining a vision for the overall work. This is a skill she has honed over years of working this way, and for her new work for Shooting Gallery called Logo-man-see, she is collaborating with dancers Alyssa Amarshi and Sophia Gamboa to explore ways you can shape dance to text.

Logo-man-see is a phonetic spelling that means “The Power of Words”, and she is working with the dancers to develop new moves using a series of cultural appropriation terms that are trending online. The texts are the starting point of the work, and from those texts the dancers respond choreographically, drawing largely from Street Dance, although there are multiple styles of movement embodied in the work, all of them holding a local or cultural meaning. Lauren was initially inspired by the way that Dancehall moves are named, stating that they are “very literal, and there’s something so funny about that, and I wanted to take that approach that Dancehall takes, and bring it to a different context” says Lauren. She relies heavily on the dancers to develop the choreography, while she acts as a facilitator, giving prompts and encouraging the movements that work, all while maintaining control over the final piece and developing the visuals that will be projected behind the dancers as they perform. The piece uses online dance video tutorials as inspiration and structure, with the performers “teaching” the moves to the audience in much the same way that a dancer on Youtube would. The dancers “break down the move physically, but then also talk about why the movement is named the way it’s named, and what the relationship is between the title and the movement is”. The relationship between the heavy terms used as a starting point and the more playful moves that are being developed is at the core of the work; “I wanted to find a way to take those texts and not give them more power, but in a way transform their power or even take their power away by putting them through the body. That can make it funny, it can make it a commentary, it can also make it purely physical, almost to release it from it’s status…which I hope is not an unhealthy thing to do. But that’s one of the risks of this project” says Lauren.

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This tradition of using text to structure movement has been used by artists such as Tino Sehgal as well as Gerard and Kelly. Lauren is very conscious of the fact that many contemporary artists now use dancers in their work, which she often laments because she believes that a gallery is not the correct context for dance in most cases. Lauren feels that “dance needs to be treated respectfully in all cases, and there is so much that just isn’t ideal about museum and gallery venues” when presenting these types of works. In fact, she sometimes feels conflicted about working with dancers, but she has a dance background herself, which lends authenticity to her work. “I want to articulate that I am not just using dancers because it’s so compelling. I work with dancers because it’s the best medium for a particular idea. And then I might have another project that has no dancers at all…it’s not a thing that I will keep doing because I like it so much. It’s not always the ideal platform for an idea” she says.

Lauren allowed the dancers to choose the terms that resonated with them so that their movements would hold more meaning for them in their bodies. The dancers chose cultural appropriation terms, which she admits is a touchy subject because of “the internet…which has provided a platform for every type of voice…I think that it has really proliferated extreme progressive, radical and also conformist views…I think it’s become more complicated. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s just that now when you think of terms of cultural appropriation, everyone has an opinion about it and all those opinions are different”, which leads to a lot of conflict and shaming. With the proliferation of online dance videos, there is now a lot of visibility around this style of dance, but it also raises the question of who gets to make it. Lauren herself is from a mixed family, but her experiences as a white presenting woman are very different from those of the dancers, who are women of colour, and she is very conscious of this fact while exploring the sticky terrain of this piece. Lauren expressed that she was a bit nervous about exploring this topic because “it’s not really a topic that I would have chosen, but I did open the door to this topic. But I was glad that the dancers chose it, because I do think that it is a very current issue, and it isn’t being resolved through online chatter, it’s not going to be resolved through dance, but I feel like there is something meaningful about bringing it back down to earth and taking it offline. It might be funny, it might be shocking, we will see”. The reception of the piece will depend largely on the audience and the context of their own personal experiences, and this question of interpretation is an exciting facet of the work.

Alyssa and Sophia are members of Immigrant Lessons and Her Tribal roots, which are dance groups that are interested in their relationship to politics and place, which is why Lauren thought they would be perfect collaborators for her piece.

Come see Lauren Marsden’s new work Logo-man-see as part of Shooting Gallery Performance Series #7 at Left of Main on March 28, 29 and 30.

-Sydney Southam

Meet the Artists – Lauren Marsden

Meet the Artists – Tracey Vath

Tracey Vath started making art later in life. She was an avid music fan, attending many shows and supporting her friends who made music, but she never really thought she could be an artist herself because she wasn’t an “expert”. When she turned 30, she decided to pick up an instrument for the first time and formed a band with some of her friends, and the idea that she could make art without needing it to be perfect or even “good” was a liberating discovery for her. She realized that she loved performing, and she began to develop characters that she embodied while performing music, sometimes dressing as a robot or having stuffed animals in her band. Throughout this time, however, she remained oblivious to the contemporary art world, and most of her energy went towards her job as a support worker for schools. She began to feel stifled by her work life identity, and made the decision to go back to school. Today, Tracey is in her third year as an Emily Carr Visual Art student.


For her new piece for Shooting Gallery, Tracey is exploring her upbringing in the Pentecostal church, specifically the lack of sex education she was exposed to and the lingering effects this has had on her life. The Pentecostal Church had its heyday in the 80s and 90s, and distinguishes itself as the only faction of Christianity that speaks in tongues, something that Tracey only experienced once. Making work about her Christian past is not new to her, and in fact it was seeping into her art practice unbeknownst to her. “I found I was making work about it without even knowing that I was, and some friends of mine would say, you know you kind of refer to this church side of yourself quite often…so ya…I guess I do” she says. She grew up immersed in southern gospel music within the Pentecostal church, which she says is a very capitalist institution that sells countless DVDs of Evangelical preachers spreading the word of God while gospel choirs sing. She began using these bizarre clips in her performance work, exploring feminine tropes by shaving her legs on stage or stuffing her bra with communion bread, and prescribing new meaning to the hymns she grew up singing by changing their lyrics and injecting humour into them. For her new piece she is examining the repressed sexuality of the church and the methods that were used to shelter children from learning about this basic human function. “If their parents didn’t want them to learn about sex ed in school, then that was totally fine. So I didn’t get to have that same talk that other kids would, I would get pulled out. I didn’t get to learn about evolution either” says Tracey. As she grew older, her confusion and curiosity around sex only grew, and this anxiety is at the heart of her exploration for her new piece.


Her process involves a dialogue with herself, and she will often text herself ideas or phrases that she will then process, edit and brainstorm on later. She also spends hours digitizing bizarre old Christian “Jesus type” instructional videos on how to be a Christian, which in the context her adult life as a non-Christian, holds very different meaning for her. Looking at her old family movies and photos also serves as a jumping off point for her working process, as does Youtube. “There is a Christian artist from back in the day that is still making Youtube videos, and he’s a big Trump supporter…so I’m kind of revisiting things from the past by using Youtube…Wow, I wonder if this person is still around? Oh wow, ya, still totally active…” says Tracey about her internet deep diving.

Tracey uses video in her work, but considers herself to be primarily a performance artist, although she has begun to incorporate conceptual drawing into her practice. “The drawings that I’ve been trying to do lately, and have done in the past, have a performative element to them” says Tracey, referring to a work she made where rode the number 20 bus for ten hours a day 12 days in a row, making repetitive line drawings referencing the physicality of the movement she experienced in this durational work. Physicality and vulnerability factor largely in her work, which she often struggles with because she also likes to use humour. “I like to use humour, and sometimes I think I’m not blurring the line between humour and vulnerability enough…I think it really feels good when there’s a good mix of the two…the sweet spot” she says.

Tracey’s Instagram takeover this past week has also served as a great platform for her to explore characters, or aspects of her own character. A few years ago she had a Youtube channel where she made similar videos exploring quirky and awkward characters. Her channel “was kind of like the Instagram videos, and I was trying to get that feeling again, because I really enjoyed making those videos and I haven’t done anything like that for a while”. She is also influenced by performance artists like Bridget Moser, who also uses humour and props to explore issues of vulnerability, as well as stand up comedy. A few years ago she hosted stand up comedy nights at Toast Collective, experimenting with performing comedic work within that context.

As an adult, Tracey met more non-Christians that questioned or challenged the beliefs she grew up with, which eventually led her to expand her mind and reject the teachings of her youth. However, the context in which she was raised clearly provides her with an abundance of issues to explore in her art practice.

Come to Left of Main March 28, 29 and 30 to see Tracey Vath’s brand new performance work for Shooting Gallery Performance Series.

-Sydney Southam

Meet the Artists – Tracey Vath

Meet the Artists – Luciana Fortes and Ghinwa Yassine

Luciana Fortes and Ghinwa Yassine are Too Much Collective and the piece they are creating for Shooting Gallery Performance Series is their debut work as a collective. Both artists are in their first year of the Masters of Interdisciplinary Arts at SFU, where they immediately connected over their shared experiences with displacement and the desire for connection in their newly adopted home of Vancouver. Their piece “Warm” is an investigation into the act of giving to a place and an audience, using improvisation, playfulness and their respective research into clowning and autobiographical art.

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Photo by Elke Dick

Luciana Fortes is a Brazilian artist from Rio de Janeiro where she trained as a dancer. Her childhood was split between Brazil and Calgary, and she completed her undergraduate degree at Bryn Mawr College outside Philadelphia. Despite her training as a dancer, she is not interested in being married to any one form, stating that idea is what dictates the medium of the piece. Since beginning her Masters at SFU, her interests have turned to theatre, clowning, comedy, fragmentation and displacement. Her work questions how our body can be a map for identity and ones own sense of space.

Ghinwa Yassine is an anti-disciplinary artist from Beirut who also works as a graphic designer, which she says helps her see space and layout as a grid. She has a Masters in Digital Video Design where she focused on Video and Installation Art , but she does not see herself as existing within any one discipline. The thread that carries through her work is narrative and story, and it is mostly autobiographical. Her current work centres on relational autobiography, and how we weave personal stories together; for Ghinwa, relational autobiographical work is a way to create universal healing.

Luciana and Ghinwa’s working relationship flows very naturally and they have a deep trust in one another; this trust enables them to share both positive and negative feedback. “For me, collaboration, it means trust, and that resolves everything. If I trust where the comment is coming from, I don’t mind any comment and I just know how to be with the other person” says Ghinwa. They both acknowledge that they each have different strengths and expertise, and can defer to each other’s specific technical knowledge. Being from Arab and Latin cultures, of which there is a lot of crossover, they were often told they were “too much”, too dark, too loud or too chaotic, which created a sense of displacement for them within their respective cultures. This idea of displacement and the trauma this can create is at the heart of their work, and “Warm” brings together their shared traits of generosity, fun and playfulness to explore how one can make a home as a foreigner in a new place.

Screen Shot 2019-03-08 at 8.24.37 PMLuciana says “we both expressed a lot of struggle with Vancouver, but it’s kind of like a love/hate relationship, or your relationship with your Mother. Motherly warmth embraces and gives you so much opportunity, which is what Vancouver has done for us…sometimes there is harsh criticism, but in the end it is still in your benefit”, and for her this is at the core of the piece. Ghinwa often feels like a foreigner, having lived in many different cities, so she is used to not feeling at home. “I feel like when you leave home, where you spent your teenage years, I feel that you will never find home again. For me that’s ok, this uncertain place that I am getting comfortable living in” she says. The pace of Vancouver is something that the artists have been influenced by; “the rhythm here is very slow and we are so fast, so how do you negotiate that? That’s kind of what warm is too…hot is too much, warm is like…you are warming up to people, you are warming up to the place, it’s a transitional state too” says Luciana. This idea of warmth relates to connection, and their piece strives to create space to make connections by integrating movement, text, video and installation, while allowing for improvisation and audience participation. Their hope is that the audience will walk away feeling like they experienced something pleasant, something warm, a real connection.

Luciana and Ghinwa are currently developing workshops in Autobiographical Art through Text and Movement. They will be presenting their brand new work “Warm” for Shooting Gallery at Left of Main on March 28, 29 and 30.

-Sydney Southam



Meet the Artists – Luciana Fortes and Ghinwa Yassine