You Live Here Too at Presbyterian Manor

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Performance artist Julia Vering  premièred her “You Live Here Too” project last Friday afternoon at the retirement home where she works. Not only was the room filled with venerable old souls, many in wheelchairs, but the work was also made in collaboration with several of the spirited female residents. These women told Julia stories from their lives that she then wove into strange tales based on her own life as a plastic mannequin/personal shopper. The women also acted in the piece, forming half of an engaging split-screen dialogue.

The performance consisted of an extended conversation between video footage of these ageing beauties (all wearing long orange wigs) and Julia in the flesh. Very odd looking flesh, actually, partly because of the yellow tousled wig, doll’s dress and massive false eyelashes she was wearing, and partly because of the plastic features and animated objects projected onto her face and body.

The conversation floated in a dreamy way around the topics of personal image and identity, and what it means to be human. The material wasn’t easy or comforting, but the audience was clearly captivated, thrilled to see their friends and Julia performing for them. The level of deep relationship that was present among the people in the room had clearly opened up an extraordinary space of trust and curiosity. This was a lovely and moving experience that obliquely and with humor insisted on respectful tenderness as a means to (re)connect across cultural margins.

A link to video of the performance will be posted on the blog soon.

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