ClassAction: IMCA 330 - “The confluence of art and life” 

By Russ Cooper

In or out of the classroom, bringing art forms together is what IMCA 330 is all about. Well, that… and having fun.

The studio/seminar class, situated in the Intermedia and Cyber Arts program, is an investigation into an interdisciplinary approach to art practices.

<em>Manufacturing tears</em> by Maria Kefirova. Magnifying glass

Manufacturing tears by Maria Kefirova.

"The thing that ties it together overall is performance art and using the body as a performance material to make art with," says teacher Lorraine Oades.

Now in its third year, this year's class of 17 is a mix of students from theatre, dance and music as well as some computation arts. Studio Arts Professor Leila Sujir has taught the class every year, but is splitting terms this year with Oades.

"Students come from many different disciplines with different ways of learning. This is where they're encouraged to forget about some of the traditions they might have inherited and really play," says Sujir.

"There's an idea of engaging with the public directly," says Oades. "We're trying to encourage exploration between the confluence of art and life."

That convergence coursed right into la Sala Rossa on Blvd. St. Laurent on March 17. Presenting the idiosyncratic work created in class, students presented Cabaret Exquis, a five-hour spectacle of continuous intermedia and performance art of 20 artists encompassing sound art, dance, video and robotics.

<em>Vicious Circles</em> by Claudia Chan-Tak. Magnifying glass

Vicious Circles by Claudia Chan-Tak.

Suffering a bit of a rocky start due to some faulty computers during the first act, Cabaret didn't take long to charm the crowd. All eyes and ears were absorbed with Monica Coquoz and Diego Poblete as they emerged dressed in grandiose garb, launching into Opera Buffa, their voice and theatre exploration, "because anything can become an opera…" according to the show's program.

For Claudia Chan-Tak's interpretation, entitled Vicious Circles, audience members stood and gathered in the centre of the room to watch the dancer solemnly add movement to compliment a poem played over the sound system.

Noteworthy for a number of reasons was the project of Craig Fahner, who is created a percussion system that uses a pneumatics to sense his heartbeat which activates a drum kit to accompany him as he plays piano. His performance, powerful in its projection, was an amazing example of the fusion between technology, music and performance.

"The interesting thing is that all the work is hard to define. That's what makes it so exciting," says contemporary dance student Julia Thomas.

Craig Fahner plays his pneumatic heart sensor-driven drum kit. Magnifying glass

Craig Fahner plays his pneumatic heart sensor-driven drum kit.

Thomas, now in her final year, was part of the two-dancer collaboration, Open Your Heart, Willie, and Love. The show (incorporating dance, video projections, live drawing and sound) is named after the morning mantra of country singer Willie Nelson as he looks himself in the mirror – a custom strangely befitting an intermedia movement.

The idea for Cabaret branched from a November project named Five-minute interventions in which intermedia students had five minutes to react to the EV Building architecture and transform it in an artistic fashion (See Journal, Jan. 29, 2009). Poblete, an employee at La Sala Rossa, proposed an extended version. Classmates and teachers loved the idea and the show was set into motion.

"Everyone in the class has knowledge of different media, but what comes out is in between them all," says Thomas. "It's refreshing because you can really produce something that hasn't been produced yet. There's really no limit in what you can do."

"Because we're in intermedia and cyber arts, we really encourage technology," says Sujir.

Always looking to improve the class, Sujir explains that this year she and Oades scaled back the demanding workload from previous years. Regardless of the amount of course work, Sujir has been consistently impressed with her students throughout the class' history.

"I found students so committed and I've found the students come up with really strong work," she says.


Concordia University