Sleeping Beauty. Found space. Junkspace.

Have you ever seen live theatre in an elevator? Have you ever heard slam poetry on a bicycle path next to a bridge? This is what Edmonton’s Found Festival is all about. Bringing performance art to the streets in a scheduled yet unexpected way, activating the otherwise dormant found spaces in our city.i

Not that Sleeping Beauty is performing here… But couldn’t she have been? Couldn’t she have been the next Marina Abramović? If only she were walking (half) the Great Wall of China instead of sleeping on a rain-soaked throwaway sectional sofa in a downtown gravel parking lot?ii If only… she weren’t so homeless?

Sleeping Beauty - 1Sleeping Beauty - 2

Yet there she is, performing all the same. All the world’s a stage and doesn’t she know it. In one of the countless (and aesthetically counterproductive) surface parking lots that call this city home, there she is, adrift in Junkspace:iii

Junkspace is often described as a space of flows, but that is a misnomer; flows depend on disciplined movement, bodies that cohere. Junkspace is a web without a spider; although it is an architecture of the masses, each trajectory is strictly unique. Its anarchy is one of the last tangible ways in which we experience freedom. It is a space of collision, a container of atoms, busy, not dense … There is a special way of moving in Junkspace, at the same time aimless and purposeful. lt is an acquired culture. Junkspace features the tyranny of the oblivious: sometimes an entire Junkspace comes unstuck through the nonconformity of one of its members; a single citizen of an another culture – a refugee, a mother – can destabilize an entire Junkspace, hold it to a rustic’s ransom, leaving an invisible swath of obstruction in his/her wake, a deregulation eventually communicated to its furthest extremities.

Silent though she is, she’s as lost as we all are in the sea of meaningless words. Except she’s too wise to speak, preferring instead to rest so the rest of us can blather more:

Globalization turns language into Junkspace. We are stuck in a speech-doldrums. The ubiquity of English is Pyrrhic: now that we all speak it, nobody remembers its use. The collective bastardization of English is our most impressive achievement; we have broken its back with ignorance, accent, slang, jargon, tourism, outsourcing, and multitasking… we can make it say anything we want, like a speech dummy … Through the retrofitting of language, there are too few plausible words left; our most creative hypotheses will never be formulated, discoveries will remain unmade, concepts unlaunched, philosophies muffled, nuances miscarried … We inhabit sumptuous Potemkin suburbs of weasel terminologies. Aberrant linguistic ecologies sustain virtual subjects in their claim to legitimacy, help them survive… Language is no longer used to explore, define, express, or to confront but to fudge, blur, obfuscate, apologize, and comfort… 

But there’s no comfort for this Sleeping Beauty, this Duchampianiv sculpture, this foundling in a found space… None whatsoever.
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  1. I wouldn’t even know that this underground theatre scene existed were it not for a University friend of mine from the Starcraft Club who also acted in the Found Festival around that time. It seemed a pointlessly edgy yet not unworthy endeavour at the time, as I suppose it still does.
  2. A parking lot unusually scarce for a Thursday afternoon in July, but that’s COVID for you.
  3. Junkspace by Rem Koolhaas, October, Vol. 100, Obsolescence. (Spring, 2002), pp. 175-190. You may recall Rem from his multi-channel inquiry into Lagos.
  4. “Duchampian” in the sense of being socialised, difficult, and anything but decorative:

    Duchamp is against the museum, not against the cathedral ; against the “collection,” not against an art that is founded on life. Once more Apollinaire has hit the mark : Duchamp’s purpose is to reconcile art and life, work and spectator. But the experience of other epochs cannot be repeated and Duchamp knows it. Art that is founded in life is socialized art, not social or socialist art ; and still less is it an activity dedicated to the production of beautiful or purely decorative objects. Art founded in life means a poem by Mallarmé or a novel by Joyce ; it is the most difficult art. An art that obliges the spectator or the reader to become himself an artist and a poet.

    via Excerpts from “The Castle of Purity” by Octavio Paz, 1966.

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