Long ago, probably in late 2010 or early 2011, I first encountered the performance artist Stephen G. A. Mueller.
It was a time of personal crises and substantial upheaval occurring in my life. At the time I spent a fair amount of time in the area around Art Central where The New Gallery was then located. The artist they featured during that time was Stephen Mueller.
The New Gallery show was entitled Please Don’t Go. Briefly the show involved a durational performance where Mueller would occupy an illuminated glass box made out of one-way mirrors (reflecting inwards), which he resided in for six hours a day, five days a week for the duration of the exhibition. There he would repeatedly create the phrase “I miss you” in Braille on a long strip of paper, then meticulously cut out the braille dots and with a pair of tweezers place each dot in the Braille sequence into its own small individual, unmarked petri dish. And repeat. There is a review and image of his show at The New Gallery which is available online (see http://www.canadianart.ca/reviews/2011/01/06/stephen_mueller/).
At times there were just the two of us sharing the same physical space of the gallery – he working, and myself as a voyeur, most likely with coffee in hand while taking a break from my own work. This act of watching Mueller work, somehow was a grounding and meditative experience that allowed me to quiet my own mind and focus amidst the angst-filled period of my life at that time.
I never forgot it.
Fast forward three years.
Earlier this month, on September 13, Untitled Art Society opened a show of Mueller’s work entitled Starting Over in their Satellite Gallery.
Like at The New Gallery, this show is of a durational performance. The difference is that here, it is presented as a pair of videos which is a record of the private performance. The performance took place over an uninterrupted period of 55 hours, 16 minutes and 39 seconds of time (Friday, June 17, 2011 at 10:34:34 EDT – Sunday, June 19, 2011 at 17:51:13 EDT). The artist has described the performance during this timeframe, and the contents of the two videos, as this:
- During that period, I manually extracted every beard hair from my face, one hair at a time, using a pair of surgical tweezers. Each hair was then placed into a specimen jar. Immediately following, two photographs were taken remotely: one of the front of my head and one of the back.
This video performance recently, and in the near future, will also be presented at a number of artist-run centres across the country. This Untitled Art Society show is located in their Satellite Gallery space, located at 343 – 11 Avenue SW and will continue until October 19th .
Once again, Mueller just completed a new durational performance.
This time the performance was at Phantom Wing located at the King Edward School which began on Friday, September 27, 2013 at 20:00 MDT and ended on Saturday, September 28, 2013 at 20:00 MDT.
During this performance, entitled A Place for Us Before You Go the artist walked around the exterior of the school, going counter-clockwise, walking continuously with the fingertips of his left hand maintaining physical contact with the building, or objects attached to it (i.e. fences, railings, trees or shrubs) during this 24-hour period. By the time I arrived and took this photo near the north entrance around 16:00 MDT Saturday afternoon, the circuit the artist had taken alongside the building was evidenced by a noticeable pathway. This was created by compressing the grass where he had walked many times in the hours beforehand and in time will disappear.
In this 24-hour performance period, he did not wear any timepiece. By doing this, the artist was talking about how in the name of progress “we no longer recognize time and space, yet our bodies remain instruments for recording them”.
As with the other two works mentioned previously, this work also deals with important issues that are worth talking about and opening a dialogue surrounding them. It is my hope that some evidence of this performance will remain, outside of the physical indentation of the ground caused by his walking on it. I am very intrigued to see what will come from it.