In the garden of the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal the choreographer explores the artist’s body in relation to memory, and questions the impact of our past and present actions on future ancestors.
In Them Voices, past and future generations gather and immerse themselves in Lara Kramer’s body, mind and dreams. In Windigo, Phantom Stills & Vibrations (FTA 2018) and in This Time Will Be Different (FTA 2019), the choreographer of mixed Oji-Cree and Mennonite heritage confronted an incessant and eternal present. In keeping with her journey to the heart of her lineage, Kramer anchors herself and becomes an open conduit through time and space, Kramer’s multidisplinary practice embodies primordial voices of past and future.
Set in the garden of the Musée d’art contemporain, this solo performance explores the relationship between the artist’s body and her memory, calling upon notions of exploration performance, social critique and cultural resistance. In this constrained urban space, she excavates a world where stories come together to assess the consequences of our actions on future generations.
Produced by Lara Kramer Danse
Conceived, created, set and performed by Lara Kramer
Sound Creation and Editing Lara Kramer + Simon Riverin
Outside Eyes Faye Mullen + Peter James
Knowledge Keeper Ida Baptiste
Elder Emerson Ninigishki’ing
Documentation Ivanie Aubin-Malo + James Oscar
Lighting Design Hugo Dalphond
Technical Director Simon Riverin
Stage Manager Joannie Vignola
Co-produced by Festival TransAmériques
Creative residencies Centre de Création O Vertigo- CCOV + Place des Arts + Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal
Presented in association with Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal
Written by Elsa Pépin
Translated by Luba Markovskaia
Lara Kramer (Montreal) Lara Kramer Danse
Lara Kramer is a choreographer and multidisciplinary artist of mixed Oji-Cree and Mennonite heritage.
Her work, which focuses on the impact of cultural genocide, grounded in intergenerational relations and knowledge has been presented all across Canada, in Martinique, New Zealand, the UK and Australia. Following Fragments (2009), which explored the terror-filled interior landscapes that were the Indian Residential School System, and Native Girl Syndrome (2013), which questioned the ways in which trauma is internalized by Indigenous women, she created a two-pronged project for the 2018 FTA: in the performance Windigo and the installation Phantom Stills & Vibrations, she examined the scaffolding effects of boarding schools on three generations of her family, who were forcibly sent away to these institutions. These two productions spoke back to attempts at casting sovereign lives into the dark histories that epitomized these institutions.
For the 2019 FTA, in collaboration with Émilie Monnet, she created This Time Will Be Different, an installation-performance denouncing the report issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The piece sought to shed light on this report’s perpetuation of the status quo again being invoked to the detriment of Indigenous Peoples. Based around interviews conducted with several members of the First Nations, the performance brings together different generations and serves as a catalyst for reclaiming a history previously confined to books in a one-way dominant narrative. By extending her research to multigenerational experiences, Kramer broadens her quest with Them Voices, allowing herself to dream of a future and to fuel new rhythms, new modes of mobility. The solo piece summons a multitude of voices in a collective memory, and past, present and future herstories/histories, connecting to elders of all generations.
For Them Voices, in addition to reflecting on your relationship with your family’s past, you also turn your gaze to the future that unfolds before you. How does this materialize in the work?
I believe this unfolding to be happening in many instances throughout the work, it is present in my practice and performance. It is not about something as simple as a past, present, future in any order you might consider them. I have learnt and continue to learn the greater incremental nature of what “in between” means but also “more,” in the sense that there is more and more light being shed on the ways to explore “nuance”. I say nuance because I think there are different states always occurring on the borders of what we consider to be past, present, and future within the performance that mobilize and transform into dialogue together. I think there is a need to explore those states and those nuances. I am in a continued response to many voices and energies, with a regard for new discoveries to unfold.
What is interesting to me now is as you have said—the unfolding. Unfolding contains spaces of time that go beyond just simply gazing at the future. I feel like what is important for me, at least now, is to gaze deeper into any moment even if it is the present. So, in this sense, I am not so much gazing into the future alone but certainly, yes, this interests me very much. I think what is important to underline is that I am gazing deeper into all the moments right now (past, present and future), and this is not divided by time, it’s more cyclical. It is important to regard time as cyclical, and this is embedded in my work Them Voices. There is an intersecting of voices that I discover in the performance and that are all travelling through time.
What would you like to say about your ‘’artistic process’’, is there anything different this time?
I know in my early work there was already this element of future ancestors, connection to elders past and present, and multiple generations. Up until now, my work has mostly been related to exploring intergenerational relations and intergenerational knowledge. I am connected to histories, to the colonial impacts, which I explored with Phantom Stills & Vibrations, a performance installation that created an immersion into the impacts of my family’s experience at the Indian Residential Schools and being the first generation to not attend the Indian Residential schools of Canada. I am carrying the weight of this legacy.
To create and have agency within my legacy, I need to stare and gaze as much and as long as possible into the present moment we are in, where I am from and where I am going. In Them Voices, I am stretching it out, but also being aware of the time and space, and also realizing that I have to actively be carving, and looking, and gazing, and dreaming, and visioning. Moving from my instincts and discovering what is around me is a strong mechanism in this piece. And this is what gives me full agency.
I wish to reach further into my family’s migrations, while remaining grounded with future voices, those of my children, to see what exists beyond my grandchildren’s bodies, and even further away in the distant future.
Can you share about the process of creating ‘’outdoors’,’ the Jardin du MAC, the relationship with the public and environment?
There seems to be so much pressure to be this strong, aware agent, as opposed to being vulnerable and messy. My private life consists more of the latter. Working outdoors, in a way, opens a space of freedom to deal with the more immediate nature of my lived reality, the environment I am in, the history within me, my being as a guest to Tio’tia:ke, the natural and urban landscape, the birds, little bugs, weeds, sky world, wind and energy of people and all the non-humans are all a part of the living landscape that is in dialogue with my spirit. It is comforting because I can be in a space that supports continued creation and practice.
My research and field work for most of my work to date is positioned outdoors, so in a way, I feel like I am being offered a platform to work where I feel more energetically and spiritually connected. My work is always tied to temporality, to a sense of duration that extends to this future and past lineage that never ends, that is infinite. The unpredictability of the natural and urban landscape offers other layers of experience that further spark and colour that infinite journey.
I am interested in the intimacy of memory and how it is transformative. And the realization that we must stare deeper into what we have right now and find nuance. How sharing my memories, connections to dreams as they expand throughout the Jardin du MAC, opens myself to be vulnerable with the audience. The realization of finding a greater sense of strength and struggle for the continuation of our introspective reflection.