Leah Decter


Collaboration with Erin Sutherland
City Park, Kingston ON

photo credit Aric McBay

Re/call was a two part project that consisted of a participatory performance in Kingston’s City Park, and a public intervention into Canada Day celebrations in the city of Kingston. Re/call deploys relational encounter, national symbols and common-place actions to engage the public in re/considering the consequences of colonial amnesia and both the responsibility and potential in activated critical remembering. The trope of tying a string around someone’s finger as a physical mnemonic, which proved to be an oddly intimate act, is a central gesture in the project.

The intervention into Canada Day festivities engaged members of the public one by one, confronting them with truths of historical record and inviting them to consider sites of erasure read into Canadian society in the context of, and in contrast to, their patriotic celebration of Canada as a nation-state. The act of tying the string on a stranger’s finger in this context injected into this potentially confrontational dialogue a proximity that was unsettling, yetdisarming.

The City Park performance, enacted in view of the statue of John A McDonald and on the territory of the Haudeneshone peoples, reiterates the act of tying, and consolidates the use of the upside down Canadian flag. Once again employing the practice of tying a string around a person’s finger to invoke the activation of memory, this work incorporated the audience members into the creation of an embodied, networked distress signal/request for assistance/political protest denoted by the use of upside down flags. The network of threads and flags created through the acts of tying connected the participants in a web that relied on their bodies acting in tension, and maintaining a consciously relational bearing. As the artists continued to tie strings to fingers and flags to strings, the web they had to physically negotiate became increasingly complex. When the audience is released by the cutting of the strings, each leaves with a physical mnemonic; the string that remains tied to their finger.

Through intervention and engagement Re/call considered how personal practices of recall might be activated to create a more truthful picture of histories, contend with the colonial present and mobilize movement towards transformative futures.

︎  ︎