His appearance in Antigonish is being described as a “cultural coup.”
Those are the words of Tila Kellman, art historian and St. F.X. Art Gallery guest curator for a performance/projection/installation event by Toronto-based artist Johannes Zits, being held Sept. 7, 7 p.m., at the university gallery.
The event is titled Re-Dressing Landscape.
Zits’ first Antigonish appearance will be a public talk, Aug. 23, at the All of Us Society for Arts Presentation (ASAP) Art Centre at 319 Main St. (basement) at 7 p.m.
Zits will talk about his work which combines live performances – often outdoors, projections, videos, photographs and found material. His form includes making innovative videos of his performances for future exhibitions and samples of that work can be viewed on his website www.johanneszits.com.
In between his Aug. appearance at ASAP and early September presentation at the gallery, Zits, with the help of local artists, will be putting together his Sept. 7 production.
“He’ll be building the entire thing here, this will be a completely Antigonish production,” Kellman said, noting the local artists scheduled to work with Zits include TJ Ediger, Gregor Boyle, jazz musician Lauren Chisholm and Deborah Jenkins.
“They’ll be investigating, recording, drawing, videoing our environment and, particularly, changes in our environment,” she added, listing environmental edges, forest, grasslands, pavements, road sides, mowed fields, non-mowed fields, water and sand as possible sites.
“So you might find them crawling along the sand in Arisaig or through the grass at Chez Deslauriers. They will be taking notes, making drawings, photographs and video about their explorations. Forest and other landscape materials will be brought into the St. F.X. Art Gallery to create a second nature that will feature in Johannes final performance.”
Kellman noted she has known Zits for more than 20 years and has made attempts in the past to bring him to Antigonish.
She talked a little bit about some of the messages behind his work.
“He is very concerned with our social interaction and abuse of the landscape,” she said. “His idea is, ‘how can I reconcile this? How can I get people to rethink their position individually because it’s impossible to do it on a large social level?’
“You have to get each person to understand what they do, through their actions, to interact with the landscape and he uses his body as the most intimate, vulnerable link to the landscape and creates this equality but considering nature as a body,” she said, alluding to the fact Zits often works in the nude.
“Johannes, because he mostly works naked, can approach the landscape with his skin. The landscape has a skin of vegetation and the tress have a skin of bark… we can’t trade skins directly but we have a secondary skin, clothes, this is where the clothes come in,” she said.
As part of the performance, Antigonishers are being asked to bring in unwanted/unusable clothes to the St. F.X. Art Gallery or Culture Alive temporary office in the People’s Place Library, “and become part of a community-based effort to re-dress the landscape,” Kellman said.