Artspeak: Underground Man (Vancouver, BC)

Underground Man
November 18, 2009 to January 16, 2010
An Artspeak project curated by Renske Janssen

Underground Man is a project that consists of performance, film screenings, conversation, installation, and a publication that takes method acting as a starting point. This way of acting or dealing with form, language, and representation is one of the most discussed methods in theatre and film, but within contemporary art it is applied in a more disguised (or natural) manner. This project, a case study of sorts, questions if method acting is a way to curb the self within a highly constructed and staged society. How do we act and how do we look at what is depicted?

The title refers to Dostoevsky’s Notes from Underground in which the author portrays humans as irrational, uncontrollable, and uncooperative. The novel was considered a forerunner of existentialist thought and conjures up notions of going undercover in order to find information, to move in a space between the collective and the individual, off stage and on stage, between visibility and invisibility, and to be able to stage a context for oneself in order to act upon freely.

In trying to find a new language to discuss the way we live and work, method acting is a metaphor not only for actors. With this in mind, it allows the self to respond differently and flexibly in new situations. But it requires a fine balance between memory and the present-bridging expressions between nature and artificiality, subject, and object-to create radical breaks with the past for the sake of continuity. What becomes visible and what stays invisible? How do we choose?

As method acting requires the use of the self for the sake of external representation, the artists in this project respond to thoughts on form and method, surface and interior, and incorporate performance and film.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 at 8pm (ONSITE at Artspeak, 233 Carrall Street)


Eliza Newman-Saul’s 20-minute performance, Everything is Equally Familiar, creates a unique moment of disembodiment by isolating the performer’s body and voice. The performance installation can be viewed in the gallery until January 16, 2010. The script is available as a small publication.

Thursday, November 19, 2009 at 8pm (OFFSITE at Vancity Theatre, 1181 Seymour Street)


Una Knox, When What Becomes Who, 2009, duration 11:27
Keren Cytter, Four Seasons, 2009, duration 12:00
Tarje Eikanger Gullaksen, Unfinished Symphony, 2009, duration 19:00
Eliza Newman-Saul, Nothing Will Come of Nothing, 2009, duration 9:24
Chto Delat/What is to be done?, Partisan Songspiel, 2009, duration 29:00
Isabelle Cornaro, Premier rêve d’Oskar Fischinger, 2008, duration 1:41 and 1:33
Susan Hiller, The Last Silent Movie, 2007, duration 20:00

Saturday, November 21, 2009 at 2pm (ONSITE at Artspeak, 233 Carrall Street)


Public conversation between Renske Janssen, Eliza Newman-Saul, Judy Radul, and Sharon Kahanoff. The subjects will range from work descriptions and anecdotes to contemplation on the power of representation and the potential of suspense

All programs are free and open to the public.

Renske Janssen is a curator at the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam. Eliza Newman-Saul is an American artist currently based in Dublin.

Artspeak gratefully acknowledges the support of Vancity Theatre, The Canada Council for the Arts, British Columbia Arts Council and Gaming Commission, City of Vancouver, and donors.

233 Carrall Street
Vancouver, BC
V6B 2J2 Canada
Tel. 604.688.0051
Fax 604.685.1912
Tuesday – Saturday, 12-5pm
Admission is free

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Filed under art exhibitions, contemporary art, film and video

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