Johanna Householder & Judith Price Diptychs: 43° N, 79° W / 48° N, 123° W
This project by Canadian artists Johanna Householder & Judith Price comprises seven intimate and diaristic video works created over Zoom during COVID-19 lockdowns, shot between Pacific and Eastern time zones. They are “an attempt to restore touch and peripheral vision to a world condensed into a 2880 x 1800 [pixel] slab of metals and electrons.” This is a new installation of the project first shown in 2022 at the Dunlop Art Gallery.
As a communications platform, Zoom exposes a persistent paradox. It claims to make us more connected when, in reality, it often intensifies a sense of isolation. Performance artists Householder and Price bring the medium’s contradictions into focus by facing this paradox head on, using Zoom to record their investigations. Shot over several months during the lockdowns of 2020–21, DIPTYCHS: 43° N, 79° W / 48° N, 123° W (the latitude and longitude of Toronto, Ontario, and Victoria, British Columbia, respectively) work to explore the possibilities of finding tangibility and subjectivity in a space that is, first and foremost, virtual. The installation at John B. Aird Gallery is a new interpretation of the work, which was first shown at the Dunlop Art Gallery, Video Lounge in 2022.
According to the artists, who both come from conceptual, feminist, dance, and performance art practices, “The crude imprecision of the technologies through which we now communicate flattens geographies and obliterates time zones. All backgrounds appear virtual, as mises-en-scène.” Allegory is generally understood as a literary device, often employed to reveal a hidden socio-political meaning. Householder and Price employ the device as a method to playfully save face-to-face communication from oblivion, collaborating to improvise a new relationality. Halfway through the project, they expanded their collaboration to include the additional dimension of soundtracks created by multiple accomplished sonic artists.
Because the project permits its makers to stop time and focus on something so easily missed in day-to-day life, the work almost becomes a magic trick. DIPTYCHS aims to capture the fallout from over two years of social isolation and, in doing so, opens up space to unpack the grief, memory, and loss that has resulted from our separation. For instance, throughout the video titled Episodes 6, 7, 9, 14, 15: smoke & mirrors, viewers witness the artists scrutinizing themselves and their surroundings via a screen, a familiar point of action throughout the confinement of the pandemic. We see the spaces that the artists inhabit and what they have in common, oddly offering an unexpected threshold-crossing. seth cardinal dodginghorse’s haunting soundscape probes this potentiality, penetrating a rather ordinary, domestic stage with audio urgency, anxiety, and confusion.
Episodes 3 & 8: marxist crows takes a completely different tack. For this work, a soliloquy is performed by Jeanne Randolph while Householder and Price bob and caw, donning sinister crow masks, their “song” interrogating Zoom as a platform that upholds structural power while illuminating the collective alternative of the flock. Simple, brilliant, and effective, the work embodies another threshold crossed.
Episode 5: 43.6532° N, 79.3832° W / 48.4284° N, 123.3656° W is infused with an atmospheric soundscape composed by Anne Bourne. In this piece, the artists explore their personal architecture(s), drawing out the relationship between their mirrors and screens, moving their personal computers about their abodes to gently record substantial feminist questions about subjecthood and objecthood, limits and possibilities, doubling, infinity, and—fittingly for a pandemic—death.
Episode 11: kitchen party is enhanced by a frantic and hilarious soundtrack composed by Homo Monstrous in which we see via the magic of Zoom, the artists inquire into each other’s fridges and pantries, tuning into enforced domesticity and exchanging recipes across time and space. Somewhat reminiscent of Martha Rosler’s seminal Semiotics of the Kitchen, it is an inside joke.
In Episode 20: object lesson, the artists relinquish their screen time to surrounding objects at hand, in attempts to locate and strengthen their connections to them. The interactions are absurd and slightly silly, but ultimately through these particular interactions between quarantined artists and their mundane objects, the work points to the necessary relationship between loneliness and play. Rita McKeough’s poignant soundscape underscores the tenderness coursing through their entrapment.
In the final Episode 2021.2, accompanied by a meticulously orchestrated soundtrack by Jeff Morton, the artists attempt to leave the confines of their homes, stepping outside the thresholds of their residences to explore the limits of their wireless internet connections. Throughout this experiment, Zoom takes over the editing process, algorithmically prioritizing who and what should be shown, and when.
Throughout this series, Householder and Price demonstrate that the meanings implicit in cultural production shift in response to the technologies used. Their series initiates a conversation about a visualization unique to our current moment, criss-crossing over time and geography, overtly and covertly meditating on the passage of time within an interior space. In doing so, the artists demonstrate that we cannot take our social nature for granted, using performance art as a mechanism for communicating their allegorical sleight of hand.
Curated by Carla Garnet
Presented by John B. Aird Gallery with support from the Dunlop Art Gallery, Regina, and in partnership with CONTACT
Johanna Householder works at the intersection of popular and unpopular culture, making performance art, audio, video, film and choreography. Her interest in how ideas move through bodies has led her often collaborative practice. She has performed across Canada and at international venues for 40 years. One of the founders of the 7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art, she co-edited two books with Tanya Mars: Caught in the Act: an anthology of performance art by Canadian women (2004), and More Caught in the Act (2016). Her current work concerns the vexations of the anthropocene. She has taken refuge in T:Karonto on Treaty 13 territory.
Judith Price combines a 30+ year trans-disciplinary art practice with a background in modern dance. Her body of work includes performances, video, video installation, site-specific installations and short films. Her performances include site-specific street actions, interventions, and collaborative and durational works, and her solo performances in galleries and festival events incorporate still images, video projections, and sculpture, merging performance and video installation. She is a founding member of the Open Action performance collective. Price lives in Victoria, BC, and is retired from teaching post-secondary courses in time-based art. Judith is an uninvited guest on the Lekwungen/Esquimalt, Songhees and WSÁNEĆ territory.