lights camera sound actions | time-based contemporary art

Making Lucius’ Garden 3 – Homage to Chris

In Uncategorized on April 20, 2015 at 12:13 pm
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A watering can in progress on Chris’ workbench.

This will be brief because I am procrastinating the completion of the Water Text for the Lucius’ Garden soundscape – but I’d like to pay homage to my collaboration with my old friend and lighting wizard, Chris Clifford. Chris has fabricated the lights for Lucius’ Garden, which go inside the watering cans carried by the four Gardener performers (Maja Bannerman, Alexander Franks, Angela Hines, and Elaina Jones).

Chris has worked on R. Murray Schafer’s outdoor epic operas (Princess of the Stars, 1997; The Enchanted Forest, 2005; The Palace of the Cinnabar Phoenix, 2006) so assured me he knew a thing or two about throwing lights in water.

I first met Chris probably in 1976 when Videocabaret presented the Patty Rehearst Story in the basement of the first A Space on St. Nicholas St. (Toronto). I believe that Chris was the first person ever to build a big pile of video monitors, which back in those days were large, chunky affairs, (although there is Ant Farm’s 1975 Media Burn to consider.) Circa 1982, we served together on the Board of Directors of Trinity Square Video, but it was not until 1990 that Chris worked as Lighting Designer with me. That was for my own epic, Lake. It was the second of two major interdisciplinary works, Moral/Passion and Lake, which consumed me during much of the 1980s. Inspired by Pina Bausch, I was seeking to combine the performance art base of my work with the expressivity of my performing arts roots. Lake was performed in the Bill Bolton Arena in Toronto and was the last work produced by my company, Cultural Desire Projects. It is still not digitized so I can’t show you any images.

Chris helped me with batteries and such things as building a battery-powered lightbox for Le Paysage et nos coeurs (1995), which was the second of the series of performance I made in the 1990s in which the audience walked though nature trails or parks. That work was part of an exchange between Chicoutimi and Grimsby Public Art Gallery. He lit Progress of the Body (1997), a performance in Trinity Bellwoods Park (Toronto) which was part of the first 7A*11d performance art festival.  I was working with what I called light projections, using theatrical gobos with images of the brain, heart and lungs laser-cut in them, and  used them in both installation and performance. You can see one in this installation shot of Nature of the Body, 1996, at Grimsby Public Art Gallery. For Progress of the Body, Chris used these gobos to throw large-scale light projections on the hillsides of the bowl of the park. I do remember we had a setback – my 10 year old daughter Nell and I were setting out bowls of water on the ground and the baseball diamond lights were our only source of lighting. During the second performance, they unexpectedly went out! (None of those works are yet digitized and up on my website.)

Chris Clifford, Falani Clifford-Thomas, Nell Chitty, Genna Clifford-Thomas. Lighting design meetings while camping at Rockpoint Provincial Park with our girls.

Chris Clifford, Falani Clifford-Thomas, Nell Chitty, Genna Clifford-Thomas. Lighting design meetings while camping at Rockpoint Provincial Park with our girls. (2004)

Chris lit Earth’s Flesh (2003) which was part of Shared Habitat Festival of Art and Science. He lit Song For A Blue Moon (2004), which was workshopped at Niagara Artists’ Centre and performed in Montreal at Tangente Danse Actuelle. That was our last time working together and it is wonderful to be doing so again!

These days, Chris is Technical Director at the School of English and Theatre Studies at University of Guelph. Lucky students!

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