EVENT: Intertextual Reading Series
Weiyi Chang | March 1, 2016
Monique Mojica’s “Stories from the Body: Blood Memory and Organic Texts” lead by Lindsay Lachance on February 3, 2016 at the Audain Gallery.
“Our bodies house a collection of experiences as clear as tattoos on our skins.”
“The role of the witness is not only to watch and listen, but to tether the improvisers to the physical world.”
In reflecting upon Intertextual’s inaugural reading group, it quickly became evident to me how timely and significant the series is, representing an interjection into broader debates regarding the complex relationship between arts institutions, Indigenous artists, and public discourse. The potency and power of Monique Mojica’s “Stories from the Body: Blood Memory and Organic Texts” further amplified the significance of the project. Held at the Audain Gallery and facilitated by Lindsay Lachance, thirty-odd readers sat gathered under the gallery’s lights, girdled by Dana Claxton’s haunting exhibition, and read aloud Mojica’s words with an unanticipated sensitivity and intensity. For a short period of time, the Audain Gallery became a communal space where Mojica’s stories could be spoken, shared, lived, and internalized.
Sometimes tentatively, sometimes confidently, readers gave voice to Mojica and her stories. Lachance, having initiated the event by reading aloud the introductory paragraphs of Mojica’s text, extended an open invitation to the room. The format of the reading group was loosely structured, with individuals encouraged to speak up and read the text as long as they wished. In this manner, moments of protracted silence disrupted the flow of words and took on a sense of heightened importance, with each break carrying in it an irrepressible wave of anxiety that broke upon the first syllables of the following reader. Some fully embraced the performative aspect, taking the opportunity to circumambulate around the room whilst reading, while others sang aloud melodies that could only be inferred from the marks on the page. In doing so, Mojica’s words carried on in the flesh and blood of participants, becoming a part of their stories and lived experiences.
At the close of the reading, as Mojica’s final words found refuge in articulation and settled into the room (“You’ve witnessed me naming the names of my predecessors. Now their names and our stories are part of your memory, and as long as they are remembered they live on. This is blood memory. This is where my work comes from.”), readers began sharing their reflections and interpretations. For some, Mojica’s text provoked questions, seeking clarification and meaning, desiring to affix the words in a coherent manner, while others were motivated to probe within themselves to find expression for their own ways of being in the world.
Like Mojica, I am mining my own memories in the writing of this text. As an Intertextual organizer, my participation centred on observing and documenting. Going through the photographs taken that night, which unfortunately fail to capture the ambiance of the room, is a means of recapitulating the energy and narratives shared that evening. Through the act of reflection, by putting pen to paper (or, more accurately, hands to keyboard), the stories put into motion by this first reading group will continue to shape and expand as the series progresses.
Intertextual: Art in Dialogue aims to link a series of readings, held within the gallery context, that function less like a syllabus and more as a web in which questions regarding knowledge, power, authority and sovereignty in the construction of artistic practices and objects are raised. Throughout 2016, a reading group session will be held each month until 2016. Each session will be hosted by a different organization. Texts will be distributed at the event and read aloud; discussion is open to all and no prior preparation is required.
Weiyi Chang is a writer/curator from Ottawa, Ontario, and she is currently a graduate student at the University of British Columbia.