Yellow for Joan is an installation environment that uses a short loop from a longer experimental narrative video, Go Ask Joan as a base for creation into space. . Our collaborative video installations are immersive sculptural spaces that shift from literal representation to abstraction by projecting and making sets for the image sequences. These sets, built specifically around image, are periodically washed in white light that reveals the mechanisms of amplification. We are committed to engaging narrative, form, material and the body through different modalities – in the hopes of finding a vocabulary to speak to environmental crisis, new ideas of change, family and community.
These works are photograms of myself holding, by turns, my daughter, my partner, and my mother. I take each of them into the dark room to expose their heads on the enlarger bed. I cradle my daughter’s head, hold my mother’s, or press my partner’s head onto the paper and expose it to the light with my own. The photograms provide a base for a sculptural or collage intervention. Photos are draped with wigs, lined with horse reins, partially covered with plant materials that obstruct or accentuate parts of the image. Each object has a relation, and each relation is held in place through touch, tension and desire.
I have been making walking prints for years. They used to be framed and hung individually; then they were blankets; now they are becoming objects: encased in plexi, bound by rubber bands, sewn into, written onto, drawn around, cut, then mounted or leaning on metal or concrete supports. The prints are created by fastening photo paper to my shoes, then walking over the course of a day. The resulting image is a cumulative mark of time and place.
When my daughter was born in 2010, the ideal of undivided studio time was replaced by the reality of a constant fragmentation of energy and place. I felt that the identities of mother and artist were opposed; I had to be one or the other, depending on the circumstances. These images are a way to reconcile the identities of mother and artist, to show the continuance of the body between states.
“The second in a planned trilogy of films about desire and domesticity that began with Strangely Ordinary This Devotion (2017), Come Coyote examines issues around queer reproduction, intimacy, and motherhood. Collaborators and partners Dani and Sheilah ReStack capture in fleeting, diaristic images the tender and terrifying feelings they have around ushering new life into the world, conveyed with both humor and a powerful immediacy. “
Text from Projections, NYFF 2019 catalogue
Shameless Light is an ongoing performance that invites femme identified queer women to read love letters they have written, under red neon megaphones. Shameless Light privileges love as a generative, unruly and potentially radical act. It is a venue for queer desire.
The reading environment includes a 9 minute loop of our love letter to Chantal Ackerman; Kitchen Circle for Ackerman. Readers stand on a rug made of felt, hide and paint. After the readings are complete, we clear the stage for a screening of SOTD (Strangely Ordinary This Devotion).
Shameless Light was initiated in 2015 by Dani and Sheilah ReStack in Carizzozo, New Mexico. Since then, letters have been written, and read, by community members at the Wexner Center in Columbus, OH, Visual Studies Workshop in Rochester, NY, Leslie Lohman Project Space in NY, Athens, OH and UIC, Chicago, IL.
If you are interested in reading or submitting a letter please contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
House Becomes You is an important part of the continuing proposal for new forms of family, representation, queer desire, motherhood, and environment, through a re-working of image and how image encounters materials. In all our collaborations, we mine the experiences of the personal as potential to fracture and access the larger experience of visuality, body and inhabitation of space.
The materials have a range of hierarchies of provisionality. The idea of re-making and fabrication of a material and narrative are both important to how the finished work occupies and makes uneasy in the space. All of the images are sourced from videos that we have shot for Strangely Ordinary This Devotion or A Hand In Two Ways; Fisted. The felted video stills are a basis for a new contingency of material and image inhabitation.
“The stills act as a background for material constructions that range from handmade holders for plexiglass to the stitching of colored gels onto the felted image. The works are marked by their conflation of material and content— foam, felt, bags of water, steel and plexiglass, frame the vulnerable physical body that is presented as erotic, sutured, slack and banal. In bringing unlike things together, the exhibition joins the feral with the domestic in a radiant illumination of queer desire, motherhood, and human understanding.” Erin Woodbrey Gaa gallery
A Hand in Two Ways (Fisted) is a looping meditation on night as space of mysterious energetic transmissions. Animals, human bodies, children, ritual and performance are investigated as zones of conflict, desire and a visceral movement that is more felt than seen.
Directed by Dani and Sheilah Restack, 7 minute loop, 2017. Distributed by VTape.
Souer/ Sister made with Dani [Leventhal] Restack out of felted photo blankets, water, plastic bag, lambs ear, clothing, tape, plexiglass, angle iron, chalk, foam insulation and lightbox, dimensions variable, 2017.
Stack for Carrington's Hyena, Sheilah [Wilson] Restack and Dani [Leventhal] Restack, curated by John Neff at Iceberg Projects, Chicago, IL. This site-specific installation uses sound and materials such as paper, fabric, wood and foam to fracture and re-build a projected image of the artists’ family stacked on their kitchen floor.
Stack of the Definitions of Stack
Large usually conical pile (as of hay) left standing in the field.
Send the hyena to us. She can have the view from our window.
Circles of hay, goldenrod, yellow munsell.
I think I became the hyena once, or rather, I think I asked her to become me.
It is always easier to ask violence of another. Our bed sinks, while the leaves turn to face the sun.
You say that if I can’t stand you the doctors will change the meds. Just finish painting the chair.
Cover the yellow with the red. I want words that hold their shape. You pretend like your breath is golden smoke being released from the hyena’s ass.
DLR & SWR in response to Ann Carson’s Stacks and Leonora Carrington’s Debutante
"Video artists Dani Leventhal and Sheilah Wilson have been known to shock viewers with home-movie-style artworks that revel in taboos such as roadkill and blood, but their new collaborative video installation, Stack for Carrington’s Hyena, 2017, takes a quieter look at motherhood and parenting. A short video loop reveals the artists and their prepubescent daughter lying on the kitchen floor together, all seminude, stacked like animals napping after a feast. The slumped bodies merge into a breathing, sculptural mass. The video projection is mapped askew over a site-specific structure comprising materials such as wood, hair, a crate, and other building components, either found in the neighborhood or bought at Home Depot. In essence, the artists hunted and gathered to construct a cave; perhaps they are the hyenas of the artwork’s title. A reading of Anne Carson’s 2008 poem “Stacks” plays throughout, sounding like an obscure recipe for contemporary sculpture and life." Jason Foumberg, Artforum, 2017
Link to video of installation Stack for Carrington's Hyena installed at Iceberg Projects.
Stack, at the Columbus Museum of Art. July-November, 2017. Projection installation with Dani Leventhal/Restack. Materials include wood, paper, plastic, clothing, insulation, screen, charcoal, paint, wig and tape. Audio component.
"The fantastic and mundane intimacies of domestic life collide in the video installations of Dani Leventhal & Sheilah Wilson. Their experimental videos use a fluid narrative structure, mixing fact and fiction, to visualize the close—even radical—connections between domestic space and larger concerns regarding motherhood, queer desire, and the environment. " Tyler Cann, curator Columbus Museum of Art
"Strangely Ordinary This Devotion is a visceral exploration of feral domesticity, queer desire, and fantasy in a world under the threat of climate change. Utilizing and exploding archetypes, the film offers a radical approach to collaboration and the conception of family." Aily Nash, curator for Whitney Biennial 2017
28 minutes, directed by Dani [Leventhal] Restack and Sheilah [Wilson] Restack, 2017
The Brooklyn Rail: Phil Coldiron
October 05, 2017 | Toronto
It’s an intensely open film of private ritual and wonder, the only work in these ten days where I felt I had to jury-rig an entire receptive framework on the fly to even begin to account for the work it was doing. It’s stuck with me like a rock in my mouth.
Cinema Scope: Michael Sicinski
September 28, 2017 | Critic's Rating: 8/10
A domestic mini-epic capacious enough to include witches in the heartland, the painterly use of blood or blood substitutes, Chantal Akerman and Prince, the oral application of smooth stones, gardens and mesas, the draining of a sebaceous cyst, and the enthusiastic eating of pussy. It is very possibly the film of the year.
Sight & Sound: Jordan Cronk
September 27, 2017 | Toronto
It situates the artists’ own bodies, as well as that of their young daughter, into a beautiful and strikingly carnal essay on domesticity and motherhood that unearths playfully primal impulses from both physiological bounds and prescribed notions of female sexuality.
MUBI's Notebook: Kelley Dong
September 12, 2017 | Toronto
Window Water Baby Moving (1958) comes to mind, but Wilson and Leventhal do not gawk at pregnancy or sink under the hand of a father figure, instead separating the mother from genitalia, genitalia from gender, gender from tradition, and tradition from form... Though its many abstractions may extend beyond immediate comprehension, Strangely Ordinary This Devotion eschews the belief that clarity is honesty, that honesty must always be clear, and it elicits far more than one exclamation mark. (!!!)
For more information and screening, contact Video Data Bank
Shameless Light is a reading of love letters by women and looping video installation of Kitchen Circle for Ackerman (2016). Performance first occurred at the historic Lyric Theater in Carrizozo, New Mexico. Since then, Shameless Light has been performed at Athens Film Festival and the Wexner Center for the Arts.
Sheilah Wilson and Dani Leventhal invite all to attend a one night only outdoor swap. Objects crafted by Wilson and Leventhal will be offered for exchange. This is a trade; our objects for your objects. (Swap items are anything that can be carried into the park) Over the course of the evening, you can witness the swap area transform from the original display to something created by the public. Art in the Open, Charlottetown, 2016.
I was commissioned to create work examining the relationship between Back-to-the-Landers and their homes for the show Doing Our Own Thing: Back-to-the-Land in Eastern Canada co-curated by Amish Morrell and Pan Wendt at the Confederation Arts Centre in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. The project involved interviews and documentation of homes in both Prince Edward Island and my own home community of Pictou County, Nova Scotia. I became interested in taking photographs of interior spaces most important to the people living in their homes, while recording memories of the home and whether they identified with the back-to-the-land movement.The challenge was created by what emerged. It was a malleable and imprecise history. I wanted a document that connected myself with the past, a document capable of addressing the back-to-the-land movement as a complex and conflicted conversation between the land, the culture, and the people. Something unexpected occurred, despite my initial attempts, or desires, to create a corrective to the idealized way I saw this history of back-to-the-land being remembered and told.
My first attempt at documentation was through images. I hoped they would reveal the subjective story within the objective framework of photography. From those images language emerged as an equal. This led to a question: how does one have language without image attached? Blank pages became the way to make space for the stories absent of image. A larger idea emerged, blank spaces as a place of re-imagining the story and connections between stories.
The telling of a history is a much more humbling process than I imagined, requiring fiction, images, and blank spaces. I realized that I had to approach the creation of the past, as Patricia Hampl states, as a traveller who “…goes on foot, living the journey, taking on mountains, enduring deserts, marveling at the lush green places. Moving through it all faithfully, not so much as a survivor with a harrowing tale to tell as a pilgrim seeking, wondering.” (Hampl 21)
You must leave room for the story that is yet to come, the one that you have not heard. I now realize every history book should have a few blank pages -- for the history yet to be told.
Artist book Sweetly the Pilgrim Slowly the Way
Pictou Island Porgage was a week long residency organized by Eryn Foster for seven artists on Pictou Island in July 2014.
Pushing a large piece of driftwood with chalk attached to one end, I walked the length of the island. I anticipated multiple lines left on the road after each day of walking. I had little idea how strenuous the act of pushing the stick with chalk the 18 kilometers would be, or how fleeting the line of chalk with traffic on the road. My focus grew to include the places in which I rested between the act of walking. I began to outline those resting places with circles in chalk. That which existed inside the circle was deemed rest -- breaking the line, making a new gesture. A gesture that questioned the authority of linear time by making a circle for rest, into the land.
Eryn Foster organized a week long residency for seven artists on Pictou Island in July 2014. Pictou Island Portage residency was invitation to walk, think and create while traversing the 9.5 kilometer long island on a daily basis.
I approached the act of walking as a process photograph. Each morning I strapped photo paper to my feet and walked on the paper, while pushing a line of chalk down the road to the end of the island. The photo paper was developed at the end of the day and washed in the ocean. Each day has two pieces of photo paper, one for each foot.
Body Transmission Towers completed during residency at Struts & Faucet. Driving into Sackville from Nova Scotia on the first day of the residency, I immediately felt the loss of the Radio Canada International shortwave towers. I had become accustomed to them as an anchoring feature signaling arrival into Sackville. The towers were removed in March 2014, after 67 years of service. I was struck by how their memory was visual yet also felt - a way of orienting the body in relation to space. I thought of the body as its own transmission site, where emotion and memory are projected outwards, always holding us in subjective relation to a space. In this case, I thought of thirteen bodies acting as their own transmission vessels. The body transmitting memory back to the RCI site. I ran ads asking for people to drive (or walk) with me to their most remembered spot for viewing the RCI towers. Quickly, I had many volunteers. Some had worked at RCI Sackville, others had lived around the area for much, or all, of their lives. I enjoyed the drives and conversations with all those who participated.
Many thanks to the fine folks (Amanda, Elliott, Cynthia) at Struts & Faucet and the good people of Sackville.
Available as sets of thirteen postcards at Art Metropole, Toronto.
MOTHERS MARCH is an opportunity to celebrate and acknowledge the multiplicity of ways in which we can navigate motherhood. Good mother, bad mother, angry mother, queer mother, single mother, working mother, stay at home mother, tired mother, mother to plants, generational mother, children of mothers, COME MARCH.