A Hand in Two Ways (Fisted)

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

Soeur/ Sister

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

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

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 (SOTD)

"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

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    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.

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    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.

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    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.

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    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. (!!!)

More Links

Cinema Scope: Michael Sicinski interviews Strangely Ordinary This Devotion directors Dani Leventhal and Sheilah Wilson
September 28, 2017

For more information and screening, contact Video Data Bank

Shameless Light

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.

Love Letter

Projected image, sound and drawing collaboration with Dani Leventhal, 2016.

Night Swap: Everything Must Go

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.

Sweetly the Pilgrim Slowly the Way

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

Walk: Pause

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.

Photographs from My Feet Walking

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 Tower

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

 Studio at Struts and Faucet, Sackville, New Brunswick. Banners in preparation for Mothers March.

Studio at Struts and Faucet, Sackville, New Brunswick. Banners in preparation for Mothers March.

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.

Statement on May 10 of Conflicted Ambivalent Glory of Motherhood

Build Your Altar to this Moment

 Installation in progress at Enjoy Public Art Gallery, 2013. View of windows which were used for exposure as photo studio in late 19th to mid 20th century.

Installation in progress at Enjoy Public Art Gallery, 2013. View of windows which were used for exposure as photo studio in late 19th to mid 20th century.

Build Your Altar to this Moment looked at the previous history of the Enjoy gallery space -- as photographic studio in the late 19th to mid 20th century. In the early 2000’s, glass plate negatives were discovered in the ceiling of the building during renovations. These negatives, now in the Te Papa collection, were images of New Zealand families, many of soldiers departing for WWI. These images opened a portal through time. I became curious about the backdrops, which were drawn by hand and referenced European ideals of architecture. I also became aware of the room itself, as a vessel for transporting the subject to another time/place, through the photograph. I equated this with the experience of a gallery, which promises transcendent experience through viewing of art. The room remained constant through all inhabitations. Light, essential to the photographic process, also remained constant over time. I used the light as unit of measure, letting it transcribe itself through the windows onto cyanotype coated paper one early morning in May. The finished work became a hybrid of the re-printed backdrops and light. Human presence was alluded to by the wrinkles and lines visible in the backdrops, with erased figures -- as well as the presence of the viewer in front of the re-created panels. Olivia Collinson, who wrote the essay for the show states, “Occupying the very space and light used to create the portraits all those years ago, these embodied souvenirs offer a unique visual portal to the past.” Also present in this show was a video of my hand rubbing the light on the wall. Posters stating ‘Build Your Altar’ were free for the taking. The show provided an opportunity to consider the potential for pulling past into present while allowing the performative gesture, in this case light, to act as an axis through time.

This work was created specific to the location of Enjoy and with the encouragement of curator Claudia Arozqueta. Thank you to the Canada Council for the Arts and Denison University Research Funding for assistance with travel.  Thank you to Willough MacFarlane and Massey University for help with cyanotype images.

Link to essay by Olivia Collinson,
"In the Presence of Presence: The Embodied Souvenir in Sheilah Wilson's Build Your Altar to this Moment."

THIS COULD BE AN ACT OF COURAGE

After a teach in on Radical Ephemeral presented on Martin Luther King day 2013 at Denison University, an airplane circled the school for fifteen minutes with a banner reading THIS COULD BE AN ACT OF COURAGE.

Gallery of images from event provided by students and faculty who attended. Sponsored in part by Spectrum Series campus-wide theme, "Creativity & Courage".

a line drawn continuously and without looking while telling of an out of body experience

‘a line drawn continuously and without looking while telling of an out of body experience’ solicits people who have had an out of body experience, asking them to draw while they tell their story. Participants were not allowed to look at the line while drawing, just perform the line while telling the story. This line was then retraced in the darkroom onto mylar, and printed as document of an ineffable experience. The resulting fiber prints are inverses of the original mark, a translation that allows the story to be seen as solitary white line; a contingent cosmos.

Melting Snow by Hand and other minor miracles

The event Melting Snow by Hand and other minor miracles was held in the Queen Elizabeth II Park in Masterton, New Zealand, 2012.

The melting of snow occurred in the presence of a real rabbit named Danger, as well as audience members. After the snow had changed to water I set up thedream machine and we had a picnic in the rotunda.

The Invisible Inside the Visible

  The Invisible Inside the Visible , 2012.

The Invisible Inside the Visible, 2012.

The Invisible Inside the Visible began as an information gathering project in a rural Nova Scotian community.  Its purpose was to locate physical evidence of a century old landmark, a racetrack.  While collecting interviews and maps drawn by residents, it became clear that the memory of the racetrack location was both variable and imprecise. The physical location defied specificity in either drawn or oral recounting.

This project investigates the mutable nature of memory, as evidenced in the journey to find the track. I was curious about the nature of lived and collective memory versus the physical evidence of a historical site. Hierarchies of perception and location were turned upside down by heterogeneous memory of collective experience. The oral memory was fluid in location. This destabilized the existence of the actual mark; the imagined locations unmoored the mark from its physical existence.

The performance onto the track was a mirage made tangible. The documentation was put into newspaper form and distributed in the community, creating another utterance of location to add to the stories collected.

The primacy of authoritative voice is intentionally subverted by the personal and the lived, in both my own writing and the collected memories and maps from the area. The potential for location as a mental state is proposed through a performative gesture into the land. The ephemeral performance is a metaphor for the way in which a gesture or word can leave a mark that can be both affirming and generative in the creation of place. I am interested in exploring the experience of place as felt through the body and translated through language and geography. The multiplicity of versions becomes a perplexing and destabilizing way of considering the possibility of anchoring place through words.

The goal of this collecting was to create a temporary drawing of something that exists-- and does not exist. Using hydrated lime, I traced the outline onto the landscape. The act of putting the powder down was, itself, an act of appearance and disappearance. The wind carried the powder, creating forms that mimicked clouds in the sky, before dispersing.  Some fell into the grass, creating a drawing for the airplane to photograph. Since then it has rained. The mark has disappeared. The question of where the oval exists can be asked once again.   It is situated in the midst of a large green field.  I have seen it. 

Link to Audio Directions to racetrack

Link to pdf of newspaper document The Invisible Inside the Visible

Link to interview with curator, Corey Lindsay, at Ross Creek Center for the Arts about project. Ross Creek exhibited project in September-December 2012.

Thank you to those who gave directions and shared stories:  
Jim Baillie
Janice Gill
Mildred Heighton
Donnie Langille
Willis Langille
Margaret MacLean
Peter McDonald
Susan Sellers
Linda Thompson Reid
Beulah Wright
And especially the community pasture supervisors:  Ross MacKay and Raymond Mitchell

Canada Council for the Arts.
   
Rita Wilson for all of her help, Cydney Haynes for the use of her camera and Marcus Boroughs.

A huge thank you to Meh’s for so graciously providing a venue for the project. It was important that the work be available to the community, and the publication and audio will be installed at Lee Tik’s gas station and Quikmart during the W(here) festival.