Soft Red / Hard White by Jen Mesch

Jen Mesch
The Main Gallery . October 5 – November 25, 2017
Harcourt House Artist Run Centre, 3rd floor, 10215 – 112 St, Edmonton

Live dance and music performances by Jen Mesch & guest artists:
Thursday, October 5 from 7:30-9pm
Saturday, October 14 & 21, November 4 from 11-12:30pm
Friday, November 17 & 24 from 7:00-9pm

Artist Statement

As an independent dance artist working in experimental techniques and approaches to movement for the past thirty years, I actively practice improvisation and commitment to working with live musicians who also work in contemporary and experimental techniques. My work varies widely from themes of solitude, to satire, to large-scale site-specific work, to non-narrative works that explore variable states of energy and effort. The processes I follow depends on if I’m working alone or in collaboration with sound and visual artists, as I value the challenge of working within the processes of others. In particular, I enjoy involving non-dance artists and non-artists in the process of making work, and bringing movement arts into alternative spaces and to bystanders.

Soft Red / Hard White is not an exhibit of my best and most refined work. Rather, in the spirit of this residency, it is a showing of first attempts in new directions. In the past year, as part of this artist residency, I gave myself the challenge of branching into dance for film, as well as visual arts, for the purpose of making graphic scores. Like most composers, I am not a visual artist by training, but I thought creating provocative and instructive symbols and visuals that represent pathways or movement vocabulary would be an interesting challenge.

The early vision in my mind for this exhibition came from driving on back roads in Alberta. Traveling often at night after work, I would sometimes think I saw a solitary woman walking down the road. This image became very repetitive in my mind, and so in my film classes I shot footage with this idea of women endlessly walking. While I did not envision the women arriving anywhere, I did envision that at times they would occasionally, in their detached way, briefly come together before continuing on.

The Scores
The live performances are in response to the scores I have made. Unlike music or plays, there is no codified system of recording dance compositions for future performances. Dance is passed down through physical storytelling and must be explained and demonstrated. Graphic scores in music are curiously considered highly intellectual and ingenious subversions of the standardized way that western music is written and disseminated. There is much debate over whether graphic scores result in a level of improvisation, or if because no performance is exactly the same. Even the most highly structured scores leave room for interpretation. In these pieces, both the dancers and musicians will be interpreting the scores, while also responding to each other and making non-verbal ensemble choices about the various qualities of sound and movement that may or may not be implied by the scores. As such, each performance will be different, some scores may be presented twice within the same performance. Some, not at all.

While researching the history of graphic scores, I had come across some beautiful antique Ukrainian embroidery that a friend gave me. After looking at so many graphics, I saw in the embroidery patterns and lines that reminded me of the scores I had been studying, and I immediately knew that I wanted to learn embroidery for the scores. I chose natural linen as the traditional fabric of embroidery and for its organic appearance. I did not use patterns for the symbols, but I learned traditional stitches. As for the scores in book form, I explored some of Keith A. Smith’s classic volumes on art books, and decided to make some scores as embroidered home furnishings of sorts, and half as books. The scores are titled for wheat varieties. Themes in the scores relate to walking (Soft Red Winter), swimming in a waterless place (Hard White Spring), abstract solos (Hard Red Winter), falling/rising (Soft Red Spring), wheat as ear and wheat as spine (Hard White Winter), simultaneous occurrences in one individual (Soft White Spring), abstract ensemble (Hard Red Spring), delicate/intricate (Soft White Winter)

The Films
These films were shot over the course of the year in conjunction with doing film and video coursework at FAVA. Some of these shots were composed for class assignments separately, but began to form the basis of this entire exhibition. As the scores were developed later in process, the films to do not directly relate to the scores

The Installation
It was important to me to house these objects in some semblance of an abandoned pioneer house, no matter how crude. By extreme good fortune and good will, the Gradauer family donated wood from a grain bin on their farm, and the entire family helped take it down over the course of two days. Master set designer and builder, Matt Vest, collaborated with me to help with the structural design of the house and the video installation. The partial transparency of the building draws in trespassers (the audience) and the rooms represent the separate togetherness and transient nature of women. For the installation ambient sound design I enlisted Scott Smallwood. A long-time collaborator of mine, Smallwood is a composer and a phonographer and I was excited to include him as a contribution to the project. I predominantly wanted to include sounds of footsteps, wildlife, and ice.


Guest Artists:

Nicolás Arnáez (films and performances)
Originally from Godoy Cruz Mendoza Argentina, Nicolás Arnáez is now based in Edmonton Alberta, Canada. His music compositions use as a root the concept of interactivity in music, which applies in electroacoustic pieces with real-time sound processing, the creation of interactive sound installations as well as into acoustic ensembles. This pieces have the characteristic of using the space of reproduction as an expressive music parameter; sounds are carefully spread on the space with specific trajectories and locations, carefully loaded with constructive characteristics, this is technically accomplished in a multichannel speakers distribution by the use of different spatialization tools like intensity panning, two or three dimensional ambisonics and VBAP, this is normally combined by performers’ specific positioning, movement in space indications, among others.  Nicolás’ works and contribution to the cultural scene have been awarded in Argentina and Canada; his pieces have been performed also in Brazil. He is an active and experienced sound technician and sound projectionist on both, the popular and new music scenes. He is now pursuing a Doctorate in Music Composition at the University of Alberta, actively teaching music technology courses at MacEwan University and the University of Alberta. Nicolás is the Production Manager of New Music Edmonton and member of the programming staff at the Yardbird Suite.

Allison Balcetis (films and performances)
Internationally recognized as an ambitious contemporary saxophonist, Allison Balcetis has studied and collaborated with artists from around the world.  Her international performance career includes concerts throughout North America, Europe, Brazil, Thailand, and Taiwan. Recent projects include Curto-Circuito, a yearly workshop for young Brazilian composers, which has seen the creation of over 30 new pieces for saxophone and piano since 2014. Her work as a soloist and chamber musician has produced over 70 world premieres. As a faculty member of the University of Alberta since 2009, Allison trains the next generation of thoughtful, artistic musicians. Outside of the university, Allison helps develop the contemporary arts community as co-curator of SubArctic Improv and Experimental Arts, a monthly interdisciplinary concert series in a totally improvised context.  In 2017 she was awarded the Qualico Artistic Leadership Award from the City of Edmonton.  Allison’s recent chamber activities include performing with pianist Sandra Joy Friesen as the Bent Note duo, the Edmonton Saxophone Quartet, improvisation ensemble Damn Magpies, and work with Edmontonian musicians and dance companies. While earning her Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Alberta, Allison produced her first solo recording, Zeniths and Nadirs. She also holds degrees from Bowling Green State University, and is the first – and only – saxophonist to earn a joint degree from the Université de Bordeaux and the Conservatoire National de Région de Bordeaux.

Sable Chan (performances)
Sable Chan is an avid chorister who was raised within the local Edmonton choir community, singing with the Schola Cantorum Choirs, Cantilon Chamber Choir, University of Alberta Madrigal Singers, and the Belle Canto Women’s Ensemble. She possesses a Bachelor of Science degree and Masters in Speech-Language Pathology, both from the University of Alberta. Currently, Sable is a member of the Edmonton Opera Chorus and Pro Coro Canada. When she is not pondering vowel formants, reading articles on voice therapy, or monitoring her Twitter feed, Sable demonstrates her passion for the art of choral music as the author of The Choir Girl blog where she publishes her choral musings.

Bridget Jessome (performances, films)
is a Canadian choreographer and dancer based in Edmonton, Alberta. Her work has been performed in Edmonton and Montreal in festivals such as Feats Festival, Nextfest, Bouge D’ici, Art Matters, Semaine de la Danse and Good Women’s annual showcase Convergence. Since graduating from Concordia University (Montreal, Quebec) with a BFA in Contemporary Dance she has worked with dance artists such as Peggy Baker, Mile Zero Dance, Jen Mesch Dance Conspiracy, For Body & Light, Ainsley Hillyard, Anastasia Maywood, and Amber Borostik.

Alison Kause (performances and films)
Alison Kause is a founding member of the Good Women Dance Collective. She works with the collective and independently. Alison’s dance experience is based in several years of studio, Cechetti, ballet and modern dance technique to the Good Women Dance Society.  She is a graduate of the Grant MacEwan Dance Program and the School of Contemporary Dance at SFU, as well as the Education program at the University of Alberta.  Alison has worked with Justine Chambers, Melanie Kloetzel, Peggy Baker, Shasha Ivanochko, Melanie Demers, Mile Zero Dance, Heidi Bunting, Brian Webb, Jen Mesch Dance Conspiracy, AM Choreography, Krista Posyniak, Richard Lee and GWD Collective artists. Alison has performed in Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton. Alison teaches dance at the University of Alberta and in Edmonton Public Schools as a supply teacher and an artist in residence. She currently teaches the dance program at Strathcona High School and is inspired by the diverse love of dance the students of Scona Dance Co. have shown her. Alison is thrilled to be embarking on new educational and independent projects as well as endeavors with the Good Women Dance Collective and is continually supported by her family and friends in her multifaceted career.

Alida Kendell (films)
Alida Kendell is a performer, choreographer, teacher, and collective artist of the Good Women Dance Collective. She trained professionally at the School of Contemporary Dancers in Winnipeg, receiving her Bachelor of Arts upon graduation in 2009. Alida’s choreographic works (Counterpart, Pod, Withheld, Love Fail) have been presented at numerous festivals and events across Canada. She has had the pleasure of performing in works by Peggy Baker, Mélanie Demers, @tendance, Heidi Bunting Dance, Jen Mesch Dance Conspiracy, AM Choreography and Pyretic Productions.

Gerry Morita (performances and films)
A graduate of Simon Fraser University’s Dance Program and U of A’s MFA in Theatre Practice, Gerry has danced/lived in Vancouver, Montreal, Tokyo, and Edmonton as a choreographer, performer, and instructor. Since 2001, she has received provincial, national, and municipal support for her work, including the 2004 and 2015 Edmonton Artists’ Trust Fund Awards, Edmonton’s Salute to Excellence, Canada Council and AFA Awards in Dance, the 2006 Mayor’s Award for Innovation in Artistic Direction, and was cited as of AFA’s 25 Most Influential Artists in 2017.

Sonja Myllymaki (performances and films)
Sonja has a B.A. in dance from Simon Fraser University. She has studied butoh with Jay and Barbara Hirabyashi, Koichi and Hiroko Tamano, Gustavo Collini-Sartor, Tedi Tafel,Yumiko Yoshioka, and, especially, Diego Piñon. She teaches butoh at Mile Zero Dance and every so often dances in public. Most of her performance work has been influenced by a strong interest in ritualistic process. She has danced with singer Kathleen Yearwood, and has directed and danced works for a number of salon events and festivals, including “filament” for the Red Thread Salon at Mile Zero, “fall” for Nuit Blanche and most recently performed in a site-specific work as part of Gerry Morita’s RV There Yet series. Her performances and teaching have been informed by studies in the healing arts, including deep tissue work, craniosacral work and herbalism. She is an herbalist who has made a deep study of ceremonial work with plants and continues to find herself so happy to be exploring healing and creativity in the realms in and between bodywork, dance, voice work, and shamanic practice.

Ken Read (performances)
Ken Read, trombonist and composer, studied at the Toronto Royal Conservatory of Music and at the University of Toronto, MacEwan University and taught for the Toronto Board of Education. He has performed with the Kirkland Lake Brass Band, the Royal Regiment of Canada Band, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra, the Red Deer Symphony Orchestra, the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, the Citadel Theatre Orchestra, the Tommy Banks Orchestra, the NOWAge Orchestra, and was a founding member of the Triceratops trio, the Pergolesi Brass quartet, and MULE (an experimental duo with composer and guitarist Dave Wall).  Ken has been active as a soloist, chamber musician, and composer for many years in Edmonton, and has premiered and recorded numerous new works written for him and his ensembles, including works by George Andrix, Gordon Nicholson, Carl Derfler, Roger Deegan, Howard Bashaw and Garth Hobden. Ken maintains a busy music teaching studio and is Program Director for the Edmonton Northern River Karate School Association.

Katrina Smy (performances, films)
Katrina Smy is an independent dance artist based in Edmonton, Alberta. Her training grounds include the Edmonton School of Ballet, Alberta Ballet School, and Grant MacEwan Community College, where she graduated from the Dance Program in 1992. She has performed extensively for Mile Zero Dance (Edmonton), where she also held the position of General Manager from 2008-2014. Across her artistic career, she has enjoyed dancing/studying/collaborating with Gerry Morita (Mile Zero Dance), Tony Olivares (Tony Olivares Dance), Nancy Sandercock, Neah Kalcounis, Bobbie Todd, Brian Webb (Brian Webb Dance Company), Kathy Metzger-Corriveau, Tamara Bliss, Maria Formolo, Andrea Rabinovitch, Tonya Lockyer, Cornelius Fischer-Credo, Kathy Ochoa (KO Dance Projects), and Jeannie Vandekerkhove, to only name a few. Her draw toward improv-based performance, Somatics, site-specific and installation work has been an organic unfolding which she continues to investigate. Katrina is able to specialize in eccentric or unusual roles, bringing an array of layers to her performance.  Katrina holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Religious Studies (Eastern Philosophy) and Drama.

Scott Smallwood (performances, installation sound design, films)
Scott Smallwood is a sound artist, composer and musician who creates works inspired by discovered textures and forms, through a practice of listening, field recording, and sonic improvisation.  He frequently creates works using custom instruments, software, and site specific environments.  He has collaborated with musicians, dancers, video artists, sculptors and others, and regularly performs as one-half of the duo Evidence (with Stephan Moore).  He has written instrumental works for numerous ensembles and musicians, including recent works for Continuum Ensemble (Toronto), the New York Virtuoso Singers, the Nash Ensemble of London, and the Princeton Laptop Orchestra.  Smallwood lives and works in Edmonton, Alberta in Canada, where he serves as associate professor of music composition at the University of Alberta.

Matt Vest (installation engineer, artist)
Matt Vest is a designer working in Edmonton Alberta. He works primarily in the film and television industry, but also contracts his services to installation art, animation and festival production, providing experience and a broad spectrum of creative and production skills. Matt has been involved in filmmaking for over 20 years and has experience in camera and lighting, in addition to his current pursuit as a Production Designer and Set Decorator. He has a strong passion for independent film, has served as a board member at FAVA (Edmonton’s film and video co-op) and has worked on well over 30 independent and professional productions. Matt Vest strives to maintain his reputation as a talented and driven professional and is in constant pursuit of new challenges and creative experience. He is excited to collaborate once again with fellow artist Jen Mesch.

Raena Waddell (performances, films)
Fascinated with the human body communicating through movement, Raena has built a 17-year career as a dancer, choreographer and movement instructor in Edmonton, Alberta.  She has premiered 10 of her own choreorgraphic works in Alberta and received the 2012 Edmonton Artist Trust Fund Award. Under the instruction of Brian Webb and Heidi Bunting, Raena graduated from the Grant MacEwan Dance Program with the Brian Webb Dance Company Award in 2000.  Following graduation Raena began to train for her Pilates Method Certification in both mat and equipment and was pleasantly surprised with the dramatic increase in strength and flexibility Pilates developed in her body. Inspired by numerous choreographers and body work philosophies, Raena teaches contemporary technique in hopes to instill a sense of curiosity in the dancer as to how and what makes their body move.  She is an ongoing instructor for Orchesis at the University of Alberta and Dance Alberta and a founding member of Edmonton’s Contemporary Dance Co-op.  Raena’s most recent choreographic work Here. Now. premiered in the Prairie Dance Circuit presented by the Brian Webb Dance Company in Edmonton, Alberta, November 2014.  Away from the dance studio, Raena has been teaching progressive Pilates for 11 years for the city of Edmonton and various private studios.  Raena believes her keen interest in intelligent exercise has not only strengthened her abilities as a performer, but has also helped her rehabilitate her back after an injury she suffered in 2012, which led her to discover Garuda.  Taking off where Pilates ends, Garuda has excited both the artist and movement practitioner in Raena.  She has received her Garuda Mat, Apparatus, Chair and Barre certification and connects much of her recent artistic creativity to the fluid, full bodied movement in the Garuda system.  Raena is currently working on a new solo project entitled Venture which premiered at Feats Festival July 8, 2017.

Nate Wooley (performances)
Nate Wooley (b. 1974 in Clatskanie, Oregon) has been gathering international acclaim for his idiosyncratic trumpet language.  Time Out New York has called him “an iconoclastic trumpeter”, and Downbeat’s Jazz Musician of the Year, Dave Douglas has said, “Nate Wooley is one of the most interesting and unusual trumpet players living today, and that is without hyperbole.”  In 2011 he was an artist in residence at Issue Project Room in Brooklyn, NY and Cafe Oto in London, England. In 2013 he performed at the Walker Art Center as a featured solo artist. Wooley was a 2016 recipient of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award and a 2017 recipient of funding from the Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation for his work with Seven Storey Mountain. Nate is the curator of the Database of Recorded American Music ( and the editor-in-chief of their online quarterly journal Sound American ( both of which are dedicated to broadening the definition of American music through their online presence and the physical distribution of music through Sound American Records. He also runs Pleasure of the Text which releases music by composers of experimental music at the beginnings of their careers in rough and ready mediums.



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