Andrew Forster

October 7 to November 6, 2010

In conjunction with 5th biennial Mountain Standard Time Performative Arts Festival (M:ST), TNG is pleased to present the performance-based video installation Duet, a dramatic reiteration of the disarming of a would-be teenage suicide bomber by Israeli soldiers near Nablus in 2004.

On March 24, 2004, Hussam Abdo, just 16 years old, made international headlines when he entered a checkpoint in the West Bank with 8 kilos of explosive strapped to his body. Suspicious Israeli soldiers directed their weapons at the boy, and startled, he raised his arms without detonating the suicide bomb he was wearing. A bomb disposal robot was sent out carrying a pair of scissors, so Abdo could cut himself out of the explosive vest. When he was later interviewed by the BBC and asked about the reason for his attempted suicide attack, Abdo replied "Because of the people." When this was repeated back to him in the form of a question, he simply responded, "They don't love me.”

In Duet, Andrew Forster’s 2008 "performative echo” of this widely televised news event, viewers encounter a video projection of Abdo’s gestures being mimicked by an adult male performer – dressed in a suit and tie. Here the series of performed actions appear to be random and disconnected, devoid of either context or obvious intention; the looping video makes his disarming/undressing process seem to be a Sisyphean program of repetitive, unproductive labour. Eventually a second actor, a woman, enters the frame and begins to assist (or subdue?) him, also offering calming gestures occasionally to allay the man’s obvious discomfort. This second performer seems to embody all that intervenes in the picture plane; the soldiers, the viewer and ultimately the relentlessly neutral eye of the video recorder.

As demonstrated in several previous pieces, Forster often seeks to expose the innate communicative power of repetitive gesture. Duet dramatically liberates these actions from their original historical moment and geographical situation. In doing so Forster isolates and abstracts this series of movements, allowing the actors pas de deux(literally “step of two” in French) to begin to speak for itself.

The endlessly unfolding narrative presented in Duet is complex and perhaps even opaque - but its structure suggests that cycles of violence tend to perpetuate, whether the human interaction occurs at the micro level of individuals or entire religious ideologies. Through this highly stylized recreation of a singular, emotionally complex occurrence, the artist’s apparent ambivalence to the original source material mirrors the viewer’s own difficulty in parsing the actions being portrayed in the video. It may even point further afield to a collective inability to comprehend how hatred becomes institutionalized to the point of terrorism.

- Tim Westbury


Andrew Forster lives and works in Montréal. His work crosses over between installation, performance, dance, new-media and projects for public space. He studied visual art at York University, Toronto, NSCAD, Halifax, and the Jan Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht, the Netherlands. Early work consisting predominantly of forgeries and deliberate biographical falsifications was encapsulated in an exhibition entitled Museum Stories at the Power Plant, Toronto. Recent work includes: a production of Samuel Beckett's That Time (with Michael Fernandes); the winning design in a competition for a new entrance to Place des Arts, Montréal (with architects Atelier Big City); a performance for 75 people entitled En masse, (with choreographer Suzanne Miller); and Cinéma, an outdoor multi-media performance for an audience seated indoors at the Société des arts technologiques, Montréal. His critical writing about performance, photography and visual art has appeared in several publications and catalogues. In 2003 Forster established the production company Push [Montréal] as an umbrella for collaborative and cross-disciplinary work. Since 2005 he has taught in the Department of Design and Computation Arts at Concordia University, Montréal.       www.reluctant.ca

Tim Westbury holds a Honors degree in Cultural Studies from Trent University and graduated from ACAD in 1989. He worked in a variety of capacities in both Media and Visual Arts at the Banff Centre for the Arts, including Assistant Curator of the Walter Phillips Gallery in 1995. He has been Programming Director at The New Gallery in Calgary since 2008.