If there was ever a night to party at the Gladstone, this Thursday, March 31 is it! At 9pm, do the robot over to Absolute Magnitude, the Gladstone Hotel’s epically-scaled intergalactic art bash. To help shoot party goers into the stratosphere, we’re proud to present Montreal’s Alexis O’Hara, the inventive video installation collective 2boys.tv (Stephen Lawson and Aaron Pollard), drag queen performances and a bass thumping DJ to keep the party going into the wee hours. And did we mention, it’s FREE!?
To help give you an idea of the epic scope of Absolute Magnitude, we sat down with our special guest Alexis O’Hara. Alexis is an inventive musician and interdisciplinary performer who has been active in Montreal’s cabaret and experimental music scenes since 1997. If her name sounds familiar, that might be because she is the niece of actress/comedienne Catherine O’Hara and singer, composer and artist Mary Margaret O’Hara.
You’re coming to us from Montreal. What are you currently working on?
The life of a self-reliant artist of course involves a lot of administration! And it never feels like you can catch up. Lots of proposals and reports and applications. I’m trying to find more time for my installation practice. But mostly Stephen and I are making music and with Aaron, the three of us are getting ready for a few large-scale performance projects that we’ll be presenting in Winnipeg, Nicaragua and Chile.
You’ve collaborated with 2boys.tv and Judy Virago on past projects, including Tightrope. Will you tell us about this?
Tightrope is a beautiful, sprawling, ever-evolving project. The version we did in Toronto for the Phenomena festival that featured Judy Virago, Jef Barbara and 2Fik, was probably the most polished version of the work. I hope we find the opportunity to present it again, with the same cast. Otherwise, we are working on a version of the same project to be presented in Granada, Nicaragua, this summer. We love Judy and were really excited when she agreed to do a number for us at Absolute Magnitude.
Performance from Tightrope. Photo by Marlene Ramirez-Cancio found here.
How did you all meet? What is your relationship as artists and collaborators?
I can’t quite recall how I met 2boys.tv. It’s like one of those intrinsic, essential relationships that has just existed since the dawn of time! We share a studio in Montreal and our social and artistic lives are pretty enmeshed though of course there are 2boys projects that do not involve me!
You told esse Magazine that art is “always somewhere between the idea and the experience.” Do you see this concept taking shape at Absolute Magnitude?
That quote was in reference to last summer’s Havana Bienale, whose theme was between the idea and the experience. There, we presented a version of Tightrope with our largest-ever cast, including some of Cuba’s most illustrious drag queens. But as a performer and especially as a improvisor, I do like the idea of art existing between an initial concept and the moment it is received by the audience. But that’s kind of abstract. For Absolute Magnitude, we are definitely looking at working towards success in the experiential realm, and at that point, all initial concepts can just be abandoned so that we can just soak in what is actually transpiring!
What does it mean to you to be an interdisciplinary artist?
It means that you constantly feel like you’re crashing the party. It means that one project does not necessarily flow smoothly into the next. It means that funding bodies are constantly tweaking the categories in which you have previously applied until no one, not even the program officer, understands what is going on. It means that you are of your time.
You’ve done cabaret, spoken-word, stand-up comedy, vocals and electronics, installations…the list goes on. Do you touch on all of these elements when you perform?
Installations are their own thing but the live performance certainly includes elements of cabaret, comedy, poetry, vocals and electronics.
Installation by Alexis O’Hara
It seems you’re from an intergalactic family (we’re referencing Mary Margaret O’Hara’s recent 38th Annual Martian Awareness Ball at the Horseshoe Tavern). Are space inspired parties a coincidence or something you actively seek out?
I’ll have to ask Mary where the Martian connection to St. Patty’s Day comes in, though I suspect it’s quite simply related to the colour green! But really, who isn’t interested in outer space / retro-futurism / astrology / astronomy? With 2boys.tv we are preparing to present a work called Tesseract which is devoted to the idea of the birth of the solar system and an exploration of parallel universes. We will present extracts from that work at Absolute Magnitude.
Meet the wonderful Alexis O’Hara’s and go to infinity and beyond this Thursday! For more details on Absolute Magnitude, head over the the Facebook event! See you in Space on the 31st!