To begin with we have The Sitter. The Sitter, a fucked-up version of a tour guide who takes you into a “foreign land.” Fucked-up because this is not her land. She, The Sitter, doesn’t belong in this place, but has decided, decided with her conscious mind, to hang out in this place, and then, now she has decided, again with her conscious mind, to take you into this place that is not hers, through performance or story telling or whatever you want to call it. But really, she knows shit.
The Sitter sits, in this place, a park, a park named Cabot Square. She sits in this park through a fluke of being born now, and having a HOME near this park, and having lived through certain personal experiences which, in fact, do make this park her place. She just aint gonna claim it. I think you know why. Not a great address.
But lets back-track. Not too far, just far enough to give you a picture.
The Sitter is an “artist” (imagine someone doing the quotation marks with their hands as they say the word artist.) And artists get to make their own worlds, or, that is what this artist attempts to do, construct an imagined reality so she can go there and live in the world “as if” the world was like she imagined it. So, The Sitter created a world where it was o.k. to go and sit in a park. She thought it was about assuming a position (that was before she realized she did not assume the position, bur rather the place assumed her) like a body position. A body in space, not quite active and standing, but not quite passive and lying down. Yup, that is what she was doing she told herself. Fuck.
So The Sitter sat. For four months over the summer of 2012, then three months over the summer of 2013.
Things happened. Feeling were felt.
She took care to not “out” the people whose lives were being lived in public. Rather, The Sitter recorded the weather conditions, the temperature, the date, and chose a headline from the local newspaper to transcribe with ink on paper.
She also wrote one sentence which came from the park each day. After the project was over The Sitter struggled with how, or why even, to move the work beyond this point.
In 2014 she began attending an interdisciplinary playwrights’ unit with Playwrights Workshop Montréal and over the course of the year some of the stories from the park became fleshed out. Still though, she hated taking from this place to “present” it somewhere else. Also she hated The Sitter. Fucking bitch.
What happened was : Cabot Square got gentrified. To the tune of 6.3 million.
Grass? Nah, lets rip it out. Hedges? Nope. People can hide shit in there. Picnic tables? Ha ha...you’re joking right? Oh, and of course the benches gotta change. Where are those “no sleeping” bars? Oh, and the pathway through the park, lets make it concrete and build risers to keep people on the path, and yes, don’t forget the skatestoppers to keep those nasty property damaging skateboarders away. Garbage containers? Better not have those in the park, they attract canners.
Yup. That is how we roll. We (as in the dominant mostly white aspiring to condo life and lattes in biodegradable take-out cups) move in and “improve.” In concert with the two new condo developments we moved in and we moved out the “undesirables.” Cuz we want it ALL. ALL the space needs to be accessible to us, we call it “inclusion” (and that word “inclusion” is so fucked up... people are not inclusive. EVER. We just aint. We might be tolerant... to a point, but inclusive. nah. Roads do not include places for pedestrians (they get the sidewalk), parks with kids do not include benches for pedophiles (they get jail) etc. We are territorial beings. Places are constructed to keep certain people in and certain people out.)
So, The Sitter got pissed. Pissed that once again the people who literally have no place to go, now again were relegated to the back alleyways. As if because of what a person does –or is it how they smell? Or could it be the diseases they carry, bedbugs and all? Or the mess they leave behind? Or the illegal way they self-medicate? –whatever, that somehow certain people living a certain lifestyle do not get to access place. “They” just don’t deserve a park with grass and picnic tables and a place to sleep. And they certainly don’t deserve a place to shit (like why was the vespasienne turned into a cafe and not returned to its original function as a public toilet?) Because you know, these people pose a “problem.” Well, the problem maybe, just might, not be “those” people, the problem might be all of us.
Karen Elaine Spencer
karen elaine spencer is an artist who maintains a studio practice, performs, curates and writes. in a practice oscillating between work in the street, exhibitions in galleries, and disseminations via the web, spencer questions hierarchies and investigates how we, as transient beings, move through the world. rambling, dreaming, loitering, sitting – these actions sustained over time reveal “something” which, through a détournement, shift, ever so slightly, perceptions of the possible. in 2012 she was an artist in residence at the international studio and curatorial program (iscp) in brooklyn, new york and was awarded the powerhouse prize, montréal, québec. her work has been exhibited in canada, europe and the u.s.a.