Embodiment and Process: Vida Simon

Vida Simon, "Cantastoria: a drawn opera," performance-installation, 2010. Courtesy of Eman Haram (photographer).

Vida Simon enters her work. The Montreal-based artist creates gentle, introspective drawing installation/performances where we witness her artistic process live and in progress. She literally embodies her own art, working with practices of drawing, writing, object making, movement, and sound. Her often contemplative creations have been shared through performances and residencies across Canada, in the US, Italy, Mexico City, Finland, Estonia, Lithuania, Chile, Slovakia and Switzerland over the past sixteen years. Simon has recently been working with the enactment of projected drawings, wanting to bring the drawing process to life. Her resulting performances, while loosely improvisational, are thoughtfully considered, material and time-based installation works that breathe life, depth, and wonder.

Vida Simon, "Excavation Drawings," performance-installation, 2006. Courtesy of Guy L’Heureux (photographer).

For Simon, the canvas always felt too limiting. While finishing her degree at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, she began building 3D installations extending from her paintings, creating layers, becoming immersed, digging deeper. One of her most meaningful projects was Excavation Drawings (2006), a performance-installation in a hotel in Montreal as part of VIVA! Art Action (a showcase of international inter-disciplinary performance art organized by six artist-run centers in Montreal).  Over a week, a pyjama-ed Simon drew for 4 hours a day before a vagrant audience, the evolution of drawing unfolded as a means of communication, intensely exploring ideas of rootedness and rootlessness, solitude and community, cleanliness and the mess of process. The poetically visual, site-specific work inspired Simon to reconsider her home city through the locale of the hotel room. The immersive process of drawing also best illustrates the completeness Simon has been striving towards in her work. In its direct and simple execution, the drawing installation manifests as an extension of Simon’s self and her psyche.

Vida Simon, "Excavation Drawings," performance-installation, 2006. Courtesy of Guy L’Heureux (photgrapher).

In the Deformes International Performance Bienal at the Museo de arte contemporaneo in Valdivia, Chile, the Montreal-based artist performed Uprooting (2008). Working instinctively in her allocated space, she chanced upon moss growing on the wall and the weeds growing in the cracks of the floor, and used them as points of departure. She murmured espejo, espero (mirror, I wait/hope) to the wall, uprooted the weeds and laid them out. Her actions became interlaced with invocations to her parents and grandparents. In this performance, a delicateness, a deference for her environment infused Simon’s work with a sacred inspired quality. The audience witnessed a process unfold, meditative, considered, and subtle.

Vida Simon, "Uprooting," performance, 2008. Courtesy of Jorge Aceituno (photographer).

Vida Simon, "Uprooting," performance, 2008. Courtesy of Jorge Aceituno (photographer).

Most recently, the Montreal artist has been involved with projects surrounding the idea of malinas. Malina is both the name of Austrian Ingeborg Bachmann’s 1971 theatrical novel confronting ideas of fascism and patriarchy, as well as the name of the confined spaces in which Jews hid in Lithuania during the war. The complex layers of meaning have nurtured Simon’s projects during residencies in Lithuania, leading her to further play with ideas of scale (projections and miniatures), ephemerality and nature. Simon has explored personal history and created magical, eerie, ethereal, whimsical, and folk-tale-like projects along the way that have included drawing installations and the creation of miniature models as well as puppets, both large and small. The human trace becomes otherworldly in Simon’s work. The results are entrancing.

Vida Simon, "Preserves," performance-installation, 2010. Courtesy the artist.

The projects have culminated this year in a performance-installation called Cantastoria: a drawn opera (pictured at the beginning of this post). Taking place in an old stable, the multi-performer work further explored projected drawings (this time through a constructed structure within the space housing an overhead projector) and incorporated live ambient sound. Stories and actions unfolded in the time-weathered space pregnant with the past, histories unraveled, the performers played with light, shadow, action, space, and movement.

Vida Simon, "Malinas," performance-installation, 2007. Courtesy the artist.

The Montreal artist just returned from Switzerland where she participated in the 9th International Performance Art Festival in Giswil. Simon always finds unique spaces to which to respond and create her work (previously performing in storefronts, hotel rooms, theatres, rooftops…) while engaging with plays of scale, materiality and embodiment. She surrenders herself fully to her process, digging in, and allowing work to unfold. Vida Simon is a true artist, living her life just as she produces her art, with wise simplicity that is rich and nuanced.