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Puppets, Song & Reality Revisited!

It’s funny how the events of this year have shaped and sometimes dictated the projects we create. One project I participated in recently is by Montreal-based singer/songwriter Gabriel Campagne called “Quarantine in Progress” (QIP). In QIP, Gabriel sent out a number of one-minute segments of his music and invited other musicians to harmonize, add, and interpret music from there. Several musicians participated including The Bombadils &  Connie Kaldor so its an honour to be on a project lineup with the likes of those folks.

Here is our first video, which I created with the help of my partner Shaundon:

This song, “I Know I Shouldn’t” is about someone with a crush they really aught to not have. When I heard it I imaged what it would be like to be the object,the overly confident seductress with an unreal ego, a “dangerous woman” (or, to take gender out of this, person). The part I wrote for this character is a classic “I’m great and everyone should like me” kind of a story. When it came to making a video of this, however, I just couldn’t sing the part as myself. I had to become the character. One easy way to quickly change your look & become a character is to perform with a wig. But I didn’t have any wigs. So my friend challenged me to make one out of garbage bags. Herein lies the origin of “Hagatha”.

Hagatha’s brief and short-lived appearance

Hagatha Bagg was my garbage bag wig. I made her by weaving strips of garbage bags on the base of an avocado bag. She was made largely on the couch while I sat beside my roomate and dog-roomate and watched reality TV to distract ourselves from the anxiety and weight of uncertainty, to fill this unfamiliar and inescapable waiting room we had found ourselves in on account of the Pandemic. When I finished making her, I put her on for one quick photoshoot with the begrudging help of my roommate Jack, and she was never seen again.

I didn’t have the chutzpah to do a whole video as Hagatha. But Somewhere along the way I was reminded of the existence of puppets, and they felt like the perfect solution. I got some socks, enlisted the help of my significant other for construction and filming, and we were on our way!

Shaundon & The Puppets conducting a lighting test
The Puppets, backstage

None of this would have happened in a parallel universe where the pandemic didn’t affect us the way it has. No garbage wigs, no sock puppets… no “Quarantine in Progress” project. Who knows, maybe we would have been off being productive members of society or something like that instead. But when it comes to creative people, new and unexpected situations call for new and experimental solutions, and we can sometimes be pushed in ways we would have never predicted.

Another example of this is my studio collective, Enriched Bread Artists, and how they re-invented their annual open studio this fall to make it more covid-safe. They entitled their 2020 event “Reality Revisited”, because we are indeed in a different reality than we were a year ago. The event took place in virtual space, with curbside art drop-offs, live-streams, and an interactive 360 degree studio tour. The Studio tour, spearheaded by Joyce Westrop is an impressive feat and by far my favourite feature of this year’s open studio. You can ‘walk’ around the space, go into artists studios, and discover hidden treasures that you can click on for more information about an artist or their practice. Spoiler alert: My hidden treasure? the “I know I shouldn’t” puppet video!

Here’s a brief explanation about the 360 tour I made, and you can get a sense of the exhibition in the common areas, too.


Check out the tour here!

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