In 2016, Vanessa Dion Fletcher wowed the audience with #MenstrualAccessory, a convenient 1oz bottle of fabric dye that you use to cover your period stains with a much prettier pink color. This interactive performance was comedic, playful and incredibly relatable for me as one who experiences unpredictable cycles! The piece offered an alternative option to the feeling of shame when "caught" with visible spotting.
In our continued interest of reflecting back on live performances presented for our Alive at Satellite series, I reconnected with Vanessa to learn about the evolution of #MestrualAccessory and gather a few updates on current projects. So great to re-connect, Vanessa!
Enjoy, Quinn Dukes
Performance Is Alive: You presented #MenstrualAccessory at Satellite in 2016. Did you perform this work again? If so, where did you present it and how did it evolve?
Vanessa Dion Fletcher: I performed #MenstrualAccessory several more times since showing it at the Satellite Art Fair. The most notable performance was at the Society For Menstrual Cycle Research Conference in 2019 Colorado College, Colorado Springs. Each time I perform the work I like to make connections to the audience or place. During this presentation, I was able to reference some of the other conference presentations and themes people had been talking about.
I also presented it at the Queer Arts Festival in Vancouver, that performance was special because there were a lot of queer indigenous people in the audience, who really appreciated my approach and humor. I wrote an article about the work for them and I have attached the article [see below]. The catalogue can be purchased at https://queerartsfestival.com/catalogues-2/.
PIA: Are you currently presenting and/or preparing for future performance projects?
VDF: Currently, I am Jackman Humanities Institute fellow I am working on developing projects around quillwork and hope to develop performance work around that project in 2021. I am working with Performance artist Maria Hupfield as a research assistant, at the Indigenouse Creation Studio, Univerity of Toronto Mississauga. In August, I worked with Out Of Site Chicago and collaborated with Mar Serinyà on a performance "Views of Our World". (See further details about this project below.)
PIA: Where are you currently located?
VDF: I am currently located on the lands of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
PIA: Has the pandemic altered your practice?
VDF: Absolutely, it has altered most parts of my life. I have been living so much of my life in virtual spaces working, socializing, culture, education everything. There have been some quiet moments in the pandemic that allowed me some space to try new things like natural dying and make some fun short videos. These are projects I might not have made or would not have been the same without the limitations that the pandemic has brought.
About Views of our World
This performance results from two months of weekly meetings between Vanessa Dion Fletcher and Mar Serinyà Gou. Vanessa is a Lenape and Potawatomi neurodiverse Artist, who works with porcupine quills. Mar is a Catalan artist who works with her body in relation to natural spaces.
During their conversations, Mar told Vanessa about her home and climbing up the mountain to a pine tree. Under the pine tree on top of the mountain, Mar gets a perspective on her village and herself. She feels calm and at home. Vanessa shared her work and passion for porcupines and quillwork. Quillwork is a form of embroidery that is a popular art form in her Lenape (First Nations/Indigenous) community. She has severe eczema, and so her skin is often a source of pain and fragility.
When looking at the quills, she admires their ability to protect the animal and the porcupine's ability to grow such a powerful defense out of its skin. While sitting under the pine tree, Mar noticed the close resemblance between the pine's pointed leaves and the porcupine quills. She started to look at how spines, pine and porcupine became a protection strategy, the survival of the individual and the specie. In this performance, Vanessa uses a microscope to get a perspective on, quills, a photo of quillwork, a mitten, and her skin. Mar uses the pine tree leaves to make protection mimicking the porcupine to find the tender part of life.
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