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Rebirth in (slow) motion

Choreographer Marie Lambin-Gagnon returns to the AGO on March 4 for a performance that explores life, death and rebirth.

Slow Death

Photo by Marie Lambin-Gagnon

Artist, choreographer and dancer Marie Lambin-Gagnon returns to the AGO on March 4 and 6 for the world debut of her new performance installation. Focusing attention on the rollercoaster of emotions that accompanies the passage of time, her new work Slow Death features Toronto dancers Emily Law, David Norsworthy and Kathia Wittenborn, performing a series of deliberate, slow actions against the backdrop of 16th and 17th century art in our European galleries. The performances are accompanied by a score composed by Asa Sexton-Greenberg and Devon Henderson.

In anticipation of these two free performances, we connected with Lambin-Gagnon (slowly, of course) to find out more about her work.

AGO: Can you explain the title of your work, Slow Death?

Lambin-Gagnon: "Slow" is simply for the slow pace of the dancers throughout the work. "Death" is to explore the idea of grief and transformation. I see my work as a moving tableau, wherein each second is a momentary image that dies and is reborn in its own unique manner. There is always something left from the previous image, but it will never be exactly the same. Every moment we are experiencing in life will never happen the same way twice. There is a lot of grief in thinking that a beautiful moment will never happen again. 

AGO: When we last saw you, you were collaborating with then AGO Artist in Residence Sara Cwynar on a project in these same galleries. Did anything from that project inform this one? 

Lambin-Gagnon: I choreographed Sara Cwynar’s film Red Film. It is a very different process to choreograph for something that you see only a few seconds of at a time than something like Slow Death that lasts 40 minutes. I would say that both projects play with a range of movements from small gestures to a large amplitude of movement. There is also a relationship with objects in both works, lifting and moving objects in the space, juxtaposing and animating them. 

AGO: Slow Art Day is an increasingly popular event at museums worldwide. Why do you think we need to be reminded to go slow?

Lambin-Gagnon: I think by looking at art or anything slowly, it allows the eyes to perceive things that would otherwise go unnoticed. It is very much a cinematic experience to look at anything slow. When you watch a film, there may be a close-up shot of a hand, the blink of an eye, or a dress moving in the wind. These simple and small things bring poetry to a work, but only when the audience can recognize the detail. When you truly take the time to look at a work of art, you give yourself a chance to fully experience something in all of its depth and poetry. 

AGO:  What do you hope visitors will take away from the performance? 

Lambin-Gagnon: I hope that by focusing on the relationship of humans with materials and objects, we come to realize that we are part of something much bigger than ourselves. Humans are creators and destructors, but there is also so much we have no control over which is very exciting and I hope it reflects in my work. I hope that Slow Death will be a humbling and meditative experience for the viewer. 

AGO: Are there any artists in Canada who you’re really excited about and would love to work with? 

Lambin-Gagnon: I am very interested to collaborate with floral designers. It is an art form that you don't often see in galleries and museums, but there is something performative and poetic in a flower arrangement. It is an art that lasts for a very short period of time and has the power to deliver a strong message. 

Don’t miss Slow Death on Wednesday, March 4 at 6 pm and again on Friday, March 6 at 6 pm. These performances are free with admission. 

Admission to the AGO Collection and all special exhibitions is always free for AGO MembersAGO Annual Pass holders and visitors 25 and under.

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