Statements by Artistic Producer and Curator of Erring on the Mount
Welcome to the final event in Public Energy’s 20th anniversary season.
To mark the occasion we’re producing an event that really shows the world what we do – the diversity of artistic styles and collaborations, and our commitment to trying new things while not losing sight of how we got here. It’s not often that the past plays a role in a festival of forward-thinking art, but it seems appropriate as we enter our third decade.
The history of the Mount is well known to those who have interacted with the building and the Sisters of St. Joseph over the years. What is less known is that the idea for Erring on the Mount comes from an event staged in Peterborough in 1996. Credit for the special way in which the word erring is used belongs to the artists of the Union Theatre, who created the first Erring as an imaginative response to being removed from their home at the time.
That event, and its title, have stuck with me all these years – their memory a constant reminder that the best artmaking is always worth the risks taken to pull it off. So it is in that spirit that we use the word erring, drawing as much on the Latin meaning to wander or stray as to be mistaken, to describe an event in which artists and audiences alike search for new and unusual experiences in an unfamiliar place. Here’s wishing you good luck and that you won’t make too many mistakes as you stray among the art and artifacts of Erring on the Mount.
- Bill Kimball, Artistic Producer
An Act Of Faith
Curating a first-time multi-artists festival is an act of faith. It involves not only trust, but conviction, that the end result will reward the effort; that the funding will come; that the organizers, artists, and public, will come; that together we will all experience something transformative and transcendent. The result of that act of faith is now on display for all to see at Erring on the Mount.
Over seventy proposals from writers, actors, dancers, painters, sculptors, musicians, photographers, and storytellers were submitted in response to our public call. Artistic producer Bill Kimball and I ultimately chose 51 works that most fit the festival goals passed down to us from the original Erring artists*. Multidisciplinary, site-specific, site-responsive, and collaborative new works would transform unusual spaces into artworks, but instead of apartments over a bar, we are using two wings of a de-consecrated convent.
Site-specific/site-responsive art engages with architecture in a way that traditional gallery and theatre pieces do not. Traditional settings for experiencing art ask the works to conform to a designated ‘blank canvas’; art and performances fit within the boundaries of a mutable gallery or theatre and divisions between audience and creators are understood and accepted. In site-specific art, the physical space is the starting point of the work; the guiding principal that inspires the creators is the history and function of the location, and the resulting works reflect the legacy of place.
For Erring on the Mount, Public Energy brings you public art for an untraditional space: the former Motherhouse of the Sisters of Saint Joseph, now known as the Mount Community Centre, future home of an inclusive and diverse community, yet to be established. The Sisters have moved to a new home next-door, more in keeping with their current numbers and role in the community - but for over one hundred years, the site was the bustling home of over 300 nuns, carrying out good works of education and healing in this community and beyond. The home, with its chapels, dormitories and even infirmary, was once full of stained glass and statuary, icons of the Catholic faith, and remnants and echoes of the Sisters’ lives and religion remain in traces that cannot ever be erased or removed.
The site however, is undergoing many changes, and Public Energy has been given the opportunity to aid in the transformation process. By inviting artists to speak to the site, we investigate its place in the communal imagination, and each artist’s work forms a response. Some challenge, some chide, others honour and extol. Turning a former convent into a temporary artistic experience is risky, but our hope is that it generates the kind of public energy that occurs when risk-taking artists come together with openhearted audiences. We have faith that you will enjoy experiencing it, as much as we have had in the making of it.
- Elizabeth Fennell, Curator
*Some original Erring artists have returned for this one:
David Bateman, Brad Brackenridge, Kim Blackwell, Ryan Kerr, Kate Story, Esther Vincent.