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Winged for a Day, 1998

As part of my ongoing research about the winged human figure, and specifically winged female figures, I created Winged for a Day in Halifax, Nova Scotia in the summer of 1998. My co-creators were Fiona Kinsella and Paul Lisson, both artists from Hamilton. Fiona and Paul took the photographs you see here, and accompanied me on my journey through the city as a quasi-angelic (white clothing), perhaps fairy-like (a little méchante) winged being for the duration of one day. My wings were made of the foil from a chocolate bar wrapper. The work was not, in other words, meant to be precious.

mechante 2

At this time I was beginning to explore performance as a means to make art, to make ephemeral gestures that could temporarily transform or recast a space. In that sense, the Halifax incarnation of Winged for a Day was an experiment more than a resolved work.

Through the course of this experiment, and reviewing the resulting photographs (some weeks later – this was pre-digital) I was struck by two things. First, what good photographers Paul and Fiona were, not just because they took beautiful pictures but because they helped me enter into the still-forming role that the experiment of being winged for a day made possible. I don’t believe I would, or could, have been so performative with anyone else behind the lens. Both Fiona and Paul were interested in themes of death, transcendence, and otherworldliness in everyday life. I think this made for a happy confluence of energies in our time, for example, in the Old Burying Ground at the intersection of Spring Garden Road and Barrington Street, the first cemetery in Canada to achieve National Historic Site designation (1991).


The second thing that struck me when viewing the photographs was my discomfort in seeing myself in performance mode. By far my preferred images were the blurred ones. My ambivalence about performance has remained to this day, and I am best, if a project or site requires performance, if I can perform in concert with others. Perhaps being born a twin has something to do with it – the sole spotlight is not something I have ever craved. But with Fiona and Paul I felt safe to become something a little different.


Playing in among the headstones as a winged, perhaps angelic creature may have offended some, and would not have gone far enough for others. In retrospect I can say it was an early foray into the question of how to engage with an existing space of “heritage” and public history. Certainly I wanted my dance among the headstones and my naps on tombs to be an insertion, of sorts, of an embodied, female presence among all these dead, “notable” men in Halifax’s history.