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My Performance Art story

In my OAC year of high school (in my day, Ontario high schools had a fifth year for students planning on university - that's since been cut, along with a lot of other stuff, like art classes in upper years), our art teacher teamed up with the drama teacher to have us do performance art.

Now, as background information, this was in the middle of the Harris years. The education budget had been slashed, and the school board was panicking and wanted to make a statement to get the public on their side. They did this by issuing pink slips to something like 1/3 of the teachers in the school board, including my art teacher. So, my art teacher, already a little eccentric, was kind of pissed and had nothing to lose.

She told us, essentially, to go do whatever we wanted to, and run rampant. If we were challenged, we could give her name and tell the authorities that we had permission. It helped that we were 5th year students, and most of us were "good kids".

We decided on a general theme of a null protest. We'd take blank sheets of paper, and blank protest signs, and stage a protest against nothing and for nothing at 10 (or maybe 11) in the caf. Then we broke up into groups and staged mayhem.

We went into a grade 9 drama class, where I recited Hamlet's to be or not to be soliloquy while hopping on one leg. At the end, I said "O, I am slain" and fell flat on my face, and was then carried out of the room. Others advised the students of the protest, and handed out blank sheets of paper.

We went into a grade 9 art class, where I wrote out a proof over three black boards, claiming that 1+1 did not equal 2. It ended in a frowny face :( Blank flyers were handed out.

We went up to the computer lab, took the wheeled chairs and had races in the hallways. We weren't interrupting a class, and so no flyers were handed out.

We went into the health studies room, and swiped the hospital bed. As the protest started, a girl was on stage in the caf reading out things like "This is the way the world ends! This is the way the world ends! This is the way the world ends!" and "EAT!SLEEP!FUCK!"

I got wheeled into the caf on the hospital bed screaming "MY FISH! MY FISH ARE DYING!" while protesters carrying blank white signs milled around in the front of the caf.

Afterwards, we put everything away, and went back to class. The VP and some of the teachers (the math teacher, for example) were pretty pissed, but didn't do anything about it, at least as far as we kids were concerned.

The school board eventually rescinded most of the pink slips, and as far as I know, that art teacher is still working at that school. The politics got worse, and the next couple years saw almost annual strikes by teachers, and the local MPP getting thrown out of the school (I can't recall if the cops were actually called).


( 9 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 27th, 2007 03:33 pm (UTC)

a NULL protest.

That has to be one of the most awesome, hilarious, inspiring performance art themes I've ever heard.

That's precisely the kind of stuff I would have done when I was 17 :)
Oct. 27th, 2007 04:19 pm (UTC)
Hey, thanks for posting this. I'd forgotten most of the details of that day (although I do clearly remember your awesome drop to the floor, and the general feeling of running amok in the school).
Oct. 28th, 2007 01:08 am (UTC)
That is the most awesome thing I've ever heard.

I'd almost forgotten about those nasty Harris years and how much the teachers hated his guts.

I just remember going through Parkdale and somebody had unfurled a sign over the train bridge that read "Mike Harris Hates You". That was pretty awesome too.
Oct. 28th, 2007 01:58 am (UTC)
My fish! My fish are dying!
Oct. 28th, 2007 02:29 pm (UTC)
Fantastic. Except the part about art being cut — that's not fantastic.

And when did they do away with OAC?! That was still in place in during my time in Canada :(
Oct. 29th, 2007 01:56 pm (UTC)
See here

The biggest hit was the "double cohort" year in 2003, where the last OAC class and the first grade 12-is-it students graduated; universities got hit with double the usual enrollment.
Oct. 29th, 2007 12:19 am (UTC)
That rules. :D
Oct. 29th, 2007 01:46 pm (UTC)
I don't even remember this... Was I there? You guys got away with saying Fuck on stage? LOL.
Oct. 29th, 2007 01:51 pm (UTC)
I don't remember you being around for any of this - it was in the morning, so you were either in class, or, you know, *not* in class. :)
( 9 comments — Leave a comment )

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