The Courtyard Commission emerged from a desire to re-imagine and re-envision the potential of the beautiful courtyard space at the Ismaili Centre, Burnaby. What happens when a group of innovative artists are brought into an inspiring space? What will they see, and what will it inspire them to create? How will a courtyard whose design draws from the traditions of Islamic gardens— built initially for an immigrant community developing roots in Canada—speak to others who may not have direct access to the significance the space holds for a particular community?
More than just a performance, the first Courtyard Commission was very much about engagement. Mulitmedia artists Nancy Lee, Laine Butler, and Kiran Bhumber created and worked within the space over the course of a summer residency. Working also with Choreographer Ralph Escamillian and dancers Sophia Wolfe and Alex Tam, the team learned new things about their own practices; they developed bespoke software and acquired new skills in order to actualize the vision that emerged from their residency and, thus, the remarkable piece Dispersion came to be.
Dispersion, the second performance in The Courtyard Commission, was performed in the Fall of 2018. It contributes to an emerging canon of performance in the Lower Mainland, where the building and architecture is an intrinsic part of the performance and the spectator is encouraged to move freely around the space and to take in the work from multiple viewpoints.
During the performances, I was approached by a number of other local artists who were in awe of the space and were beginning to interpret it in creative ways, themselves. Furthermore, spectators had an opportunity to experience the affect the courtyard had on these artists, we saw it through their eyes—and this is a deeply significant element.
My hope is that this project has opened up, at a number of levels, opportunities for artists to re-envision and re-interpret established and/or socially significant architectural spaces to expand the ways they are inhabited, experienced, and animated.