This past weekend, St. John’s based artist duo Kailey Bryan and Pepa Chan were featured in HOLD FAST, the city’s annual contemporary art festival run by Eastern Edge Gallery.
Upon arrival at Bryan and Chan’s art crawl performance, viewers were lead away from the ruckus of surrounding pubs and into the quiet Duke of Duckworth Alleyway, where a glow of string lights illuminated a table elegantly set for two.
This was the stage for Bryan and Chan for three hours, where they silently sat, blindfolded, and fed each other a seven-course meal. Their audience watched the twenty-minute courses, which consisted of olives, soup, cheese, bread and dip, spaghetti, cake, and finally tea. With every course that passed, evidence of the one before remained on their faces and white shirts.
When asked about their art practices, the artists explained, “Our work deals a lot with experiences of anxiety and vulnerability, and trying to make connections through those feelings.”
They said that Eat your heart out is their latest work dealing with relationships, fear, and trust. “It mainly uses food, which has great social and cultural significance for bringing people together, but can also be used to control bodies, populations, and lands. Food is complicated! And so is our relationship to it.”
Their performance was an incredible exercise in trust, both for each other and for their unseen audience. Bryan and Chan relied on each other’s support throughout the endurance piece, often reaching for and grasping each other’s hands tightly in between courses.
Kailey Bryan, when reflecting on the experience of the work, described its intensity. They explain, “I moved through a lot of complex emotions – stemming back to being a kid, being a teenager, even now – all spurred on by this quiet, challenging interaction.
“Sometimes I wondered if the jab I’d just received was intentional or not. I was trying to take great care in this performance, but was definitely contending with a vindictive impulse to respond in kind when something made me uncomfortable. All the upsetting memories that were triggered in this performance showed in our bodies. And I think a lot of that complexity translated itself to the audience.”
Kailey Bryan and Pepa Chan’s HOLD FAST art crawl performance was an unforgettable experience for both the artists and their audience. Their contribution to the St. John’s art scene is an impressive one, and they are definitely an art duo to watch.
Article by Intern Emily Pittman