Unfolding MINE

by: Kelly McInnes

MINE is a project that is very dear to me and has grown so much over the years. It began when my roommate at the time, Renee Sigouin, asked me if I wanted to create a piece with her using a big pile of clothes. This first iteration of the work was performed at Art for Impact in 2012. Shortly after Renee decided to focus on performance rather than choreography and so I decided to continue on with the project myself as I was interested to explore my personal relationship with consumerism and fashion as well as look at it from a broader societal perspective.

Coming to realize the impact of my consumption on a global scale woke me to see the mass unawareness around the horrifying practices of the Fast Fashion industry with their terrible working standards and environmental impact. It makes me sick to think about the true cost of all the ‘cheap’ clothing that we purchase and throw away thoughtlessly on a daily basis. Watching videos of people trampling each other on Black Friday to get the best deal to reading articles about garment factories collapsing in Bangladesh to seeing images of giant clothing landfills. I see a very flawed industry and society that needs to be held accountable for these devastating realities.

Creating MINE is my way to magnify these issues to create awareness and dialogue around them in hopes of creating positive change. As well as, all of the creative tools this work has taught me, it has also led me to develop new ways to participate in capitalist society that coincide more deeply with my values.

In 2013 I developed MINE in collaboration with dancer Sophia Wolfe during a month long residency in Mexico. This version of the work explored consumerism, materialism, history, memory and body image. I was excited to feel connections between the work and audience members that felt meaningful and prompted them to question their own relationship to consumerism and their clothing. After each performance, audience were invited to take a piece of clothing that they liked and we had audience bring their own clothing with them to donate to our pile before the performance. This excites me as it feels like the work carries with it, through these items, a piece of each audience it meets. All of the clothes I use for the piece have been donated by friends and audience members and many of the items have found new homes with artists working on the project, audience members as well as donations I’ve made to local organizations.

MINE AGENTE, was created in 2014 as a collaboration between Lisa Simpson, a musical seamstress and musician Ben Brown. Through this collaboration, the work has grown to also explore identity, globalization, upcycling / textile design, daily domestic labour associated with clothing with live music including amplifying a sewing machine, iron, clothes hangers and scissors. Since 2014 MINE AGENTE has been performed with several dancers and musicians and most recently was developed as a collaboration with Lisa, Ben, musician Roxanne Nesbitt and dancer Rianne Svelnis at Stretch Yoga in 2016 with plans to bring this collaboration to Europe in 2018. My first exploration with guerrilla performance was performing part of the MINE as a protest outside of Pacific Centre on Black Friday..

In my practice I am interested in how the impact of my work can have a wider reach than just audiences. This is how I dreamed up MINE Youth Project, a free collaborative process and workshop for youth ages 13-18. I wanted to share the project with youth in order to open up the dialogue around the the issues of the work, as well as create an accessible platform for youth to engage with art making and performance. With the support of MIBC in partnership with the Vancouver Parks Board, BCAC and the Vancouver Foundation, Rianne Svelnis and I co-facilitated an 8 week session this winter with 15 amazing and unique youth. Many had never danced or been a part of an artistic process before. We watched them over the course of the workshops connect with each other, share their ideas, listen and create together and learn from one another. At the end of the project they expressed feeling more confident to try new things, meet new people and share their ideas. They also expressed feeling more conscious of how their consumption choices, specifically with clothing, have a greater effect on the world than they had previously. They were surprised and excited to see how performance can speak to these issues and were interested to tackle more topics.

I’m very excited that three of these youth, Elizabeth Armitage, Rin Armitage and Jordyn Myers, will be performing a new version of MINE at Vines Art Festival this year. I hope you’ll come and check out the work they have done this year and consider your own relation to this important topic that affects us all!