Artist-run centre the Eastern Edge is throwing its annual 24 Hour Art Marathon—an art-making and all-out party kind of deal—on August 16th to 17th, noon to noon, this year. Last year it won “Best Local Event of 2007” in The Scope’s Best of St. John’s Readers’ Poll—and with a full week of programming prepared this year, the event is liable to be just as exciting.
As part of the week’s events, on Thursday, August 14, there will be a 5 Hour Performance Art Marathon which will include the first live performance from the splinter cell of Women With Kitchen Appliances. WWKA—pronounced “wicka”—will do a sound performance involving kitchen appliances, contact mics, wigs, and pink nail polish.
Originally formed in Montreal in 1999, the group has presented their work in bars, on television, and, yes, in kitchens, in New York, Brussels, and across Canada.
Elling Lien got a chance to talk to the four members of the Newfoundland edition of the group… who have chosen to remain nameless for the interview. As the group describes themselves, they are “three, four, or five or six. Identical. Interchangeable. Disposable. And dead serious.”
What is Women With Kitchen Appliances?
Women With Kitchen Appliances is fairly little.
…Ladies all over the world with kitchen appliances!
It’s a sound performance collective originally from Montreal that is turning into a WWKA army and therefore needs different artist stations across Canada—and internationally.
Are you recruiting?
Yes. The recruiting process for Newfoundland had begun.
Active campaigns will begin shortly.
We are nabbing people off the streets and bringing them into our kitchens! We are forcing them to use our appliances.
No, there’s no forcing. We’re very civil, very proper.
And deadpan. There is totally, absolutely no humour involved in WWKA. The idea is to rediscover your kitchen appliances, especially the motors and the power.
All the sounds that they can all make.
It’s pretty fun. We kind of like hitting things.
I’ve heard some YouTube clips from the Montreal one… Just now I walked in on your rehearsal you were going full out. It was really loud.
We’re still experimenting.
Loud is good. Then there are quiet moments. There are medium moments. And there are very loud moments.
You missed the intro. The first set.
I think it’s just quieter on YouTube too. You can adjust the volume.
Where did the idea come from?
Coral Short, who is back in Montreal now but is originally from B.C. first came up with it. When a bunch of us were back in university in Montreal, we came up with the project. Her father owns a bookstore, and they were book-scouting for used books and she came across a box of amazing old kitchen appliances. She brought them home and started playing with them. She thought they were very attractive objects, and she started recruiting people who didn’t know each other at first and second year at Concordia University to play kitchen appliances.
That’s how it began—as a sound project.
Why not just use the kitchen appliances as kitchen appliances?
Because she was interested in sound. When we got the group of women together everyone had their own different kind of feminist take on the 50s aesthetic and kitchen appliances and for subverting those ideas. Not using those kitchen appliances for baking and preparing food for your hubby, but using them as sound makers.
The appliances become less about the function and suddenly more about the performer. It’s not so much about how you would use the appliance than how you would take control over it in a completely different way.
I guess a lot of these kitchen appliances were invented in the 50s, weren’t they.
To simplify women’s lives in the kitchen.
Easier ways to make juice! Save hours and hours.
…With one simple button.
So is the style—the wigs and nail polish—is that inspired by the 50s?
I think it was a mix. The idea is it’s a uniform that’s kind of bland and doesn’t stick out. The original WWKA uniforms in Montreal were just grey—fairly conservative, almost prisonwear dresses with only WWKA written on them, and sensible shoes and hose. Everything is supposed to be below the knee, and very proper besides the very pink lipstick and pink nails. But yes, it has a lot to do with the 50s. The perfect wigs and the hair-setting. I think that might change. Every army has a different uniform.
That’s how we recognise each other.
I think the Newfoundland uniforms will be somewhat different.
…So if you ever have to fight against another chapter of WWKA, you could tell each other apart.
You don’t want to harm one of your own!
The costume is a good balance between domesticity and random chance.
Actually I think that’s what it embodies. It’s trying to be perfect, but it’s not quite there.
What are the differences between the Newfoundland faction and the Montreal one?
[laugh] We’re just getting started!
We’re in training camp.
The biggest difference is we still have our training wheels.
From what I’ve heard is it’s all one, but there are little branches and shoots that come off to form the WWKA army. I think we can focus less on our differences and more on how we’re alike.
The idea with WWKA is anyone can be WWKA, I mean females.
And they’re interchangeable. All WWKA members are interchangeable. So basically there will be no difference between WWKA members in Montreal and members here.
But the point is, the WWKA army is growing.
What’s the appeal for each of you in this?
I just enjoy creating sound with people and with friends especially. Just being creative and experimenting.
And I’m incredibly interested in art that takes a mundane routine, object, or event, and repurposes it and makes it sound like something. That’s kind of why I’m here.
Taking ordinary, everyday objects and making them sound like something. Because then the sound and everyone together becomes bigger than any one appliance. It’s really beautiful.
Instead of being by yourself in your kitchen and surrounded by things you’re not paying attention to—all of a sudden when you bring people together and you focus on something like this… and you’ve formed a group that is participating in bringing their kitchens together.
It changes the everyday.
I like the accessibility of it too.
Projects like this make you look around and examines what you pass over every day—but in a different light. Like, “oh my god! I can form a group that does absolutely anything. And if we wear wigs it’s even better!”
I don’t play any kind of musical instruments on my own. I find playing kitchen appliances great. It’s brilliant.
Not to imply that I’m being musical. (Laugh)
I’m being ‘sound experimental.’
Ours is quite musical.
It can be.
Even from when we started there’s a nice shape to everything; to how the vibrations feel. Playing music like this—amplified, with contact microphones—you can feel it through your body.
I really like to collaborative part of it. You really have to listen to what everyone else is doing and blend in and discover new sounds and develop the sound together.
I like the playfulness of it too. They are adult object that are very utilitarian being used like toys.
So basically it’s all about the stuff you weren’t allowed to do with kitchen appliances as a kid.
You can make a mess.
You can wake everybody up.
I’ve never been brave enough to touch the prongs on an electric mixer while it was going before, but now I’m not afraid. I’ve overcome my fears.
I was afraid to touch those! You were touching those? I can’t believe it didn’t hurt.
I can’t believe my mother actually let me take these things from her house! I would have never been allowed to do this 15 years ago.
Yes, this is what we wanted to do when we were young. I actually remember my sister and I used to empty out all the kitchen drawers and use the drawers as forts. And the big drawer under the stove…
It’s like playing with all the pots and pans again.
But it’s more sophisticated. It’s a bit more advanced than pots and pans.
We’re really rediscovering the kitchen.
In a totally different way.
You said it was one of the things you definitely missed from Montreal.
One of the hardest things to leave behind was being always available to play with Women With Kitchen Appliances. Definitely.
Because it’s fun. Because you get to meet a lot of different people. You get to discover a lot of different kitchens as well.
Did many of the rehearsals happen in kitchens?
It depends. What’s great about WWKA is there are a zillion different possibilities for how you can perform. Every invitation to a different festival, or show, or kitchen, or any of those things means you have a whole different set of parameters to play with and meet. You can develop a theme or choreography that has to do with the present, and not just the sound being made. Because it’s performance. It’s a sound performance, but it’s performance as well. I missed that. It was a regular creative thing I was able to do consistently when I was working full time and looking after kids or whatever. Which is sort of the goal of WWKA anyway. In my horrible domestic life I got to play in the kitchens. [Laugh]
So in your time away from working full time and looking after children you took your kitchen appliances and snuck them out of your house and you played with them in the streets?
I like the idea too that we’re not just transforming everyday objects, we’re transforming everyday spaces into performance spaces.
And going into people’s homes and “certifying” their kitchens. Showing them all the different noises it can make. Freeing their appliances.
One of the objectives of WWKA is the kitchen certification. Someone approaches WWKA and wants their kitchen certified. There’s a preliminary looking over the kitchen to see where the plugs are and all of that. Then WWKA will come in and play the kitchen in a format that they’d like as a host: Business supper, romantic dinner, house party, all-ages play date. And afterwards they receive a certificate.
But what if the kitchen fails?
There is no passing or failing. It’s just your kitchen has been certified for sound.
It usually passes.
It’s a very serious process.
On the WWKA MySpace there’s a list of things that WWKA is: “We’re a rock band, a sound project, a cabaret act, a synchronized rubber glove routine, a BBQ chicken washing machine…” A BBQ chicken washing machine?
That was one of the earlier performances. The whole performance was an assembly line of all the process of washing dishes and drying them. The last element that was washed was a barbequed chicken.
Thankfully last. A confectionary flour Christmas jingle. What’s that mean?
We did that too. We used confectionary sugar and a sifter and it was during a holiday show so we performed Jingle Bells.
And for this performance at the Eastern Edge, will there any particular theme, or idea, or goal… or certification?
It’s a surprise.
It’s a cop out.
It’s not a cop out. You must come.
Anything else I should ask?
No… but I think It’s kind of exciting that more things like this are happening here now and you don’t have to be in Montreal to see WWKA—or be in WWKA.
Well and hopefully there will be exchanges and links and networking and at some point a large convergence.
A new convention.
The kitchen convention! Yes! We have kitchen parties here all the time. [Laugh]
This will be just a different take on the kitchen party.
WWKA will perform at the Eastern Edge Gallery on Thursday, August 14 as part of the 5 Hour Performance Art Marathon, which takes place from 12-5pm.
Check our events listings here in The Scope, or visit tinyurl.com/easternedge for more info on the 24 HAM.
The Montreal edition of the group can be found online at www.myspace.com/womenwithkitchenappliances .