Feathers, Ether, Sand, Speech

Lauren Marsden, Elizabeth Milton, and Sydney Southam

Curated by Whitney Brennan

16 Jun to 4 Aug 2018

Feathers, Ether, Sand, Speech presents a selection of contemporary Vancouver artists working at the intersection of performance and media art, and exploring sites of contested gender representation: the cinema, the landscape and the strip club. Lauren Marsden, Elizabeth Milton and Sydney Southam explore the presence and absence of the body to articulate their concerns surrounding labour, materiality and documentation. In challenging the voyeurship that surrounds female performance art, the artists present alternative perspectives that emphasize not the physical body, but its absence.

in challenging the voyeurship that surrounds female performance art, the artists present alternative perspectives that emphasize not the physical body, but its ABSENCE.

On Saturday 23 June, join the three exhibiting artists of Feathers, Ether, Sand Speech with curator Whitney Brennan in the gallery as they discuss their exhibition, and broader artistic practices.

On Thursday 28 June, the artists in Feathers, Ether, Sand, Speech will each present a film-based work that articulates aspects of their interests in cinematic techniques, and film’s relationship to performance art.


Lauren Marsden’s work studies the nature of performance and experiments with the ways a performative act can be documented and re-circulated, often in relationship to contentious and gendered sites and landscapes. At the core of her practice is a collaborative methodology called structured improvisation, which she has used with many professionals including, for example, a court illustrator, a police sketch artist, a typeface designer, voice-over actors, costume designers, and pole dancers. She has exhibited her work at galleries and film festivals in Canada, the Unites States, Italy, Mexico, and Trinidad and Tobago. She teaches media arts and critical writing and has held positions at the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University, and Quest University. She is the editor of Decoy Magazine, an arts publication based in Vancouver, BC.

Elizabeth Milton is a performance and media artist who lives as a guest on the unceded territories of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations in Vancouver, Canada. Her video and photo-based works utilize absurdist character-play and camp materiality to explore identity and affect. Through hyperbolic expressivity, comedic excess and processes of endurance, Milton examines the performative potential of maximalist femininity, novelty store glamour and the garish refuse of commercial culture. Her work has been exhibited and performed in Canada and Europe and developed through artist residencies at the Banff Centre, Access Gallery and Skaftfell Centre for Visual Art, Iceland. Milton holds an MFA in Studio Art from the University of British Columbia and a BFA in Visual Art from Simon Fraser University. She is a faculty member in the Department of Fine Arts at Langara College where she instructs studio courses in Media and Performance.

Sydney Southam is a filmmaker, performance artist, and professional pole dancer. She often works with archival 16mm film, exploring themes of nostalgia, death, memory, and identity. Her current work explores the backstage and domestic lives of exotic dancers and how their private and professional lives are defined through ideas of feminism, objectification, power, and love. Southam is one of the founding members of Vancouver-based Iris Film Collective and the curator of the potluck dinner and artist talk series Special Sunday Supper. Her films and artwork have been shown across Canada, Europe, and Asia, recently at MoCA Taipei and Antimatter Film Festival (Victoria, BC). She graduated from Central Saint Martins with a BA fine art first-class honours in 2011 and from the University of Toronto with a BA in English, philosophy, and cinema studies in 2007.

Whitney Brennan is a second-year CCST graduate student focusing on media and performance art for her upcoming exhibition, Feathers, Ether, Sand, Speech, at Access Gallery. She currently works as a freelance curator with local arts publisher, Decoy Magazine, and is a member of the media artist collective, The Work Group. In 2017 she was part of the curatorial team for the 40th annual Graduate Symposium exhibition, "Under Super Vision," with fellow AHVA graduate students. She worked for Documenta 14 in Athens, Greece as part of their an education department on site-specific artist project, A-Lethia. Locally, she has worked with the Contemporary Art Gallery, Rennie Collection at Wing Sang, and Gam Gallery. She has been published in C Magazine and Luna Luna Magazine, and volunteers as a board member with non-profit, Arts Assembly.


With gratitude as guests, Access is located on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations.


With support from the Killy Foundation and the Audain Endowment for Curatorial Studies through the Department of Art History, Visual Art and Theory in collaboration with the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery at The University of British Columbia.


Access gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of the following funders as well as our committed family of donors, members, and volunteers, for enabling this organization to remain vigorous and connected to the communities we support.

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