Two Works in Progress : Chris Lloyd and Kim Waldron

Fortner Anderson
October 07

The Papineau federal electoral district is one of the poorest and most densely populated ridings in Canada. The 2006 census, the latest available, showed that Papineau had a median annual household income of slightly over $29,605 per year.i The district has one of Quebec’s highest highest rates of unemployment and one of the highest populations of new immigrants, with almost 47% of the population speaking neither French nor English as their mother tongue.

Save for a short period in 2006-2008, when the seat was held by the Bloc Quebecois, the riding has long been a Liberal party bastion. But this September, polls released by the New Democratic Party indicated that Anne Lagacé Dowsen, a well known journalist running for the NDP was developing into a serious challenge to Liberal party leader, Justin Trudeau, who is the current incumbent.

Monday, October 5th, Optica and the Viva Art Action festival co-sponsored a debate between candidates running for the October 19th election in the riding. Six of the 8 candidates registered in the election participated, with the unfortunate absence of Justin Trudeau and the candidate of the ruling Conservative Party.

Coincidentally, not one but two performance artists, Kim Waldron and Chris Lloyd, are running as independent candidates in Papineau. Other than their appearance on the same ballot, there is no link between their actions.ii Both participated in the debate.

Both performers are playing their election campaigns straight and by the book. They are formally registered and are presumably complying to Federal election regulations. They both have official agents, election committees, along with simple websitesiii, a few posters and very rudimentary platforms. Lloyd even has buttons and an Indiegogo campaign. Both candidates dress the part and though Lloyd ventured a bit of humor in his interventions during the debate on Monday, there is no evident irony in their attempt to obtain election to Canadian public office.

The project of both these artists involves the painstaking creation of political personae. In Lloyd’s case, this election bid derives out of his fifteen-year long project of communicating daily, sometimes several times a day, with the sitting Canadian Prime Minister. This vast obsessive collection of tweets, cards, letters and e-mails contains his thoughts on great and small topics of the day, and the elements of his personal life, all of which he shares with Canada’s leader. As one would expect, there has been little response from the PMO office, other than the occasional pro forma reply.iv

At the end of the debate, Lloyd announced that whatever the outcome of the election, he will continue sending his communications day in and day out to the future Prime Minister.

Much of Waldron’s previous work has used auto-portraiture as a means to comment upon contemporary social situationsv. In this performance project, entitled Public Office, Waldron comments upon the use of political image and political discourse by inserting herself within the political process itself. In addition to her candidature, Waldron has written a book, Honesty, Hope and Hard Work, published by Concordia University, which tells her heroic life’s story. It ostensibly provides the electorate of Papineau reasons to vote for her.

Each of the performers has a simple platform of electoral promises. Lloyd’s animated fund-raising video calls for electoral reform and proportional representation. On her website, Waldron also calls for electoral reform :

It’s time for true democracy in this country! The only viable option for the 2015 federal election is to vote independent. Enough cynicism, lets [sic] stop voting to block the party we don’t want in power! A reform of our democratic institutions is necessary.vi

Both artists also call for important increases in public funding to cultural organizations. Waldron is a bit more precise with her proposal for the introduction of a new tax credit which would provide individuals tax breaks for purchase of works of art.

The debate on Monday was a single moment in both artists’ durational actions. It remains to be seen how Lloyd and Waldron will complete and subsequently document these projects. As the NDP candidate, Anne Lagacé Dawson suggested in a back-handed compliment at the end of the debate, both Lloyd’s and Waldron’s participation added a bit of « spice » to the contest, and that their posters would certainly become collectors items afterwards.

Sure enough, both artists are offering for sale artifacts from their campaigns. Lloyd is raising funds to pay for his campaign expenses via Indiegogo through the sale of signed and numbered prints of his urbane posters. These feature a drawing by Clement de Gaulejac that presents Lloyd as a quintessential bearded millennialvii.

Waldron, while recently in China, commissioned three stately portraits of herself by a Chinese artist. These elegant paintings portray her as a forceful and very pregnant woman with a strong jaw and a piercing gaze. Though no longer pregnant, Waldron uses the image for her campaign advertising. Doing so, she adds Motherhood to the ideals of Honesty, Hard Work and Hope that frame her campaign for public office. The triptych is on exhibition till October 23rd, at the private contemporary art gallery of Thomas Henry Ross. The show is appropriately entitled « La très honorable Kim Waldron ».

Of the candidates participating in the debate, Beverly Bernardo, a small but spry woman who looked to be on the far side of 70, represented the Communist League. She debated forcefully for a dismantling of capitalism and the revolution of the world working class. At her day job, she works for Walmart and helps to organize the associates for the imposition of a minimum wage of $15 per hour. Listening to her, I couldn’t help but think of yet another of the innumerable twentieth first century tragedies, that the people of Papineau will in all likelihood re-elect on October 19th, the man who was recently photographed wearing a watch, whose value almost equals the median household income in their riding.

i http://www12.statcan.ca/census-recensement/2006/dp-pd/prof/92-595/P2C.cfm?TPL=RETR&LANG=E&GC=24048

ii Conversation with the artist, Chris Lloyd, October 6th, Montreal.

iii See www.kimwaldron.ca and http://certainlynotjustin.blogspot.ca/2015/09/blog-post_25.html

iv The collection has now been put on line at, http://sites.google.com/site/dearpm2/theproject and here, http://dearpm.blogspot.ca/

vi www.kimwaldron.ca

vii www.indiegogo.com/projects/chris-lloyd-independent-for-papineau-in-2015