Over the past few years, Montreal artist Chris Lloyd has decided to stand on guard for Canada—in a very unusual and tongue-in-cheek way. In his Everyday Goalie performances, Lloyd has visited iconic locales from PEI’s Anne of Green Gables tribute house to Vancouver’s Stanley Park, symbolically protecting them from potential threats while dressed in a Ken Dryden–worthy getup. In August, he attempted to (unofficially) enact his character in front of the Venice Biennale’s Canada Pavilion. Here, he tells us how it went and what keeps him going—no matter how bad his stick-handling skills are.
Leah Sandals: You did quite a bit of fundraising online with the hope of pulling off a rogue performance at the Venice Biennale’s Giardini. What ended up happening?
Chris Lloyd: Well, I loaded up my goalie gear and sticks and a collapsible net in a big bag. That part was fine.
But I couldn’t get into the Giardini with my gear. They basically wouldn’t allow the bag, and when I told them I had it because I wanted to dress up and do this thing in front of the Canada Pavilion, they definitely said no.
So instead, I dressed up and wandered around different Venetian locales. Part of the purpose was to shoot some video providing context for people like my mom, who asks, What’s the biennale? A lot of people outside of the art world have no idea what it is.
Then, I filmed myself jumping the Giardini fence and basically sneaking in. It was anticlimactic, in a way, because the Biennale was not officially open to the public at that hour. I shot some video and photos, and then left.
It’s interesting that as soon as the Biennale is over in November, the Giardini is a park open to everyone and you can do whatever you want in front of the Canada Pavilion. But for the intents of the video, I wanted to do it while the biennale was still going on.
Overall, I got some pretty good video out of the experience and I’m editing a couple of versions of it together.
LS: What was the response like from the locals?
CL: A lot of turned heads—I guess what you’d expect given that the outfit was hardly in season. If it was close to carnival, I’d probably have blended right in.
LS: You’ve performed Everyday Goalie in various locales so far. How did the performances get started? What inspired them?
CL: I date it back to 2009 when I did a residency at Le Lobe in Chicoutimi.
I was thinking about ideas of Canadian identity and nationality, trying to bridge things like the divide between Quebec and Canada. And I kept coming back to hockey.
What I think of Everyday Goalie as this character who is literally on guard for Canada. I wanted to go to sites around Canada that could be perceived as intrinsic to our sense of collective belonging and national identity, but that could also be at risk and in peril. So far I’ve been to Peggy’s Cove, the Hopewell Rocks and the Olympic flame in Vancouver, among other locations. I also did a performance at the CBC Radio Canada International shortwave radio transmission centre in Sackville before it was dismantled.
I have to say I also like the dichotomy between art and hockey. They always seem so separate, but there are interesting similarities.
LS: Really? What kinds of similarities do you see between art and hockey?
CL: Well, I think they are similar in their obsessive nature, I guess. Athletes are always in training; certain ones even talk about their craft. Artists have the studio and set aside the time to perfect their work, too.
Art, however, isn’t so much of a team sport. Maybe in that case, your community is your team. Also, I think artists tend to drink more and are harder on their bodies—they are exercising other muscles, maybe.
Also, you have this crazy fan structure with sports that you don’t have with art. In professional sports, you have reams and reams of fans that clog up stadiums and spend all sorts of money to watch people smack a disc around.
Maybe the equivalent of professional sports in the art world are big events like the Venice Biennale and Art Basel, where all the big money floats around.
LS: You have done other works on Canadian identity, like your Dear PM project, for which you have written daily letters to the prime minister for several years. A lot of artists tend to avoid national identifications these days. Why is it important to you to work with specifically Canadian content?
CL: Well, like I said, I do think a lot about Canadian identity. And I think a lot about different publics and who is the consumer of art products.
Certainly Everyday Goalie came out of the letter-writing project, because it made these kinds of investigations more playful and more physical and more active. In a lot of ways, that letter-writing is an invisible project. I keep doing it, but I hardly ever show it. It started in thinking about the relationship we have with politicians. Over the years, it’s prompted me to think about how a party gets formed and ends up with so much power. I might do other projects about that soon.
Growing up, no one in my family was into art or anything like that. I have always wondered what pushes one person, then, into the art community and another into something like sports or hockey. I guess with Everyday Goalie I’m trying to put the two together; it seems to work on a lot of levels.
Everyday Goalie is also a release valve. It’s fun—even though I have very bad stick-handling skills—and it gets me out of the murky politics side of things for a while.
LS: Besides the release of your Venice video, what do you hope is next for Everyday Goalie?
CL: Well, there was going to be an arts day on Parliament Hill on October 22. The Canadian Arts Coalition has organized other ones, too, for the last couple of years, where arts groups meet with MPs. But since Parliament has been prorogued for a month at the request of the prime minister, the arts day is postponed.
I might go up for the throne speech in October instead. Or maybe I’ll plan it for when Stephen Harper’s book on hockey comes out on November 5. Maybe I’ll buy a bunch of copies and sign them. We’ll see what happens!
This interview has been edited and condensed. For more of our Venice Biennale coverage, please visit canadianart.ca/venice2013.