Artful artifice: The Maiden’s Tragedy

Alysse Bowd gets into fairy tales, without the Disney ending for Nocturne 2015.

Alysse Bowd aims to shatter “the castle and the cloud” illusion associated with fairytale or heroine plot arcs at Nocturne this year. Through sculpture and motion, her piece The Maiden’s Tragedy suggests that this fantasy ideal isn’t linear—and it definitely isn’t realistic. “We are always in this constant cycle of wandering, catastrophe and seclusion,” she says, “and we are constantly arriving at ‘happily ever after’ and being ripped from that and placed into another space.” Through monologue, movement and tableau, Bowd will navigate a meadow of hand-crafted, ceramic flowers. She will perform a sequence of gestures that lead her through the five phases of the tragedy on loop throughout the night.

Putting on a live display in front of a changing audience for six hours is a taxing process. The exhaustion, though, is part of the performance. The fact that it’s tiring, says Bowd, plays into the idea that this fairytale plot arc isn’t realistic.

“Part of the excitement and the purpose is to deal with exhaustion,” she says. “How long can I sustain that ideal without collapsing and breaking down the facade?”

Bowd is currently completing her Master of Fine Arts at NSCAD, where she delves into the concepts of heroine plot structures, persona and the necessity of artifice.

Within the last few months she has performed at similar festivals including Lumière in Sydney, Cape Breton and Art in the Open in Charlottetown, PEI. In Charlottetown, she danced for four hours dressed in regal attire holding a gramophone. In Sydney, Bowd installed 100 porcelain abstract birds which she sang to as she danced the whole night.

For The Maiden’s Tragedy, she is creating over 500 flower-like forms and crowns made from porcelain that she will interact with over and over again. She describes it as “attempting to maintain the elegance, and yet struggling physically and emotionally.”

Maybe happy endings aren’t what they’re all cracked up to be.

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