Tribute to Chickens: Performance

Entry from Acts of Transfer:

Duration: 59 min 36 sec
Format: ½” Open Reel

Chickens, eggs, and nests are an ongoing theme for Carole Itter, who began exploring them through collage, sculpture, writing, costume and performance after renting a cabin on a chicken farm in Robert’s Creek, BC in the early 1970s.[1] Itter’s Tribute to Chickens: Performance took place in 1975 in Western Front’s Grande Luxe Hall. In it, an array of activities and props create a lively installation: a child-size soft chicken sculpture rests on a nest, scrambled eggs are served to the audience, an artist lies on the ground inside Itter’s Raw Egg costume, and Itter’s mixed media Chicken Box assemblage sculptures are mounted on the walls, one resting against a table leg. The room is full of enthusiastic children and their parents. Itter enters the stage wearing a homemade chicken costume performing wiggling, feather-ruffling, claw-scratching, and beak-pecking movements. She then begins to read a series of “chicken stories” about stealing eggs, written from the perspective of the chicken. Of the many other concurrent activities taking place in the hall, parents play egg toss, children climb on the stuffed chicken sculpture, the Raw Egg slowly slides along the floor, and an egg-shaped sign is made and installed on a wall reading: “Two Dozen Eggs.” In the second reading, Itter is no longer dressed as a chicken. She sits down at a desk and reads a text about the growth of her daughter and her experience as a mother. Despite the many children in the hall, the content and language of the readings are better suited to an adult audience.

Carole Itter is a revered artist, writer, teacher, filmmaker, sewer, and performer from Vancouver. She studied for a year at the University of British Columbia before enrolling at the Vancouver School of Art in the 1960s where she studied with friend and mentor Roy Kiyooka.[2] Itter’s multidisciplinary approach to art-making carries social or political weight with sensitivity and care. Collaboration has also been an important part of Itter’s practice, especially with her late partner—the jazz musician, writer, and artist Al Neil. Up until 2017, Itter and Neil occupied the Blue Cabin, the last remaining shack from a squatters’ community that existed along the North Shore of the Burrard Inlet in Vancouver.[3] The Blue Cabin is now being converted into a floating artist residency in consultation with Itter.[4] In 2017, she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Visual Arts.

1 – Itter, Carole. “Ruins in Process: Vancouver Art in the Sixties Interview / Carole Itter with Lorna Brown.” Interview by Lorna Brown. Vancouver Art in the Sixties: Ruins In Process. 2009. Accessed April 2018. http://vancouverartinthesixties.com/interviews/carol-itter.
2 – Ibid.
3 – Smith, Janet. “The Blue Cabin Receives Funding to Help Turn It into a Floating Artist Residency.” The Georgia Straight, January 26, 2017. Accessed April 2018. https://www.straight.com/arts/861031/blue-cabin-receives-funding-help-turn-it-floating-artist-residency.
4 – “The Blue Cabin.” Grunt Gallery. April 25, 2017. Accessed April 2018. http://grunt.ca/the-blue-cabin/

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Original Archive Entry:

Documentation of two readings: The first is a reading of chicken stories, wherein Itter wears a chicken costume and uses props, such as a large plush chicken, scattered around on the ground. The audience, which includes many children, interacts with the props while Itter reads.

In the second reading, Itter is seated behind a table in regular clothing. Sounds of children in the audience are audible, but the content of the reading is clearly suited to adults.

Digitized video available through Western Front Archives upon research request.