PHOTO SUPPLIED BY ALDONA B CREATIVE

After three years of on-again-off-again work, a pandemic and multiple reiterations, a show examining the objectification of women through art that has evolved from a live performance to a film project is finally ready to be seen.

Linnea Swan, an associate artist at Dancer’s Studio West who has been working on the project, says it went from being planned as a live performance, to something else entirely as a response to the pandemic.

“We were working on it for quite a long time,” Swan said. “There was a lot of interaction with the audience — it was really improvised.”

The pandemic threw a wrench into those plans, when the Alberta government declared health restrictions limiting gatherings, including performances, last year.

“I did a bunch of thinking on my own, after everything shut down,” Swan said. “Trying to get to the essence of what this was.”

Made Up is a collaborative work that explores the female and male gaze. It is a deepdive into the consciousness of being watched, and what that means, said Swan.

Originally this began as an in-depth examination into fairy tales, specifically the classic Grimm stories. The function and the way the stories can shape our perception was the spark that set off making Made Up, she said. 

“The idea of distilling the essence of what we perceive as feminine and what shapes our idea of something like that.”

On set with Linnea Swan. PHOTO SUPPLIED BY ALDONA B CREATIVE

Swan filmed the entire project in her apartment, which provided a very contained outlook in both the content and the framing.

She said how it makes people feel, being that intimately close, and knowing that the performers are conscious of that relationship and that they are putting themselves in that position for the audience to look at is the core of Made Up.

“Every choice of where the camera was in relation to the performer and what the camera was looking at,” Swan said. “This whole gaze thing — they can’t avoid it.”

To Made Up performer Nicole Charlton-Goodbrand, collaborating is a major part of the creative process when producing these projects

The way people gaze at the body, at women, the representation of what they are seeing and trying to make these connections is what drew her to the project.

“Knowing what you are doing is a presentation, there is a fourth-wall bit, where I know that you know that you’re watching me,” Charlton-Goodbrand said. “There is an interesting power in that.”

When working on a project as a performer, they’re never given the opportunity to gaze onto themselves. Made Up provides that opportunity for performers like her to experience her work in a whole new way, Charlton-Goodbrand said.

Swan said that the thought of having people sitting in a space viewing her work is both terrifying and exciting, as the show opens soon.

“It’s been such a wild ride of trying to negotiate on how this is going to live,” Swan said. “I think it’s going to be really beautiful.”

Made Up premieres June 24, at the cSPACE King Edward in downtown Calgary. The show will run until the 28th, and will also be shown online, tickets can be purchased here.