Lou Sheppard, The Great Fur Opera (Hudson’s Bay Suite, 1670-), performance, performance ephemera.
The 1670 charter of the Hudson’s Bay Company played a foundational role in the early development of Canada. The charter granted exclusive extractive and trading rights to the Hudson’s Bay Company, establishing corporate/colonial rule in the centre of what would become Canada. Though the Hudson’s Bay Company ceeded control of its rights and territory in 1869-70, the charter had established a precedent of extraction that continues to inform settler-colonial relationships to the land that makes up Canada today.
The Great Fur Opera (Hudson’s Bay Suite 1670–) is named for a satyrical libretto (The Great Fur Opera, Annals of the Hudson’s Bay Company), written by Kildare Dobbs and commissioned by the Hudson’s Bay Company to celebrate the company’s 300th birthday in 1970. In this iteration The Great Fur Opera is made up of five graphic scores which reflect on the language and legacy of the Hudson’s Bay Charter by sounding the results of present day extraction in Canada. Each score will be performed and recorded around Winnipeg, (in a nearby silica mine, in a vacant warehouse building, in a large scale retailer on the outskirts of the city), and then played on a provisional stage in a vacant lot of Winnipeg’s exchange district. The Opera offers a reflection of what has been extracted, by resonating the spaces that are left behind.
Structured as an opera, each score forms an act named for a passage of text from the Charter itself and documented in a libretto available on site.
To All to Whom These Presents Come Greeting,
Our Will and Pleasure is,
to have, hold posesse and enjoy, (for french horn in abandoned silica mine)
For our heirs and successors, and their successors, and their successors
our ample and abundant grace really and fully forever, (1670–-).
Lou Sheppard works in interdisciplinary audio, performance and installation based practices. His work focuses on climate crisis, loss, queer ecologies and economies, responding to the material and discursive histories of sites, bodies and environments. Lou’s research is evidenced through graphic notations, scripts and scores which are often performed in collaboration with other artists and in community gatherings.
His recent work, Rights of Passage, commissioned by the Art Gallery of York University, was a three act drag and choral performance reflecting on the tension between the urban development in Toronto and local river systems. Other works, like A Strong Desire, asserted queer resistance to the DSM V diagnostic text for gender dysphoria by notating a dance work in the margins of the text.
Lou has participated in numerous residencies, including the International Studio Curatorial Program, La Cité des Arts, and as faculty at The Banff Centre. Lou’s work has been included in the Toronto Biennial and the Antarctic Biennial, and he is currently completing a public art commission for the Broadway Subway Project in Vancouver. Lou is a settler on the traditional and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq in Mi’kma’ki/Nova Scotia.
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The artist acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts
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