Re-learning vulnerability through art



December 31, the last day of 2017. Outside The Reach Gallery Museum, trees are cased in a thick layer of ice, glittering in the weak sun after the recent ice storm. The trees are unyielding, stiff to the touch; if you push hard enough, the hard shell will crack and shatter on the ground.

Inside, we are similar to the ice-coated trees, albeit in a metaphorical way. A small audience is gathered in a dim room while Tara-Lynn Kozma-Perrin stoically reads confessions of The Reach’s patrons, gathered over the last several months. Everyone is silent as the anonymous confessions echo through the room, our hard shells being chipped away with every new confession. Today is about vulnerability, the expression of emotion. Today is about breaking the hard exterior, and learning to let our true feelings show.

Tara-Lynn’s exhibition, Reflections, was a three-part, multi-medium body of work consisting of sound, video, text, and wall painting, centred on the universal experience of vulnerability and expression of emotions in regard to pain.

To add an interactive element to the exhibit, Tara-Lynn provided slips of paper that The Reach patrons could write confessions on, and slip into a nearby box. This part of the exhibition was intended to allow patrons to share their thoughts anonymously, hopefully relieving some of the emotional burden that comes with hiding emotions.

The exhibition was displayed at The Reach art gallery from September 21 to December 31. On the final day, Tara-Lynn sat down in front of a few close friends and family, as well as some strangers, to read the confessions. What follows is an interview with Tara-Lynn after the performance was finished.

This is such a unique project. What prompted you to create it?
It stemmed originally from the confessional letter I had written to my husband while I was enduring pain, and realizing it was time for me to realize how I was hurting everyone around me. He was obviously the first one I wanted to do that [for].

At that time, I was also preparing for my first exhibition at The Reach, and so everything fit nicely together with me realizing that I wasn’t able to make art because of my injury, yet I was preparing for my first solo exhibition. It felt so comfortable to fit it in there, and I started playing with the idea of vulnerability, and that confession really felt necessary to be part of the entire show. When I was thinking about how I was going to have this confession work out, I realized that it’s one thing to put it up on display for everybody to read and see, but I really loved having that interactive component. I really like having people engaging in art and being a part of that process, so it was important for me to be able to have them be a part of that process, sharing things that they wish they would have shared, and then have me read, on the final day, all those reflections that they wish they would have shared. I hope that by reading those things, it almost takes that weight and burden away from them, they’re no longer solitary in this thought, it’s a shared thought, and hopefully this helps them be more open to sharing in the future instead of keeping everything in.

You clearly like the interactive aspect of art. Have you ever done anything in the past similar to this?
Not similar to this, in the past I had these sculptures called “Interactive Experiments,” essentially puzzles or structures based off of children’s toys, like an abacus, where you’re enticing adults to move things around with a structure. I started out with that, but this is the first time that I’ve ever done any real performance work in a public space, which is really interesting. I did it because this whole project was about being vulnerable, and allowing yourself to be out there. So asking, “How am I going to make people comfortable with being vulnerable if I’m not putting myself out there to the nth degree,” so doing that was kind of important.

Were you nervous about starting this?
I wasn’t nervous when we got here to set up. I knew I had a lot of friends that were coming, but the more stranger faces [that showed], it went from being something of an intimate conversation to a performance, and I think that’s definitely what a stranger does in a work like this. I am performing for these people who don’t know anything about me, possibly anything about this project, and so that does play into “Okay, I really need to make sure that I’m giving this justice.” It’s interesting, because you’re almost at an entertainment perspective as well, but it’s not entertainment.

The project was supposed to lighten the emotional burdens of those who wrote confessions. Did you expect one specific emotion or confession to happen a lot?
I kind of anticipated the love and loss. I was really surprised at the amount of reflections of people coming out, or being afraid of coming out, so that was really interesting. It’s fascinating. Again, you might have some kind of idea what you’re going to get, but you don’t really know. But the amount of people coming out, and people expressing love and regret, and unfortunately sexual abuse, those are four themes that were consistent throughout every single piece. I think that’s overwhelmingly indicative of how all of us are the same, all of us experience the same emotions and feelings, and it’s important for us to remember we’re all in this together. How many people in Abbotsford, and how many of us actually communicate with each other on a daily basis. We’re not connecting, obviously, because so many people are regretting never saying “I love you.”

Right, we don’t communicate, we don’t tell people when we love them. I don’t know why it’s so hard.
Yeah! It’s interesting because I feel like people are always afraid of the response, they’re afraid of being hurt. If you tell someone that you love them, and they don’t love you back, you feel hurt. But maybe we need to start looking at it differently. Like, “I have this energy to give you, and I’m going to give it to you. Just take it, and be happy.”

Do you think people benefited from your exhibit?
It’s really hard to say, because some people will take it as a joke, as you can tell by some of the answers. Some people may have written things, and that was that, not looking back on it, but I do hope that even one or two people leave, and end up feeling positive, like they’re moving forward, and wanting to share more. If they feel like this has affected them, then that’s good.

It was interesting because it was completely random, having something sad, and then all of a sudden having something that says “I forgive you” right after, that was extremely powerful for me. And then there was the one about forgiving her rapists, and then the next one was “I love you.” It was a crazy mountain climb of emotions.

You can find more of Tara-Lynn’s art on her Instagram, flythekitestudios.

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