The Michael Ridler Project
(Art and its Co-Relatives)
approx. running time: 2 hours

Best Boys’ final stage work was given a full production and public presentation for the month of April, 1996. It was the company’s most accomplished work and garnered some of its highest praise. It also brought things full circle by featuring actor Kevin Hartley (who portrayed another “real-life” character, Kenneth Zeller, in our first production, Zebra) as the show’s protagonist, David Walker.

The Michael Ridler Project is a 90-minute performance work for multimedia, including text, movement, slides, video, visual art, and taped sound. The result is a blending of still and moving images with live and recorded sounds, improvised and created texts and performances, purposely blurring the lines between film, stage and actuality, in a way that suggests the imagistic theatre of Robert LePage or the techno-texts of Laurie Anderson.

The Michael Ridler Project examines the separation of both characters and audience from life and each other, by technology, time, perception and art. Time lines work on a present/past continuum with the "past" being recreated in the “present” through the various media. In this way, the notion of an external, fixed narrative reality is challenged and reassessed. By mixing fiction with reality, and by questioning the authority of a "text" proper, The Michael Ridler Project subverts an audience's expectations and perception of any text as authoritative truth.

With the gradual construction of the set throughout the play and its eventual deconstruction at the end, the work questions whether an audience should be offered the tradional theatrical “catharsis”, or transcendence, without having shared in the characters' pains. The audience-as-voyeur is left with "castrated" texts and blank screens to contemplate at the end of the performance.

Michael Ridler was a Canadian artist who died of AIDS complications in 1989. He exhibited and sold his work largely in Toronto, New York and Key West. He was just becoming established on the North American art scene when AIDS took his life.

Based on real people, events and documents, The Michael Ridler Project is an intimate examination of love, sex, voyeurism, objectification and the riddles of the human psyche. It attempts to explore what happens to people in the wake of devastating events in their personal lives, whether through a disease such as AIDS, or simply abuse.

Technical Details
The set begins as a blank white space, gradually transformed by the artist as the work progresses. The blank space is the blank space of memory, as well as the artist’s “project”, transformed in the act of remembrance.

Excerpt from The Michael Ridler Project


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