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Local artist Bessie Wapp is Oxygen Art Centre’s next artist in residence

Oxygen Art Centre is pleased to announce local musician and theatre artist, Bessie Wapp, to their Artist in Residence program for the month of December.

The residency will be followed by a series of participatory performance events and an online artist talk throughout the month of January.

The title of the project, Pandora’s Jukebox is derived from Wapp’s interest in the Greek myth of Pandora, and her desire to transform the fate of this heroine by empowering her as a healer through this project.

As the ancient myth goes, Pandora is given a gift from Zeus, in the form of a small jar or box. She is instructed by Zeus to deliver this gift to her husband, Epimetheus, and warned not to open the box. Curious as to the contents of the gift, she defies Zeus’s orders and opens the box.

The open box immediately unleashes physical and emotional troubles for humankind. In the end, only one emotion remains in the box, that of Hope. It is this kernel of human nature that Wapp seeks to embody in the work of the project, and to offer her community solace in these difficult times.

Wapp will daringly open the gifted box, or jukebox in this case, and set to work transforming the tragedy of the myth into one of good fortune through the healing power of music and summoning of hope.

Inspiration for Pandora’s Jukebox came to Wapp in comparing the similarities of the myth to the challenging circumstances of today’s world with the realities of the climate crisis and ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Wapp says that this shaped her decision to use her residency time to offer some kind of consolation and hope for her community.

Wapp will use her December residency to experiment with an audio looper. A new instrument to Wapp, a looper station is an electronic device used by musicians to record musical performances, and then play these recordings back in real time. The musician can create loops of sound that layer the output adding texture and complexity to the music.

The recording and looping of pieces will allow Wapp to facilitate participatory sing-a-longs and conversational moments during the exhibition. Wapp is excited and grateful for the opportunity this residency affords to learn this new skill, as well as, to have a designated studio space to make music. She will also be working on an installation to alter the gallery into a soft, theatrical environment in which to set this new work.

Following the residency, Wapp will stage and host a series of public events at Oxygen Art Centre throughout the month of January.

These events will centre on the musical expression of what is most forefront in the hearts and minds of those present. Wapp will lead audiences in a participatory process of conversation and engagement aimed to elicit and gather raw material in the form of words, poems, and drawings, which she will then incorporate into improvised, participatory musical compositions created live, in the moment.

In each public event, Wapp will challenge herself to work intuitively and spontaneously with her audience in the creation of new live music. For Wapp, this project brings a culmination of her experience and skill in improvisation, choir direction, theatrical design and community engaged art practice together.

Those interested in participating in the hosted events, held on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays will need to book an appointment via Oxygen’s website 24-hours prior to the event.

The residency will run from December 1st to December 30th, 2021. The exhibition will open on January 7th and run until January 30th, 2021.

The public is invited to register online through Oxygen Art Centre’s website for all the events. An online artist talk will be held on Wednesday, January 19, 2022 at 4 p.m.PST (Zoom). The participatory performance events will be offered on Friday and Saturday evenings from 5:00 - 6:30 p.m. with a matinee on Sundays from 2:00 - 3:30 p.m.

These events will adhere to COVID-19 public health protocols which will include the wearing of masks while in the Oxygen Art Centre, proof of full vaccination upon registration, and limited numbers of participants in the space at one event.