Progressive politics, ideas & culture

September-October 2004

Big bank theory

Nathaniel G. Moore

Photo by SB Edwards/Victoria StantonFor those of us who struggle in the art of finance, Bank Of Victoria is here to make it all right. The cheeky brainchild of Montreal’s Victoria Stanton, the project got its start as a way of helping a friend in debt. “I hated seeing him suffer like that. Credit cards are killers,” says Stanton. “As a life-art advisor specializing in financially induced emotional crises, I wrote him a cheque from the bottom of my heart. I then called it art and with that, I inaugurated the Bank of Victoria.”

The project ( also archives the artist’s recent group performances, including one in which six couples stood kissing on the sidewalk in front of an Export A factory. “Drug” is about “sublimating addictions while addressing their numerous guises,” Stanton says. “Welcome,” in which four people stood in front of a carpet store holding welcome mats, “tries to create a temporary impact on the urban environment.”

Stanton, a core member of Montreal’s spoken word movement over the past decade, is continually taking on different roles as an artist. In 2001, along with Vincent Tinguely, she co-authored Impure (a massive book about the history of Montreal spoken word). Now, the shift in her craft is physical rather than verbal. “Sometimes I feel like showing with bodies and not telling with words,” she says. Whatever the method, her tableaux still talk about “our relationship to our bodies, food, feminism and sexuality, personal empowerment, obsession/addiction and love.”

A recent public performance consisted of a group of people going to a restaurant for brunch. They ordered their meals and, when the food came, each fed the person sitting across from him. The result was improvised communication, both among the performers and the serving staff.

For Stanton, it’s a matter of finding an audience by sneaking up behind them, instead of waiting for them to come see her on a stage. “These more visual performances are not completely removed from my spoken word works because, through a different means, they tend to address the same issues and themes that I ever did when I was standing up on stage yodelling a story or choking out pseudo-poetic social commentary.”

Stanton is planning a small show of recent material in September at a new Montreal venue called Le Local, before going off to Brussels to perform as part of the “Vollevox—Narration” event later that month.

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