Performing Que(e)ries: Nina Arsenault with J. Paul Halferty

This exciting conversation and performance demo with one of Canada’s leading queer performance artists took place on October 26th, 2012 in the Segal Theatre at the CUNY Graduate Center.

The event featured two short films made by Arsenault and filmmaker Jordan Tannehill, Plane of Immanence and Guadalajara, as well as an extended monologue by Arsenault retelling an autobiographical story on her quest for feminine beauty entitled The Ecstasy of Nina Arsenault: a surgical pilgrimage through a waking facelift. A provocative question and answer period provided attendees the chance to discuss the development of Arsenault’s aesthetic practices, moderated by J. Paul Halferty from the University of Toronto.

Plane of Immanence (2012) began as a guerilla intervention at the (re)construction site of Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, which artists Jordan Tannahill and Nina Arsenault found in a gutted, liminal state of transition. In this
video, this iconic space rich with national cultural significance—an area of masculinity—is realized into a new potentiality as a metaphysical labyrinth and virtual womb. The queering presence of the body of Arsenault, both naked and constructed, climbing through a jungle of rebar, front-end loaders, and caution tape, reveals to us a multilayered allegory for the alienation of the trans body, the Deleuzian notion of the “body without organs,” and permutations of the divine within the Self and the material world. The film premiered at Pleasure Dome’s New Toronto Works, 2011 with a subsequent showing at CLAGS.

Guadalajara (2012) is a documentary triptych that artistically documents Nina’s pilgrimage to Guadalajara for a waking facelift. The first part, which was shown at CLAGS, depicted Arsenault under the hydraulic surgical table when the doctor steps out of the room. The event was the premiere showing of this film.

The Ecstasy of Nina Arsenault: a surgical pilgrimage through a waking facelift comes out of Nina’s solo installation/durational piece 40 Days + 40 Nights: Working Towards a Spiritual Experience as part of Toronto’s 2012 Summer-Works Festival. The monologue contextualizes Arsenault’s experience in Guadalajara during her most recent cosmetic procedure.

Nina Arsenault is a Toronto based multi-disciplinary artist. She works in live performance, video art, photography, and writing, using these mediums and popular national and international media to document her continuing physical and psychic transformations. She thrives in the exploration of new and profound ways of living her art practice. Her work has been called “profoundly moving,” “absolutely unforgettable,” “brutally honest,” “a spiritual gift” as well as “stunning and ruthless.” You can see more about her work on her website,