Can’t stop, won’t stop

Lisa Lipton’s new exhibition, Stop @ Forever, brings together trusted collaborators and musical moments from her varied art practice.

Lisa Lipton's Stop @ Forever mixes music and art
Lisa Lipton's Stop @ Forever mixes music and art

Lisa Lipton is happy. When we meet, she's taking a break from a full day of installing her new exhibition, STOP @ forever, at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, a compilation of excerpts from her arsenal of performance pieces. She's also in the midst of a residency at the Gatekeeper's Lodge in Point Pleasant Park. "I feel really lucky," she says. "I feel like I'm going to blink and it's all going to fall away."

Luck may be part of it, but the local artist and musician has been also been working at top capacity for years, exhibiting over 20 performance and installation-based pieces across Canada and internationally, and completing residencies in Banff and Yellowknife. Lipton's work incorporates diverse elements, from dance to knitted sculpture, and tends to focus on creating a particular mood. One of her roles is that of gracious hostess. Whether she's facilitating a ballroom waltz, a baseball game or an evening of lounge music, viewers and participants will find themselves transported. Her project Window Ballet, which staged a theatrical narrative through the lit windows of a north end house, exemplifies a technique she thinks of as "living collage."

"Everything was placed somewhere for a reason," Lipton explains. "You put down the first character, and maybe you repeat them in a different way. You know where you started, and this allows for continuity."

STOP @ forever features an opening night performance that will bring together many of the musical moments from Lipton's work. "I chose pieces I felt confident in showcasing, ones I thought would be fun," she says. A number of talented folks will be appearing, including Victoria Parker, Laura Peek, Jess Lewis, Ross Burns, Ian Bent, Tim Dunn and her parents. When collaborating, Lipton says, "I'm feeling something, or aiming for a sensation that I've felt, and I give people a box of ideas that I'm working with. Now I've got this roster of really trusted collaborators. It's great." A new piece called The Living Room Series will also be premiering at the AGNS, and appears to involve drumming---the curious will have to show up to see.

Lipton first had the desire to play the drums as a child. When a proposal based around drumming was accepted for a Banff Centre for the Arts residency, Lipton says, "That's what really shot me forward. I said, OK, January first, here I go." On the first day of 2011, Lipton began BLAST BEATS, which involves learning to play the drums while researching the history and spirituality of the instrument. "I'm really interested in the idea of what roles you choose to play and put yourself in," she says. "What's the success rate if you devote yourself to something---where you see yourself in the end."

Finally realizing the drumming dream as an adult meant a rigourous routine: she practiced four hours a day for a year, letting up temporarily when she developed tendonitis. "I'm interested in the limitations of what you can do," she says. "I was a tree-planter, and I realized I was capable of a lot more than I thought I was, physically anyway." Her effort has paid off. "It took me forever to get Jay-Z's 'Empire State of Mind.' I wanted that beat so bad. And now I can play it."

Today, the drums are an integral part of her life. "I haven't been playing this week because of the install," she says, "and I feel a loss, like it hurts." As far as limitations go, Lipton's take is inspiring: "I pretty much believe that you can do anything you wanna do."

Lisa Lipton, Stop @ Forever, Opening Friday, February 10 at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, 1723 Hollis, Running to April 29

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