im a pause im a fiction im a pervert im a dream
barnett cohen

November 3–5, 2023

Canal Projects is pleased to be hosting Barnett Cohen’s im a pause im a fiction im a pervert im a dream as part of the 2023 Performa Biennal.

Friday, November 3, 7:30pm
Saturday, November 4, 7:30pm
Sunday, November 5, 2:30pm & 7:30pm


im a pause im a fiction im a pervert im a dream is a hour-long performance involving two performers—Deja Bowen and Ray (Tsung-Jui) Tsou—styled in looks by CFDA award-winning fashion designer APOTTS and presented to an audience in the round. In lighting by Bessie-nominated designer Sarai Frazier that evokes the bright white lights of transitional spaces (i.e. airports, bus depots, hospital waiting rooms, and refrigerators), the performers offer an text-based score to an audience in the round, delivering the writing through a combination of monologues, asides, and soliloquies. The score, which originates out of my writing practice, documents and synthesizes the persistence of anxious forces, neurotic tendencies, and unremitting violence inherent within dominant ideologies. A range of urgencies–climate grief, state-sanctioned force, reparative justice, reproductive rights, systems of surveillance, transphobic legislation–appear and reappear within the writing. While the voices of the performers are initially clear and comprehensible, over the course of the performance, they disintegrate into static, echoes, and distortion as artist Victoria Keddie processes and warps their voices into pure acoustic presence. Their words literally disintegrate as they attempt to make meaning within the overlapping existential and perpetual crises we face. Their movements are glitchy, samples, and loops. Double-takes, small abrupt head turns, maximal use of fingers and thumbs, swipes of hands sample a range of contemporary and daily movement. The performance ends abruptly and in darkness. As the audience exits the space, they receive a zine-style copy of the text, designed by LA-based graphic designer and longtime collaborator Tanya Rubbak. The zine functions both as a program for the piece and as an opportunity for the audience to further engage with text in their own time.”

  • Barnett Cohen

Barnett Cohen shapeshifts between poet, performance maker, painter, and political activist. Born in South Africa, Cohen grew up in Georgia, and now lives between New York and Los Angeles. Throughout his anti-disciplinary practice, Cohen proposes a kaleidoscopic queer surrealism of futuristic theoretical concepts, engaging bodily shapes, and calls for subversive action. Frequently collapsing borders between genres and mediums, Cohen synthesizes our present reality of ruined meaning, anxious forces, and unremitting violence within dominant ideologies. His work mirrors a frenetic sense of ever-present discord. He has presented work at the Institute of Contemporary Art, REDCAT, JOAN, LAXART, 356 Mission, Human Resources, The Box (Los Angeles), The International Center of Photography, JDJ, International Objects, The Exponential Festival, The Center For Performance Research (New York), City Limits (Oakland), Onassis Foundation (Athens, GR), and Rupert (Vilnius, LT.) In 2021, Open Space/SFMOMA published poems poems, a collection of his poems alongside those of artist and collaborator Simone Forti. Cohen has been in-residence at Skowhegan, MacDowell, NARS, and Rupert. He is a recent grant recipient from The Foundation For Contemporary Arts, and was nominated for the Rema Hort Mann Emerging Artist Grant in 2020. His work has been reviewed and featured in The New Yorker, The New York Times, T Magazine, Artforum, hyperallergic, Cultured and Riting. In 2017, Cohen founded the Mutual Aid Immigration Network (MAIN), a trilingual free assistance hotline for people detained in immigration detention centers across the United States. MAIN connects people who call with bond funds and legal services that can accelerate their freedom from incarceration.


Deja Bowen is a performer based between New York & Los Angeles. A graduate of AMDA College & Conservatory, she has previously collaborated with Barnett Cohen on The Complaint Society (The Brick as part of The Exponential Festival, 2023), noposition nolocation (The Center For Performance Research, 2023), MOUTHBRAIN (JDJ, The Institute of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, 2021 & 2022), and SOMETHINGSALWAYSWRONG (JOAN, Los Angeles, 2019.) She recently appeared in Forced Leisure at Human Resources Los Angeles, a piece by Kyle Patrick Roberts and directed by Madeline Barasch.

Ray (Tsung-Jui) Tsou is a Taiwanese multidisciplinary artist. She holds a B.F.A in Acting from Taipei National University of the Arts. She experiments with various mediums, such as painting, textile art, sculpture, photography, dance, and performing arts. Tsou aims to amplify the seemingly meaningless mundane. Using intuitive materials such as unfiltered words, visuals from meditation, impromptu drawings, and improvised movement, she expands on these nuances and create pieces that allow feelings and emotions to organically manifest through abstracted lines, words, and colors. Her work embodies private materials from her past and present such as dreams, fantasies, and emotional memories. Through weaving subconscious experiences into a visual language, Tsou seek to explore the interconnectedness of the collective subconscious within humanity, and to communicate and meditate with both her inner self and the viewers. As a performer, she had worked with companies including Voleur du Feu Theatre, Anarchy dance theatre, BIU theatre, Thatalright Art Space, and Godot ArtAssociation. Her visual art works had been selected to be in The Art Student League of New York’s juried exhibition Life Under the Pandemic Moon, and Exhibition Outreach: Primavera. In June 2021, she collaborated with the artist agency ArtsBerry and was featured in their event The Asian Voice. In 2022, she was invited to exhibit her artwork in Taiwan: A World of Orchids exhibition curated by Queens Botanical Garden and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in New York. Tsou’s two solo exhibitions Embroidered Emotions Project and A Strolling Person was showcased in Absence Theater gallery and Atmosphere Cafe in Tainan, Taiwan in 2023. Born in 1994 in Taiwan, Ray Tsou currently lives and works in New York.


Victoria Keddie is a multimedia artist based in New York City. Keddie’s work has been exhibited and performed at numerous venues in the United States and internationally, including the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Museum of the Moving Image, and the Museum of Modern Art. She has also been the recipient of various awards and grants, including the NYSCA/NYFA Fellowship in Music/ Sound (2022) and as the INHABIT Artist-in-residence at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics, Frankfurt, Germany (2023). Keddie has performed live productions, with commissioned compositions, and exhibited internationally at: The Barbican (London/UK), Fridman Gallery, Performa Arts, The Swiss Institute, Pioneer Works, The Kitchen,The Museum of Art and Design, Queens Museum of Art, Anthology Film Archives (New York/US), Human Resources, (Los Angeles/ US), KØS Museum, (Kuge/DK), Espace de l’art Concret (Paris/FR), The Goethe Institute (Bogotá/CO),Syros International Film Festival (Syros, GR), Sight +Sound Festival (Montreal/CA), among others.


Sarai Frazier is a Bessie-Nominated NYC-based lighting and props designer working in performance art, theatre and film. She is the Associate Production Manager at Performance Space New York. Sarai is interested in lighting design as its own medium to view, engage and interact with. She has recently made her international lighting design debut at HAU in Germany. A recent graduate from Brooklyn College’s BFA program in design, her most recent work as an LD includes All things under dog: where two things are always true (Performance Space New York) ILE (122 Community Center) , Gi-60 International Festival (The Tank) and INVISIBLE TRAIL (PSNY).


Launched in 2018, APOTTS is a CFDA award-winning fashion brand that embodies genderless sensibility and practicality, while maintaining a focus on creativity and diversity. Aaron Potts was born and raised in Detroit to a working class family with roots in the American South. He graduated from Parsons and went on to intern with Marc Jacobs at Perry Ellis and with Donna Karan at DKNY. After graduation, Potts went on to design for Emanuel Ungaro, Anne Klein, Victoria’s Secret, Escada, Badgley Mischka, Ellen Tracy, Kaufmanfranco and Tamara Mellon.


JenniLee has previously collaborated with Barnett Cohen The Complaint Society (The Brick as part of The Exponential Festival, 2023), noposition nolocation (The Center For Performance Research, 2023), MOUTHBRAIN (JDJ, The Institute of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, 2021 & 2022), and SOMETHINGSALWAYSWRONG (JOAN, Los Angeles, 2019.) When not styling performances, she specializes in modern and refined styling for celebrity and fashion magazine editorials, brands, and private clients. Specifically, helping female-identified entrepreneurs to use fashion to experience self-love,
explore their creativity, and align their personal style with their brand identity. She has worked with internationally renowned brands such as Harper’s Bazaar, Heineken, Blooming dale’s, Diesel, Atlantic Records, and Sony. She has lent her fluid sensibility to celebrities as varied as Lana Condor, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Pratt, Lauryn Hill, Mos Def, Death Cab for Cutie, and Paramore. In addition, she has collaborated with top-tier photographers and creative directors for television, advertising, print, and online media.


Tanya Rubbak is a graphic designer based in Los Angeles, working on publications and exhibition design with artists and cultural institutions. With a personal practice rooted in poetry, much of her independent work looks at online and physical cultural landscapes through the lens of language and design. She’s interested in the transformative and liberating potential of improvisation, humor, play, and a form-first, referential approach to narrative and style.

Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Andrew Hallinan