Shelley O'Brien at the Drake Hotel lounge (1150 Queen West), Friday (June 18), 4-7 pm. 416-531-5042.
Performance art has an infamous past. Think of such defiantly unfathomable acts as living with a coyote in a gallery for seven days, crucifying oneself on the hood of a Volkswagen bug or rolling around under a gallery floor while screaming out amplified sexual fantasies. Shelley O'Brien, however, uses music and photography to create a milder and subtler atmosphere.
"I was searching for the perfect work of art for a corner of the lounge," says the photographer, pianist and vocalist, "a music-making work of pianistic art. This residency allowed me in part to photograph this art and use it to prepare the debut show."
O'Brien documented her search for a piano that would, as she puts it, "allow time travel and wouldn't be afraid to speak."
Her search culminates on Friday (June 18) in her evening performance , in which she appears as a "30s lounge character, playing the found funky piano and singing jazz tunes to captive audiences, with my photographic antics strewn as postcards across tables in the lounge".
She hopes to use her unique song arrangements, impromptu storytelling and images to evoke the hotel's history and add to the lounge's retro-futuristic ambience.
Her work has already made an impact on visitors who've stopped by the lounge to watch her practise and prepare. In turn, she's fallen madly in love with the era and its repertoire.
"These songs are so innocent, so happy, honest and direct," she says. "They couldn't be written today."