An anonymous blog commenter has come the closest to the essence of Penance:
"If he had attempted to cross the street and succeeded it would have given us hope. If he attempted and failed he would have been looked upon as a martyr and inspired others. But to make no attempt at all to cross the street, and to actually retreat displays the reality of contemporary thinking about our environment, ie, it's not worth taking the chance."
The performance video Penance is intended to represent a bizarre act of self-punishment and humiliation for the guilt of environmental destruction. Gareth crawled on his stomach with a reconstructed field of grass on his back along Toronto’s Queen Street West from Soho Street to Spadina Avenue. He then stopped and crawled backwards. After two hours he had to give up. It was painful and tiring. The piece captures a sense of helplessness in the face of the overwhelming accumulation of problems facing the world. What can I do? Gareth sees this act as half serious and half ridiculous.
Reconstructing the body piece out of grass gleaned from the countryside was itself a reflective act. Agnès Varda’s beautiful film The Gleaners and I was an inspiration for the gleaning process. The Penance video moves back and forth between the agonizing performance, the bewildered response of onlookers, and contemplative scenes of gleaning grass in the countryside. The public response seemed to be mixed between considerable curiosity, confusion, indifference and hysterical laughter.Reception: Penance has had over 6000 views on YouTube. When it was first uploaded it became the 12th most discussed video for its category in Canada. It has been reviewed in the Toronto Star, Xtra, the climate change magazine Checkerspot, Things of Desire Blog, L’Express , Glendon Campus paper, Globe and Mail, Snap Toronto and Metropolitan among others. It was hotly debated on a prominent Canadian political blog by Garth Turner.
Filming Locations: Toronto & Whitevale, Ontario
Artist & Performer: Gareth Bate
Street Filming: Saglara Kitchikova
Studio & Country Filming: Gareth Bate
Editing: Gareth Bate
Street Still Photography: Carolyn Dinsmore, Saglara Kitchikova
Studio Still Photography: Gareth Bate
Country Still Photography: Gareth Bate, Carolyn Dinsmore
Special Thanks: Georgina Neville, John Brown, Margaret Zeidler.
Where The Wild Things Aren't, Wall Space Gallery and Framing, Ottawa, 2012
Arts for Social & Environmental Justice Symposium at the Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto.
Penance & Devotion at Glendon Gallery
Hard Twist: 3rd Annual Juried Textile Art Exhibition at The Gladstone Hotel
Common Thread International Juried Exhibition Part 3, as part of the World of Threads Festival. at b42 Gallery
"Lament", 401 Richmond Career-Launcher Prize Exhibition. Studio 260, at 401 Richmond