Thought-provoking performance art ‘shaking up’ Calgary’s old Central Library

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It’s been empty for months but now life is coming back to Calgary’s old Central Library.

Overshadowed since the city’s dazzling new Central Library opened in November 2018, the old branch is now the setting for a performance incubator event called Discomfort Lab.

Calgary’s Swallow-a-Bicycle Theatre is hosting the event, inviting several other theatre artists to transform the second floor of the building.

READ MORE: VIRTUAL TOUR: Inside Calgary’s new Central Library

“This is the old kids’ area,” artistic director Mark Hopkins said. “We’ve created this wonderful installation of a snake eating its own tail, along with a lot of other poetic elements.”

One of those performance art elements features Hopkins using a sewing machine while sitting in an unfilled backyard pool.

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“The reason for that is that if you filled this to about 60 per cent, that would be the amount of water that it would take to make a single T-shirt,” Hopkins said. “It’s kind of mind-boggling!”

Hopkins has also brought in all the clothing he owns, sorting it and displaying by the country in which it was made.

“What are the ecological impacts? What are the human impacts of the processes that go into our clothes?”

READ MORE: Calgary teen’s life-size polar bear statue greets library patrons: ‘It’s so cool!’

The other Discomfort Lab performances will also touch on thought-provoking subjects.

“We really think that we need to be having uncomfortable conversations, shaking things up in order for us to be moving forward,” Hopkins said.

“Even though this is no longer functioning as a library, that spirit is still here.”

The building’s main floor and basement are currently occupied by the University of Calgary’s faculty of environmental design, which will remain in the space until 2024.

The Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, which manages the building for the City of Calgary, is now looking at options for using the building’s other floors.

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Discomfort Lab performances run Friday, April 26 through Sunday, April 28 at the old Central Library in downtown Calgary.

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