Step into artist Amber Dawn Bellemare's parlour... The Parlour Project: Spider, Fly, and Web is a provocative, vulnerable auto ethnography about the artist's lived reality as a former sex worker, using the contributions from her patrons to fund her work as an emerging artist. An intimate embodiment of human connection and sexuality, The Parlour Project reflects Bellemare's insights about womanhood and the commodification of the feminine divine. This immersive, raw and theatrical installation art event is an opportunity for audiences to participate in her story from their own place of imagination, morality, experience and courage. At the beautiful Wolf Lab studio at 4035 rue Saint-Ambroise from Sept. 19-28. Contains nudity-for ages 18+.

The Parlour Project is unprecedented; a unique contribution that allows a glimpse inside the oldest profession. Bellemare often thought of her former work as performance art; creating a sensual and delightful environment that provides a framework for experiences of rapport, eroticism and escape. "In that sense my work was art, although it was impermanent, transitory, not protected under the law, and publicly shamed," she explained.

As a sex worker, selfies became the artist's main vehicle for creative expression, communication with clients, and self- reflection. The bulk of Bellemare's work documents each rendezvous with a selfie before and after (and sometimes during), so as to discern what was working, what wasn't, and to honour herself in her most exposed state. By revealing only part of the story, she challenges viewers to fill in the blanks.

The project will ultimately consist of 3 parts: the multimedia/pop-up ceremony event, as well as an accompanying book and documentary about the total's creation (to be filmed live throughout the weekend).The documentary will eventually weave the two narrative arcs of the story: before and after a session, including the moments Bellemare took the selfies; and the process of making the installation/event-what it takes to create something of this scope, theme and risk.

The piece is done within the container of ceremony to offer a sensual, nurturing intimacy. Today's world generates a situation where dealing with external forces allows little time to reflect or to shape an identity from within. Indigenous wisdom has a lot of teachings around unifying spirit, the ancestors and the earth. Guiding the process is Anishinaabe artist, elder and mentor, Sharon Brass, supporting Bellemare's vision to craft a safe space through ritual, specific for this event. "We believe that ceremony, dances and songs can help guide a creative process that can deepen one's identity and connectedness to their authentic selves. Women who have never been valued for who they really are suffer from 'spirit sickness'; a separation from one's true self," said Brass.

Bellemare's writing is a series of reflections processing everything that The Parlour Project has bubbled up to the surface, "This whole experience has crystallised ideas of what womanhood means to me from the context of my upbringing, relationships, feminism, art, archetypes, social norms, Instagram, sexuality and power. I make documentaries about other people's stories, so in the process of claiming my own story, I had to become the subject," said Bellemare. Here, she is literally exposing everything about herself that she struggled to understand, as a way to connect with the same struggle inside others. The Parlour Project aims to push through those limitations with art and integrity for an audience who also hungers for those rituals of the flesh. "I hope people come to the show with curiosity and a willingness to engage with an erotic object in the presence of other individuals with the same outlook; the chance to experience a transcendent intimacy together. They may find in themselves something naughty, playful, perhaps lonely or enraged," she added.

In the dynamic of Howlitt's poem, Bellemare often played the role of the spider, and at times the role of the fly when she felt her clients needed her to be seduced by them. It then became clear she was neither the spider nor the fly, "I am the web. It is my job to enable sincere and vulnerable interaction. I am compelled to the collapsing of simple categories such as bad and good, spider and fly. This show is about the entirety of the spider/fly/web-unapologetic, warm and welcoming."

Jonathan Della Vecchia is doing the live video projections. About the concept, Della Vecchia said: "Amber has a gift for creating sacred space. The piece is revealing not just in the literal sense but in how it deconstructs the way we present ourselves and want to be seen, as well as the superficial labels we place on others." For Audrey Paquette, who participated in the creative process, "the show allows people to view the world through another's eyes, which is always informative, enriching, and often eye-opening."

Amber Dawn Bellemare is a Montreal based artist whose work involves themes of vulnerability, resilience, and belonging. She is the Project Animator for the Truth, Healing, and Reconciliation Initiative for the Canadian Unitarian Council and the proud founder and member of The Wolf Lab, a local woman's art collective that nurtures the creative entrepreneurial spirit of women in a collaborative setting. Bellemare works one on one with each Wolf Lab member to develop skills beyond the vision they have for themselves, a reciprocal exchange. A portion of the ticket sales will be donated back to the collective.

Integrally connected to The Parlour Project: Spider, Fly, and Web are: Sharon Brass, guiding the process of ceremony; Jonathan Della Vecchia, projections; Luca Santilli, sound; Lana Nimmons behind the scenes/editorial photos; Audrey Paquette, Andrea Pelletier and Kelly Jewer, photos and documentary participation; and Emmanuel Martin, choreography.

The Parlour Project

At 4035 rue Saint-Ambroise, Studio 206, H4C 2E1 All Shows 18+

Thursday, Sept. 19-Saturday, Sept. 28 at 8pm; Sunday Sept. 22, matinee performance only, at 3pm

Tickets online: $20, $15 students/seniors/sex workers, $25 at the door

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