We don’t even know what we don’t know
Mar 17 2023
By Amy Kenny
Prophecy Fog is only a solo performance if you don’t consider the rocks to be performers. Jani Lauzon does.
“I don’t believe they’re inanimate,” says Lauzon over the phone from Vancouver. That’s where the multi-disciplinary Métis performer is showing Prophecy Fog before it comes to the Yukon Arts Centre on March 30 and 31. “I'm gonna say something controversial, but, you know, science tries to debunk the the belief system that trees communicate with each other, or that that rocks breathe once every 100 years or so, or that water holds memory. Because they can't prove it. But then I question why the world still believes in God, because you can't prove that God exists.”
That’s part of what Lauzon wants her audience to consider when they see the show, the origins of which lie in a 2013 trip to the Mojave Desert.
Lauzon visited Giant Rock that year – a seven-storey boulder in the California desert. The rock fascinated her. The history around it weaves in folkloric threads of a caretaker living beneath the rock; UFO sightings; and the ways in which the area is important to Indigenous communities.
The experience spoke to Lauzon’s existing concerns about the Earth. About what might be left for her own daughter, and about humanity’s tendency to overlook the power that the Earth holds. Lauzon believes the Earth is a living, breathing being and that humanity largely disrespects that being.
The trip added another dimension to that concern though. There’s graffiti all around the area. Seeing that kind of desecration to a sacred site led her to draw parallels to racism. To the way Elders and older people are treated, and to the “assumption of superiority,”she calls it, that leads some people to claim rights over space that belongs only to itself.
Her performance digs into this, using photography, video and story-tellling. Lauzon has developed it, since its 2018 premiere, with the help of environmental designer, Melissa Joakim, and director, Franco Boni.
The resulting performance covers the history of the Giant Rock region, as well as her personal experience of the area during her trip. She discusses her past, present and possibilities. It’s a kind of tone poem to the agency of the natural world, told with the help of rocks, some of which she will gather locally, when she lands, with the guidance of local First Nations.
She’s curious to see how it will resonate with Yukoners, whose connection to the land is so strong already. Ultimately, she says she hopes people walk away realizing that we don’t really know what we don’t really know.
“I think it puts us in an interesting place when we question what we think we believe in. My play has no answers, but it has a lot of questions because my goal, really, is to challenge people to open up their thinking process and to get them to contemplate being more curious about what we think we know about ourselves.”
Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at yukontickets.com.