Henry Adam Svec

Retracing Edith Fowke’s Folk
MP3 Sound Recording

Listen to one of the songs here:
Come, You Women by Andrew Penner [Sunparlour Players]

Artist Statement

My performance art incorporates a diverse array of practices and media, including folksong collecting, singer-songwriter stage banter, the academic lecture, and the mass-mediated hoax. Confessional and folkloristic framings in popular music limit the performative possibilities of singing and songwriting, which I have attempted to explore through playfully naturalistic interventions. Can we let voices just be? Or do we need to locate performances and documents within pleasurably graspable narratives? What are the implications of an “authentically” anonymous subject/performer?

Retracing Edith Fowke’s Folk: Recordings and Field Notes is part of a larger project, ultimately including an album, an online archive, and a series of pseudo-lectures to be released/performed in the fall of 2011. A performance artist who complains that he has grown tired of “performativity,” I am claiming to retrace the steps of the late Canadian folklorist Edith Fowke, in order to document how the folksongs she recorded in the 1950s have changed over time. Really, though, I have asked seventeen Canadian musicians, writers, and artists to compose new songs with similar titles to the ones Fowke documented in her day. I have captured these songs in “the field,” which is here defined broadly (some of my folk were found down by the river, others in recording studios). Novelist Chris Eaton, Dora Award-winning playwright Tara Beagan, and indie-folk darling Laura Barrett are just a few of the singers I have captured. This piece includes a CD of my “fakelore” field-recordings, to be listened to via headphones and a fictional notebook filled with observations and meditations from the field exploring my folklorist character’s delirious (and Deleuze/McLuhan-inspired) approach to ethnography. How does the documenter do justice to the immanent creativity of “the folk?” How does one plug the folk into the machine?


I make performance art, write songs and fiction, and work on a PhD in Media Studies at the University of Western Ontario. I have performed at such galleries and festivals as the 7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art, FADO Performance Art Centre, Eastern Edge Gallery, and Sappyfest. My bands (Peter Mansbridge and the CBCs, The Boy from ET, and The CFL Sessions) have toured all over Canada, and my recordings regularly play on the CBC and chart on campus radio. My scholarship has been published in Loading… and Celebrity Studies and is forthcoming in Popular Music and Society, and I have published fiction in The New Quarterly and Darling Magazine.

Retracing Fowke’s Folk was made possible through the support of the Ontario Arts Council