Crissy Virtue

1993 – 2002

In 1992 Kirouac began boxing at a local Winnipeg boxing club. She was in the first batch of women to classic box in the province of Manitoba. Her weekly routine began to include sparring with young male fighters, training exercises, changing in the utility closet and taking showers with a line-up of male members outside the locker room, as there was no accommodation for women at that time.

This decision inspired a Canada Council grant that took her to Paris, France for nearly two years in the early ninties, where Kirouac joined The Poissy Boxing Club in the suburbs of Paris France. She trained, lived and researched her position as a classic boxer and single young woman, mostly gathering and writing about this difficult and unique experience. This led to further traveling and research of women in contact sports in Rotterdam NED and a training stint at Spaniorium Farms Boxing Camp residency in Bristol UK.

Upon her return to Canada in 1995, Kirouac birthed her alter-ego Crissy Virtue, a quasi- masculine, sexuality-bending foxy-boxer, through whom Kirouac challenged audiences the next ten years. She used her own actions, experience and body to create several interdisciplinary projects examining stereotypes, gender expectations, feminism, violence, power and vulnerability, some of which took her to the Banff Center of the Performing Arts for four production residencies and bouts of incredible productivity. Her video Other Business in 2002 is the grand finale of this period completed just prior to attending graduate school, at which time Crissy Virtue was put to rest to make room for brand new ideas.

Billboard Project

My Girlfriend Can’t Wrestle But You Should See Her Box

Location 1 – Corner of River and Osborne Ave., Winnipeg Manitoba – 1999
Location 2 – Junction of Bruce St. and Great Victoria St., Belfast Northern Ireland – 2000

The billboard My Girlfriend Can’t Wrestle, But You Should See Her Box challenges the commercial construction of marketable female appearances – from Stepford Wife to Sex Kitten by presenting Kirouac in the erotic, but quasi-masculine persona of a “Foxy Boxer” Crissy Virtue. Virtue violates the nurturing female, mocks the hetero-male fantasy, and flirts with homoerotic stereotypes at once. The model’s aggressive sexuality speaks to the fetishized subculture of fight porn, but frustrates its climax by straddling gender roles. In reducing herself to a multi-faceted, but ultimately “flat” public advertisement, the ad enters the market framework to interrupt the system.

Girl on Girl Action

2001

[TRT – 5:33] 16 mm. film

Shot originally on 16mm film, the plot of Girl On Girl Action depicts a high-tea/boxing match, in the cinematic setting of a chilly autumn forest. Playful and disturbing, two women fight three rounds among the rustling leaves in floor length evening gowns, punching with one gloved hand and teetering full tea cups with the other. During the breaks they return to their respective seats at the adorned table and are prepped by their personal formal domestics, lipstick refreshed, spritzed with water, mouth-guards refitted until the bell rings. A winner remains undeclared as the endless and senseless game progresses. In so doing, Girl on Girl Action mimics the implicit absurdity of feminine ceremony that women are often expected to uphold.

Other Business

2004

Digital Video – single-channel with sound [TRT – 14:50]
Sound Composition by Micheal Stecky

Other Business is an irresolvable looping plot exploiting ideals of fantasy, narrative and eroticism. In this video Kirouac uses tropes of pop-culture clichés ranging from video game character design and porn to action-films and Hollywood to explore blurred lines between sex, desire, power and violence, all couched in the gratification of the ‘fight’. Traditional plot arches build, yet to no end or resolution, sexual tension and teasers are introduced, yet sustained in a state of becoming, representations of character archetypes enter scenes and interact, yet only superficially. Conventional story-line expectation is diverted as the video is broken down into more primal cinematic elements of wave-like pacing, empty psychological investment and emotionless physical aggression.

Sit[E]ings: Trajectories for a Future

2000

Winnipeg Art Gallery Exhibition

Crissy Virtue Anti-Chamber – housing Gem Cluster, and Detail

In 2000, Kirouac’s work was included as part of a large exhibition of eleven emerging artists at the Winnipeg Art Gallery curated by Shirley Madill. For the catalog Madill writes of her work:

“One of the millennium phenomenons of multiple identities in an individual as thrust upon us by media, fashion and advertisements. This experience is encapsulated in Christine Kirouac’s recreation of herself as ‘Crissy Virtue, Foxy-Boxing Queen Extraordinaire’ and others, an invention made possible through this new age of digitization. Kirouac creates the utopian fantasy self, a combination of many personas with similar features. For Kirouac, the camera is a tool with which to explore the condition of representation and challenge the myth that the photograph is an index of reality. By using herself as a model to replicate and change, she takes control of her image drawing from a multitude of positions. The multiplications are accentuated by the representative nature of the image, presented like wallpaper on either side of the entrance to her designed and constructed room. Through the use of shades of pink within the photographs and the room, Kirouac parodies the consumption of images and creation of desire by fetishizing standards of beauty. Her body is used as prop, and by visually cloning herself she reproduces what is already in essence a ‘reproduction.’”

World Tea Party

2000

Plug In ICA Exhibition

Simmer Down; The Painting, oil on canvas, 10’ x 14’
Simmer Down; The Performance, three 3 min. fighting rounds
Tea & Cragging, climbing performance with Grand Chung, 5 hours

n 2000, Winnipeg was selected to host the Pan Am Games and Plug In ICA curated The World Tea Party, a response exhibition focused on relationships between art and sports. Kirouac created and premiered three ambitious projects for the event.

In her performance Simmer Down, Kirouac and her opponent dressed in evening gowns, boxed a three-round exhibition match against the musical backdrop of a string-quartet whose notes grew progressively chaotic along with the match. Onlookers witness the two women negotiate and dodge, connecting hits and missing, while teetering cups filled with tea in their gloves. Each boxer had a personal trainer in tuxedo standing by during the rest period, to freshen lipstick, rinse mouth guards and refill teacups. This initial performance was later recreated as a 16 mm. film titled Girl On Girl Action.

As a backdrop to this performance, Kirouac hung a 10’ x 14’ oil painting she created depicting a surreal scene of two topless female boxers engaged in mid-punch on top of a long dining-table set in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. She titled it Simmer Down; The Painting. Around the table is an audience made up of various characters from numerous resources from photos she took as a photographer at professional fights in Europe, to porn magazines and newspaper clippings, including herself holding the video camera.

Tea & Cragging

For her second performance, Kirouac and her rock climbing partner Grand Chung treated the horizontal urban landscape of Winnipeg’s Exchange District, as a vertical wall challenge. Over the course of five hours, Kirouac and Chung partnered each other through a five-pitch climb over a five block radius. “Cragging” is a term referring to a specific form of outdoor climbing.

Kirouac and Chung began their climb at Old Market Square. Seated on mats facing each other, they participate in a tea ceremony combined of Chinese (Chung’s nationality) and Aboriginal (Kirouac’s partial identity) rituals. After this ceremony, Chung and Kirouac begin to methodically navigate the five-block climb in front of them, reading each crack, curb or concrete ridge as a foot or hand hold. Only once did the climbing performers have to scale over a tunnel archway vertically in order to cross a freshly poured area of seamless tar. The climb lasted five hours and ended with a dramatic zip-line across McDermot Street, into the foyer entrance of Plug In ICA.

Three Competitors

Three Competitors (of both photographs), 30″ x 90″, 1996
Competitors Hands, 30″ x 30″, 1996

In 1994 Kirouac was training at a boxing gym in Poissy, a suburb of Paris France. French photographer Marian Decrevel shot portraits Kirouac with two of her sparring partners, under her direction. In 1996 Kirouac participated in the Popular Mass and Subcultures residency at the Banff Center for the Performing Arts, and this series is one of the bodies of work created during her productive time there.

Crissy Virtue & The Wrestler

Position #8, green ink on paper, 12’ x 17’, 1996
Position #17, green ink on paper, 12′ x 12′, 1996

During her residency in 1996 at the Banff Center for the Performing Arts, Kirouac created mural sized cartoon drawings on her studio wall in green ink of her Crissy Virtue persona. She is depicted “wrestling” her male partner in various maneuvers on the brink of karma sutra positions. Eventually Crissy Virtue dominates her willing opponent.

As an exercise in dramatic scale shift, Kirouac employed a Calgary print shop to cut a laser printed stamp of one of these large scale drawings, that uses to this day in her business and personal communications.