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Yuula Benivolski

first performed on July 18, 2021
Barbara Hall Park, Toronto, Canada
performed once in 2021


Toronto, Canada


“Shuddering Sticks” was performed for the Pi*llOry live performance art event in the summer of 2021. It addressed the precariousness of negotiating im/mobility, a result of both disability and aging. Since being diagnosed with a degenerative muscle disease, walking sticks have become a central part of my identity. In this performance, I wanted to disrupt some of the preconceived perceptions of disability.

“Shuddering Sticks,” enacted in a downtown city park, was also a way for me to reflect on the exploding population of homeless people seeking refuge in public parks during the pandemic as well as on the increased vulnerability of the disabled during Covid isolation. Outdoors, in a space between two buildings and a busy city street, I ventured out to be with other people for the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.

I put down my walking sticks. Leaning on a long beaver-gnawed tree branch and holding a brown paper shopping bag, I walked slowly, cautiously, on teetering limbs, towards a small tree growing in the middle of the pavement. I pulled out another stick from the bag. I held it out to the audience as I explored its smooth contours and its sculpted ends. Grasping the long stick in one hand and the short one in the other, I attempted to walk. Awkward, but holding the memory of pleasure.

My need to use walking sticks has led me to interact with “sticks” in new ways, balancing their utility as walking aids with their inherent beauty. Gifted with two beaver-gnawed sticks from the Magnetawan River in northern Ontario just prior to the performance, “Shuddering Sticks” became an interaction between history and possibility.