Does A Wave Belong To The Sea Or The Shore?

Performance took place at P.S. 122, NYC for three nights. Event funded by Jerome Foundation Performance production grant awarded through Franklin Furnace.

The Performance, Does a Wave Belong to the Sea or the Shore, is composed of a woman dressed as an ocean wave, an eight-foot wooden skirt on wheels outfitted with gears and levers, a man covered in white paint, a large mechanical box painted with clouds, one hundred melmac cups, fish shaped clapping blocks and a hill of white powder.

As soon as the woman/wave rolls her eight-foot skirt onto the stage, a ritualistic conversation ensues between all the above elements over questions like “Does a bathtub’s hole belong to bathtub or to sky.”

Does a Wave Belong to the Sea or the Shore

Inspiration for Does a Wave Belong to the Sea or the Shore

When my graduate Assistantship in Pre-Columbian Art at The Universidad National De Mexico ended, a friend from my painting class and I decided to end the summer by throwing away our paintings and living on the beach in Acapulco.

We spent the weeks on the far end of a nearly deserted beach walking in the sun, swimming, eating tacos for ten cents, and talking. I was reading Tolstoy’s, Master and Man and my friend, Zena, told me that her mother, who had lived in Russia and then in Hitler’s camps, had previously been a tutor to Tolstoy’s niece. The niece was supposedly the model in Tolstoy’s book, Anna Karenina.

At night Zena and I slept on the beach in hammocks strung between two palm trees only a few feet from the sea. From my hammock I could see far out into the ocean. Lit by the moon, I could see the gently swells, rising and falling, rising and falling as if the sea were breathing. Each night we would look up at the night sky and see more stars then spaces between them. Then we would drift off to sleep, listening to the quiet rhythm of the waves gently lapping against the shore.

One night I dreamed that my body was the sea. My chest rose like the swell of the sea, then gently fell back down in the outward breath.
Over and over my chest rose and fell, rose and fell, rose and fell the breathing sea.

Years later, I created the work, Does a Wave Belong to the Sea or the Shore.

Review Excerpts

“Toby MacLennan is a visionary whose feet are firmly planted in the ground. Her subject is metamorphosis. And…at Performance Space 122 she explored the subject in performance art and film filled with strong, poetic imagery.”

The New York Times, Jennifer Dunning

“…logically, coherently insane….strange performing creatures, moving, manipulating wheels and levers, totally at ease in a mysterious, masked, theatrical environment of their own….these rare and occasional glimpses of other dimensions are tonics to the soul…They allow us to expand into another dimension…”

Revue Magazine, Ottawa, Burf Kay

Performance Venues

P.S. 1, New York
P.S. 122, New York
Franklin Furnace, New York
David Mirvish Gallery, Toronto
Tenth International Sculpture Conference – York University, Toronto
National Gallery of Canada
Robert McLaughlin Gallery – Toronto


New York Times
Village Voice, New York
Alive – A Performance Art Magazine, New York
Vanguard Magazine – Vancouver
The New Art Examiner – Chicago
Review Magazine – Ontario
Artscanada Magazine