I Stand In

A durational performance in honour of the forgotten, misplaced, unrecovered and removed

I Stand In reflects upon the complexity of personally understanding and processing global human tragedy. We think we empathise but maybe we actually intellectualise. In this work volunteer participants ‘stand in’ for a faceless individual. Attending to each one consecutively, a stylised ‘corpse-washing’ ritual is enacted. The physical remains of the activity – oil imprinted shrouds – accumulate in the space as a ghostly testimony to the lost. Media connectivity means we can no longer claim ignorance to world events but this awareness often leaves us feeling ineffective and powerless. The durational work focuses on how to affect a more authentic response anchored in the here and now. By being a proxy, each participant puts a face to a number, a human presence to a concept and collectively returns the cold hard statistic of a death toll to the flesh and blood of an individual and what it means to be mortal. The audience perception of  touch on each individual body anchors a shared connection which aims to transcend the ritual for the dead into a ritual for renewed living.

I Stand In is an evolving work. It is presented as a one day performance (10 hours minimum); a two day performance (5 hours daily minimum); a seven day performance (4 hours daily minimum). The shrouds are a growing archive. It is envisioned they will be on display collectively, as an installation, accompanying the decision to present a final iteration.

Performer, devisor and installation design: Julie Vulcan

Sound designer: Ashley Scott

As the shrouds accumulate and the cloth overlaps, the text begins to disappear, making the words scrawled across the bottom difficult to read. “Only you will have to live with this,” “A bloody hand and a piece of rock,” and “whispering light feeling” are a few of the phrases that I can decipher…As I watch the man leave the space and Vulcan begin to clean the table in preparation of her next exchange, I realize that I have walked into the moment that this ritual, as promised in Vulcan’s statement about the work, transforms from something to honor the dead, into something to honor the living.

The Surrogate Body in Julie Vulcan’s “I Stand In” and Melissa Garcia Aguirre’s Desapareciendo / Disappearing” – 2nd Venice International Performance Art Week 2014 – Sandrine Schaefer

At the end of each volunteer’s time, the artist pressed a white muslin cloth into and along their body to take an impression, using the oil as an imperfect pigment. She then signed, in red felt pen, the bottom right corner of the shroud with a form of truncated poetics—“endless ocean,” “dust and rubble,” “violet flares”—and proceeded to hang the cloth up on a laundry line. Each of her texts alluded to the possibilities in myriad situations in which lives are ended and bodies are in need of addressing.

Performatorium 2014: Queering the Prairies – J.J. Kegan McFadden Canadian Art: Features Feb 2014

your performance was all I imagined it to be – depth of empathy, empowering, generous, amazing to look at, such grace and care, and complex and subtle on many levels. So honoured.                  

Gary Varro – Artistic Director Performatoruim 2014

moving and powerful to watch…even more powerful to stand in

participant – Performatorium 2014


The most striking thing about witnessing this eight-hour performance is that each touch on the participant’s body creates a haptic connection with my own…I realise that my body, more than my mind is witness…

The Body in Question: SPILL 2013 – Madeleine Hodge Realtime Arts 115

Julie Vulcan’s I Stand In touched me. I sat quietly on the floor of the gallery and watched Vulcan massage oil into the body of one of her guests. I found my mind shifting between observing, imagining her touch on my body and listening to my own body in the silence. I contemplated repose – in the moment and in all its future possibilities – thoughts both beautiful and bleak.

Daniel Brine – Artistic Director 2011

Simple, subtle, sinister and beautiful…totally unexpected and wonderful

Peter Beatson – general public 2011

Atmosphere is astounding. Ritual is hypnotic. Found myself wanting to stay for hours

General public Montréal 2017


2017 Taking Place, MAI Montréal, arts interculturels Canada

2016 Deathfest, Metro Arts Brisbane Australia

2014  2nd Venice International Performance Art Week, Venice Italy. Supported by Fragment 31 and Hopscotch Australia Council for the Arts

2014  Performatorium,  Regina Canada

2013 SPILL festival of performance, London UK. Supported by Arts NSW Quick Response Grant

2011 Independent presentation PACT centre for emerging artists, Sydney Australia