John Edward Cushnie is a professional artist living in New Brunswick with a practice focused on human vulnerability as it relates to the physical environment, notions of individuality, and contemporary representations of masculinity.
John has served as a visual arts instructor at Mount Allison University, the Ontario College of Art and Design University (OCAD U), and Western University, and has been involved with the Canadian Artist-run Centre movement for a number of years.
He currently serves as a director of ArtLink NB in support of the professional Anglophone arts sector in the Province, and is represented by Buckland-Merrifield Gallery in Saint John, NB.

DESCRIPTION: The Rúnatal Prototype is a performance wherein the artist spent three days and two nights fasting in a tree in an attempt to enact a feat from Norse mythology.
The tree is an Ash tree, which is sacred within Scandinavian mythology. It is in the sacred Ash that Odin, the father of the Norse gods, is said to have spent nine days on a quest for wisdom described within the Rúnatal, a 13th century Scandinavian manuscript.

The Rúnatal from mythology is not physically possible to replicate. If it were enacted as it is described, it would result in the death of the participant. The performance was only possible through a series of compromises necessitated by the physical constraints of the human body, and by the limitations of technology. In this way, the Rúnatal is intended to reference the negotiation of vulnerability within the context of technology and the environment.

As the most powerful figure within Norse mythology, Odin would seem to want for nothing, and yet according to the Rúnatal his energy was largely devoted to an on-going quest for wisdom. This search for wisdom, however, is not merely a quest for knowledge, but can instead be seen as a search for vulnerability – the only wisdom left to the powerful.

What is seen here are the physical and digital remains of the performance. The shroud and harness, illuminated by footage documenting the 48-hour period, and a short documentary video made by Toronto-based artist Kelly O’Dette.