Click HERE for a 10-minute journey through the methods and motivations behind this MFA thesis. (Film made by Ana Valine, Rodeo Queen Pictures, August 2020)
Now that we're all carrying around the equivalent of movie cameras and photo-editing studios in our pockets and purses we are each potential blockbuster or documentary filmmakers, iMovie-ing and uploading all of life's activities that have become performative acts.
What will remain is a new way of seeing, understanding and playing with moving images of the everyday. It's why the plastic-bag-in-the-wind scene from American Beauty still sticks in the head. It's why Mark Lewis' real-time videos of landmarks and laundromats resonated with the public when they were screened over the winter at the Vancouver Art Gallery's Offsite (top).
For me, it's a new kind of sketching (see above) that is not made for public viewing but for my own reference. For what remains to be seen. (YouTube vid, above)
Below, some other inspiring videos of the everyday seen with a fresh and critical eye:
Sarah Gee Miller says she's pretty handy. That's the understatement of the evening. Her paper 'paintings' are not only visually stunning and conceptually rich but they resonate with the dedication of a serious craftsman.
Funny how the word 'crafts' only gets the serious respect it deserves when the 'man' is attached to it. Suddenly the mind moves from, say, knitting or embroidering to, say, boat-building or blacksmithing. Here at the Voices from Another Room show at the Hot Art Wet City gallery, the craftsmanship is here in the medium of paper.
It's that juxtaposition between the humble, ephemeral material and the heavy-duty skill and commitment of craftsmanship that makes this show of five artists' work so compelling. The results of that individual devotional patience, determination, repetition is on view. And I can attest that there's also frustration, physical exertion, second-guessing and the flops. You don't get to this calibre of work without enduring a few hard battles.
The conceptual elements of the pieces in this group show may reference particular art genres (or not) but the methods are perhaps unconsciously rooted in this region that is built on a New World culture of self-sufficiency, innovation and handwork, in a medium fitting for this corner of the world that was built in large part on the pulp and paper industry. Location, whether in art or real estate, is everything.
The beauty of the group show that has that one connecting thread — or in this case, wood fibre — is in how far that thread can be stretched, from Miller's totemic paintings to Sabo's heavy net-like installations of twisted newspaper, to Ashe's filigree screens, to Alison Woodward's three-dimensional twisted fairytale vignettes and Joseph Wu's origami sculptures. But beyond the medium there's the other connecting thread of craftsmanship, which Wu articulates as both a scientific and artistic exploration.
This is a show of skill that is developed through the often meditative repetitive act of carving or twisting or folding, but the art is in the repetition of those expanding skills. It is how Sabo's net works have led her to ideas about laminating newspaper blocks, or how Miller's paper paintings grew out of her own drawing machine.
"The open relation between problem solving and problem finding... builds and expands skills," according to author Richard Sennett in The Craftsman. "But this can't be a one-off event. Skill opens up in this way only because the rhythm of solving and opening up occurs again and again."
Voices from Another Room: 5 Artists Explore Paper continues to April 25, Wed-Sat noon to 5 p.m. at 2206 Main (at 6th Ave.), Vancouver.
when dress-up becomes an artform
Thank god for The Walking Dead. It is the one force that has the power to kill off the overpopulation of pink princesses.
All that Pepto-Bismol-hued froth and glitter kicks in my gag reflex but I'm no censor; I've indulged in the princess fantasy of those little girls (and, shockingly, some grown women) for too many years to mention. But there is hope. Pink fatigue appears to have set in this year, at least for Halloween, due, no doubt, to the craze for the undead.
Next battle: the pink aisle.
Princesses and stupid Sexy costumes (popular YouTube clip at the end of this rant) are a waste of a great fantasy opportunity — and an art opportunity.
American photographer Cindy Sherman's long and rich career dedicated to using her body as a blank canvas on which to apply various female personas, makes her an artist of an ever-changing body-sculpture, earning her an important position in conceptual art, performance art, and gender studies.
There's a lot of concept to be mined when altering one's appearance, whether for art or undercover information. Former New York Times restaurant reviewer Ruth Reichl, who donned disguises to ensure she would be treated as a regular restaurant patron, discovered that her different range of personas garnered different reaction from the wait staff. That body effect became equally as interesting as her reviews, and even more so to many of her readers.
Buenos Aires photographer Irena Werning explores the persona of the past, recreating photos of subjects using their own childhood images. She not only recreates the pose and garments, but goes to great lengths to mimic the backdrops and particular photo quality of the original image. Werning insists she has no arching concept in mind in her two-part series, but the effect is there in black and white or colour: a riveting time-based visual study in changes in body and persona.
Above: Christoph 1990 and 2011, Berlin Wall.
Internationally renowned artist Kimsooja was verklempt at the opening reception for her show, Unfolding, at the Vancouver Art Gallery Thursday.
Her audience would soon feel that emotion unfolding as the soft-spoken artist led a tour of the new exhibit that runs to Jan. 26.
Revisiting some 30 years of her deeply personal works, with her son and other close family and friends in attendance, was clearly overwhelming for the Korean-born New York artist , who recently wrapped up another wrapping at the Venice Biennale.
'Overwhelming' is a good descriptor for the show, too.
Bright, satiny boulder-like mounds presented in the Bottari tradition of wrapping gifts in colourful fabrics contain material scraps the artist retrieved from the Tsunami-struck region of Japan.
Visitors feel the unfolding of a singular vulnerability in a cavernous room as simultaneous video screenings reveal the artist standing still in a crowded street in various urban corners of the Earth.
Another room featuring truck overloaded with a heap of colours evokes displacement or an unwieldy migration.
This retrospective is a reminder of the potency of found fabric, a culturally embedded material that can be a medium for painting or sculpture, often at the same time, as Kimsooja does so powerfully.
The artist raises those stakes by making material a metaphor for the wrapping and unwrapping, the enfolding, the unfolding, the concealing and exposing that resonates long after leaving the gallery.
A performance of Kimsooja's A Beggar Woman (see video clip, below) is set for Nov. 29 as part of Fuse.
My nephew is about to launch. Freshly freed from high school, he'll soon be flying high at the National Circus School in Montreal.
If there is one kid who would run away and join the circus, Domenic is it. Long before he pushed the physical limits of the human vessel, long before there were even any apparent muscles on his skinny little frame, he was destined for something different. His mind has always been a playground, his outlook wide-eyed and sunny. From him I’ve learned that play is not just fun but work, and that devotional practice comes in many forms.
He has easily devoted what Malcolm Gladwell has suggested is the 10,000 hours it takes to master a skill, and his motivation comes from his own wonderment. He spent his childhood wondering how high and how long and playing with the limits of muscle and bone. He can't wait to carry on the body experiment among others in the same pursuit from around the world.
“Experimenting with your own life is the most fundamental medium we have,” says scientist/environmental artist Natalie Jeremijenko, whose ‘design systems’ include the Mussel Choir: sensors connected to bivalves that can inform humans of the health of the East River through sound.
This is why I'm compelled at this time of year to grab random high school graduates by the arm and say: Go away! Go see the rest of the world! This is not everything! Things are not everything! Don't let comfort hold you back!
“Inconvenience yourself” is the prevailing take-away in The Blue Zone, Dan Buettner’s book of studies in longevity throughout the world, and it’s a good first step toward getting out of emotional and physical ruts and jump-starting experimentation. Bus instead of car. Paddle instead of cruise. Make instead of buy. Outdoors instead of indoors. All these little decisions of inconvenience, these tiny risks to our comfort, lead to new paths and new outlooks. (One routine-breaking idea: taking in one of the free nightly Bollywood, Bhangra and hip-hop yoga classes or the Indian Summer in the Park as part of the Indian Summer Festival of Arts, Ideas & Diversity, on now through July 13 in downtown Vancouver. See promo video below).
I think about the many, small social and physical tests my amazing nephew took on that brought him to where he is now: fierce, if a little afraid — just where he likes to be.
I am inspired.
My not-quite-resolved plastic quilty test.
I’ve been left high and dry, marooned by a foul waste stream — a particular category of non-recycled stuff that ends up in Vancouver’s landfill.
This category consists of many boxes of rigid-plastic toy bits that my nephews leave in their wake of play. I nabbed the lot a couple of years back because I loved their indeterminate shapes, their hot colours, their embedded culture. The big plan was to turn these remnants of their childhood into a scrap-quilty, uh, thing. I never really did have a sharp objective for the objects.
But that was before I embarked on my Great Leap Forward Toward More Space campaign in January. Now the toy detritus is the last of my hoardy habit left to face down.
I’ve done the math and have realized that the number of hours required to explore and execute the various art projects that involve all these bits encroaching on my living space probably exceeds my estimated lifespan. But I have another reason for not wanting to part with the toy parts: no one accepts them for recycling in these parts, as dude at the Recycling Hotline (604-732-9253) informed me. All non-numbered rigid plastic junk is just chucked into the landfill where they will stay intact pretty much forever.
Photo of artist/designer Adrian Draigo from www.draigo.com.
There is another option, he said; I could drive the stuff to a monthly drop-off location in another community set up by Pacific Mobile Depots, pay $7 per big bag to take it all away for use in some plastic-lumber business down the road, or I can pay $30 to arrange a pick-up. It’s a service that is probably used by a tiny minority of households —a tiny drop of effort in the plastic tsunami.
Meanwhile, the quandary is major: Until our governing bodies stop acting like whipping boys to the global petroleum industry and start regulating against the sale of non-recyclable plastic products, we’re all left to either try to make use of the stuff that’s piling up around us or stuff it into the earth.
Many designers have put the glut of a particular waste stream to good use, creating ingenious upcycled products. London-based artist Adrian Draigo, for example, creates lighting using bottle caps — another plastic reject from most recycling programs — and LED lights. The low-energy, ambient 'Glo' light can be hung anywhere, literally highlighting the issue of this ubiquitous waste product.
It’s a new spin on the old ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ axiom, except the need that drives this innovation is not in the resulting use-object but in reducing garbage. The key to this — and every —upcycling project is creating an object that people want, otherwise it’s just waste transformed.
My urge to use the throwaways falls more within the need to visually express short-sighted (at best) and greed-driven (more likely) global production-consumption actions. The motivation to make my scrappy sculpture starts from medium and works toward idea rather than the other way around. This compulsion to dream up an idea in order to make use of the bits feels overly opportunistic, and it's why I remain in option-paralysis over whether to keep it to maybe one day use it or let it all go. That's what happens when you're confronted by this plastic problem.
photo from www.core77.com
UK artist Stuart Haygarth made good use of what showed up in his environment with his iconic “Tide” chandelier. The suspended sphere is fabricated from the plastic that washed up on a particular stretch of the Kent coastline.
The work makes it impossible not to think of the giant garbage patches swirling around the planet.
For more on that staggering reality, hit this Ted Talk:
Weaving through weighty material
I needed to shed my years of sewing and knitting and general crafting so I went to art school. No more crochet hooks and embroidery hoops; I wanted to do Real Important Art.
But it was only after I could finally separate out all the crocheted pot-holders and felted figurines from the lump of Fibre Arts that I could see that this is a medium that offers endless innovation beyond what I wanted to do in paint or metal or wood.
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