This week in Sackville we were fortunate to be visited by two artists from away, but who have both have long and sustained practices.
Monday we Calgary based artist Rita McKeough had a book launch for a new monograph. The monograph documented her artistic process from the late 1970s. She frequently works with collaborators and the book documented her interactions with visual and media arts communities in Halifax, Toronto, Vancouver, and Calgary, particularly alternative music and performance scenes; and the audio, installation and performance work that is her ongoing contribution to the contemporary Canadian art community.
Rita is one of the most kind and generous people I have ever met. She is always such a joy to work with, even in slightly stressful times she remains calm, approachable and level headed. I truly admire the amazingly diverse and important career she has had, but I also aspire to be the warm appreciate person she seems to so naturally be.
Tuesday Evergon gave an artist talk as art of the visiting artist series. He has also had a long and varied career, and it is always interesting to hear from such experienced artists, where most of the artist who visit are usually closer to mid-career.
Evergon’s talk focused on his photo collage work which explored themes of sexuality, aging and most recently his collections. it was amazing to hear about how he constructed his early photo collage work, and the technical complexity of it all. It definitely changed my understanding of the work, and the role of his models as well as his relationship with those models. It made me wonder how they come across in person, where they are mostly bigger than life size, compared to the hand held digital version most people will see on their phone.
He also showed some very new work, which moves about from the figurative and is based on his massive collections of objects. The photos are very dense and rich and reminded me a lot of I SPY books from when I was a kid. I think what I was most drawn to in his photographs were all the props and costumes, so these photos that shifted to focus on these objects made me question how essential the models were.
In the studio I have been focusing on embroidering and finish a series of flags for the Pleaides. Each has been cyanotyped from a hi-res NASA photo which I digitally altered and then added the embroidery on top. The boarder patterns draw from Scandinavian designs and vintage American patterns. The graphic elements have some real constellation delineations mixed with organic forms like hands, elbows, knees and feet to give a hit at the seven sisters overlapping over top of the asterism.
These will be accompanied by the in browser online poem work.
I am very glad to have had a tutorial with Hayley Lock. I got the impression from her website that we are both working through related ideas and in similar multidisciplinary practices, so I was eager to hear advice, suggestions and personal opinions from her. I was curious to find out how she balances teaching and her practice, as well as finding a balance between the time research takes and the time the making takes.
We discussed several texts which would be useful in ongoing research and reflection while making. On my to do list this week is to read up on: Fiona Crisp – The live creature and ethereal things, Italo Calvino – Cosmicomics, Dewey – Art as Experience, Tomas Sarenco – Hybrid Webs, Hito Steyerl, Semiconducter, Karen Barad – Meeting the Universe Half Way.
The theme of audience has come up so much this term, I was eager to find out how she balances her intentions with considering her audience. When considering how her different audiences interpret her work she said she is not afraid to play with and push them. By including fiction or commissioning new texts, she allow viewers a way into the research, if they want it. If not, they can carry on with their interpretations of the work.
I really think this idea of including some text will be essential to my work going forward, and create a more engaging context for the work that is almost going towards complete abstraction to bring it back to the cosmic, mythic and scientific references that I am working with and within.
I loved her suggestion that these texts could be fiction, prose or critical writing, and that this way of working could develop into collaboration with a writer/scientist/curator.
I also wanted to jst get her feed back on my current work, the same three projects as I presented to the group crit. Her advice was to pair back work, but provide all the extra information, research and experiments in back up folders for those looking for more, but not necessarily in the exhibition space with the work. She also suggested to not be afraid to play with the audience a bit, test them and allow for some playfulness along side the serious making and research.
Finally we talked about self promotion and how to actually get the work out there into the real work. Hayley said a lot of her opportunities came from self promotion online, which lead to shows which lead to other shows. She has since been intentional n pulling back on the social media, but at the beginning, to get things rolling to not be frightened of self-promotion online – share freely.
I have been focusing my making on three projects, all very much still in progress.
The pattern punched out of holes accounts for every star visible with out telescopic magnification in the Northern and Southern hemispheres in the positions recorded in a star atlas. The piece is played on a loop through a 30 note hand crank music box. The 45 meters of paper will take approx 2.5 hours to play.
I am still trying to figure out how to light it, and have been considering if the light source should be just white light or projected images.
net.art poem: Seven Sisters Seven Times for the Pleiades
49 lines from seven poems each with seven lines. There are 526 words which correlates to the total number of stars that contribute to the light we see coming from the Pleiades Cluster – a group of stars rich with lore and scientific investigation.
All the backgrounds have been completed, and the code is still in progress, in the end I think it would be displayed in browser or on a tablet. You can click the stars with words to get to the next lines in the poems. Each viewer would receive the text in a different order depending on which stars they choose to click.
Here are the Images that will soon be ‘clickable’:
I have slowly been compiling these drawings of stars, totaling 542 right now – don’t quite know where these are headed yet, possibly some sort of social media archive?
I am curious how they are instantly read as eyes, but eyes are actually opposite — black pupil, not a white center. Each of these are 7 to 20cm in diameter.
All the suggestions and impressions are still swirling in my mind, as I decide what is feasible to pursue, and to which projects need the most immediate attention.
The making day and the entire weekend ended up being the perfect time to just bunker down in the studio and focus on the tasks that needed to be accomplished for these projects to start to take shape.
By almost mechanizing my body, I was able to finish punching the holes for, splicing and cutting together all of the strips of the music box project. In total I now have about 45 meters of paper to play through the much box.
In the making day I had lots of time to reflect on why I am undertaking these projects, which are so often very time consuming and full of repetitious making. But I think from these repetitions, my attachment to understanding the cosmos, becomes apparent through the translation and the ordering of what is already there (visually) into something new (touchable, refocused, heard). Touching and encountering something that is always all around up, but that we cannot really touch or comprehend in a new media leads to new interpretations.
I hope to take something that seems too overwhelming, and translate it into something understandable.
I have created a set up for exposing cyanotypes in my own studio with the help of some new UV lights. A somewhat higlty-piglty set up, but it worked! With these lights the max size I am able to print is 150 cm by 200 cm, but it works for the projects at hand.
These cyanotypes are now ready to have drawings and a bit of text embroidered onto them for a project supported by the Arts Board of New Brunswick, which is now a bit behind schedule. But that is next weekends task!
In the audio lectures with Fran Stafford and John Barraclough I got the feeling that these are two people who want to make things happen, and make opportunities as artists and curators. Where they are seeing holes in their current card worlds or the gaps in a medias potential, they have just gone out and create projects to fill those voids.
I think this sort of ingenuity is always very present in artists, and the drive to make work leads to a drive to create spaces for ourselves in the world. This desire is what lead to the creation of Artist-Run-Centres in Canada, as a space that could be transformed to what ever the artists need. These space grew up as an alternative to the mandates and practices of established art institutions and allowed space for other cultural activities like music and dance, performances and media arts projects that were not being represented otherwise. I think they continue to act a place where people who do not fit inside current institutional curatorial agendas can find another audience. It is amazing to now see my friends and classmates from my undergrad going out an running these spaces as Directors, and creating the programming that we wanted to see as students — these are the types of space I want to continue to be involved in.
Fran and John’s creative curatorial practices also lead me to think about the other alternative venues that exist. So much can happen outside the white cube, why not continue to push it beyond artist-run centres with walls? There are so many ways of finding new audiences, and so many audiences that are not visiting the large cultural institutions that the is no reason that is the only goal of a career anymore.
Spaces like the Closet Gallery (https://closetgallery.ca/) which is a live streamed project space located in a closet in an apartment in Montreal. For each project, an emerging artist installs their work in the closet and it’s shared through a webcam live stream. Viewing hours are determined in relation to each exhibition. This project is executed on a small budget, but has the potential to reach so many new audiences.
Dazibao, an artist run centre in Montreal, also had it’s first Instagram Residency earlier this year (@dazibaomt)
While these are both tied to online experiences, I dont think that is the only course of action. In 2015, a group of and I curated a project which involved six installations across Sackville. these were in libraries, store fronts, coffee shop book shelves, and churches. Art should/could be found anywhere.
Micah Lexier is another artist I often think of when making work that exists outside of the gallery. He is a king of the multiple, and describes himself as an artist and curator. His projects like David Now and Then and Two Equal Texts are especially wonderful examples of work that can exist in the real world, find unexpected audiences, and have a loyal audience as well.
I really don’t feel there needs to be a divide between the making and the curating. I really appreciate where John talked about not being able to be in control of your work once you put it out there, that it becomes some else’s responsibility when it leaves the studio, I think I would want to make sure it was only leaving into good hands, who are aligned with the same art making values that I have.
In the studio I have been plugging away at all the Photoshop work for the online Seven Sisters project. I also purchased a domain, and server space, a studio material I always forget has a cost, and have just one cyanotype left to expose before the long work of writing the code for all 526 links. Probably not the most fun work to do on the studio day, but a task that has to be accomplished.
All the words from each poem have been laid out with their corresponding star, and just the home page is left.
In the music box project I have only 40 feet of note punching left to do, before carefully cutting an taping all the sheets together. I have also been grappling with whether of not I should dye the paper black/dark blue. I probably will so it has a more intentional visual aspect.
I have also been thinking about how this could be solar powered or have a light attached at some point to create a shadow of the stars. Test for these might also be something to do during the studio day.
Last week, Wednesday to Saturday night, was the eighth annual A Hanmade Assembly in Sackville NB.
A Handmade Assembly is a community event that brings together artists, curators, and others from the region and beyond to lead discussions, facilitate workshops, initiate projects, open exhibitions and share in a common thread, the handmade.
The symposium is a response to a growing community of artists who use materials and processes that are laborious and associated with traditional craft methods.The Assembly acts as an opportunity to get together, discuss, experiment and share practices.
This year featured workshops, talks, and projects by artist from across Canada, including Carrie Allison, Hassaan Ashraf, Chris Boyne, Paige Gratland, Robyn Love, Kristie MacDonald & Ella Tetrault, Kristin Nelson, Graeme Patterson, Sarah Quinton, Lisa Schroeder, and Negar Tajgardan.
I was able to attend all the talks, and the leather tooling workshop lead by Paige Gratland and Sam McWilliams. But even through the events that I was not able to attend, you can feel that materiality and memory is important through everything these artists do.
Time seems to always be the overarching theme in realm of the Handmade. We need time to think, to make, to look, to absorb, to experience, to consider… but how do we value these different amounts and types of time? All of the workshops, talks, exhibitions, crafters products, etc. took time. I think all these types of time are valued in the Handmade Assembly, as it is a place where anyone can be heard in discussion, and everyone’s comments and ideas are valued.
In the opening night Round Table discussion Hassaan Ashraf talked about the cultural and political importance of kite flying and having his culture be present and visual in his curent communities; Robyn Love spoke of embracing her clap trap aesthetic, which she has been fighting for so long, but how now realized is actually very important in her process of making; Kristin Nelson spoke of labour, the tole it has taken on her body, the inevitable decline of our bodies, being aware of that, and commented on our precious natural resources and the effects of our consumer culture on them; and Lisa Schroeder spoke of the tension in her practice between wall objects and the practical uses her braided rugs take on.
In longer talks, Carrie Allison focuses on her projects which use beading as a way to build connections and communities. “These projects center pedagogy and research, and seek to engage participants in body and mind. Allison will discuss her journey to beadwork and how it has become a central practice in her artwork, both personally and socially”.
Kristie MacDonald and Ella Tetrault sought to find out more about the relationship we have between image searching and actually making. They described the methodologies they each use in their practice, like searching eBay and collecting from YouTube, and also shared examples from other contemporary artists.
Negar Tajgardan talked about her interests in displacement and the memories that shadow them. She described memories of the places we lived before, as making it hard to settle down in new places, no matter ho much you may want to, from the perspective of her own memeries as someone coming from Iran to study and live in Canada.
Chris Boyne sought for memories and objects from his boyhood in rural Nova Scotia. He recounted lost and fictional memories through hand fabricated replicas and manipulated objects. The objects and fables included searching for 2L pop bottles with opaque black bottoms, turning a soup spoon into a pike, baking blackstrap molasses bread and finding a trunk key to a Plymouth Duster muscle car.
On the friday nigth we viewed the film BOOTWMN (Canada/US/UK 2015), by Paige Gratland. It was a short documentary of Deana McGuffin, a third generation New Mexico boot maker, who continues to handcraft wearable pieces of art.
She was approached by Paige Gratland and Sam McWilliams to create a gay themed cowboy boot. Their unique collaboration takes them to the heart of cowboy country in Northern Texas and shows the process of queering of a traditional art form.
Sarah Quinton, the Curatorial Director at the Textile Museum of Canada, delivered a beautiful closing address at the end of the weekend where she concluded that all of these artists “are engaged with task based practices that facilitate an iterative relationship with and to working things through, to organizing a deep connection to one’s past, to form a path to a higher truth. Don’t stop making us take this work seriously, don’t stop confusing truth with fiction.” The importance of searching for that higher truth rings through in all the artists, that is the common goal we are all always looking for right?
Part of my role in A Handmade Assembly was in curating a new online component. I proposed for Kristie MacDonald and Ella Tetrault to create something, leaving the door open to them to direct what form the project would take. They very generously created an online interactive work: https://www.searchengineserendipity.com/ that will be shown through the Digital Owens, our online gallery space for the year.
Search Engine Serendipity “explores the process of locating, selecting, and interpreting images online, and the tangential paths we navigate to find them. Taking the form of an internet travelogue, the website is a hyperlinked collage of found and created images, video clips, search engine results and live-streams, juxtaposed through intuitive logic and thematic associations.” They also used this work as a jumping point in a collage based workshop they lead during A Handmade Assembly.
In the creating of this work I was interested as an artist how they formed a conceptual framework for the piece, and how they approach any potential copyright issues. The entire site is made of found images, or screen grabs of pre-existing sites like google. They linked each image to a source as a way of acknowledging copyright, but i also like how that enables the site to be used a source of research, and continues that feeling of getting lost in the links.
In my own practice I have been forging ahead with the music box. I have cut about 100 meters of paper strips, and have been carefully punching the exact pattern of stars documented in a star chart that shows all the stars visible to the naked eye. About 20 meters are complete of an anticipated 500m total. It is slow, physical work, but I have really enjoying recreating these specific patterns and contemplate each star as I puc=nch them into creation.
I have also been experimenting with the acoustics depending on where the box is installed, and will need to consider how the final display will impact the auditory experience.
In terms of documentation, I would like to ‘perform’ the entire piece at least once, and maybe have that play on a loop. Just an unidentified hand with the paper going through should lend itself well to the curious nature of these patterns.
The web project is chugging along. All 526 stars have been cyanotyped, scanned, and edited. The next step is to Photoshop the hand written words corresponding to each star. Once that is complete, I will pop them into the MUSE software, and make them links. Here details of a few of the completed backgrounds:
The internet is a part of a daily lives both virtually and physical, and it can be used a tool for artists to communicate and access audiences.
Screen culture is constantly growing and has changed how we communicate with each other, how we understand, look for truths and how we disseminate and understand ideas. Online work presents a unique opportunity for artists to connect directly to audiences virtually without the mediation of physical institutions.
We act and communicate differently online than in person and it allows our voices to reach farther than ever before, but this also causes a process of detachment. This detachment between our online life and physical life can makes people behave differently in online spaces meaning our audience online and in person is not the same, even if they are the same people.
Potential: Make space for marginalized groups to be heard (similar to zine and print culture) and can act a counter culture.
I am going to speak briefly to the potential of early internet art, browser specific art and social media based art’s possibilities to connect and communicate with audiences, a well as the challenges.
Each Image in this presentation is a link, which you can click to visit the works, or archived versions of the works.
All points that move away from traditional and commercial artistic institutions goals.
Documenta Done Vuk Ćosić 1997 (Slavovania)
Documenta Done was an act of artistic piracy that highlights net art’s uneasy relationship with institutions and archives. Vuk’s online work was included in documenta X, the 1997.
After the exhibition, the exhibition’s website, which included browser-based art and online forums, would be taken offline and sold as a CD-ROM without the artists’ consultation.
Vuk copied most of the documenta X site to his own server, Ljudmila.org to preserve it, and allow the audience to be limited to only those with economic means.
He circulated a press release blaming in an “Eastern European hacker.”
“This work serves as a testament to the way in which meaning and memory are contested online, and the difficulties of adapting this informal process to an institutional context.” (rhizome.net)
Origin of the Net, 2017
OCADU graduate who plays with medium specific narratives and storytelling through both traditional and non-traditionally animated means. Her practice currently deals with web art and the browser as a medium.
Draws upon the history of text based choose your own adventure games.
Specifically built for in browser experience, there are also Easter eggs in the code blocks. poetically considers how the internet, conceptually, came to be and the work does not exit without an audience to make the choices.
Martine Syms (LA based”conceptual entrepreneur”) EverythingIveEverWantedtoKnow.com 2007
Martine Syms’ EverythingIveEverWantedtoKnow.com is a conceptual work of net art. Visiting the site presents the viewer with a drop-down menu that features all of the artist’s Google searches from a three year period, from 2004 to 2007.
The work explores the web search as a writing practice. By keeping her own record of searches over time, Syms calls attention to the way one user’s language was shaped by the larger system that surrounded it.
Sometimes revealing, but mostly opaque, Syms’ list of her search terms calls into question the collection and use of such data to measure and classify users. A practice that any audience member is also implicated in.
It is a diary without a voice, making the very personal public in a way that makes us realize nothing is really private online.
an impoverished record of the artist’s life, but an evocative study of her relationship with an increasingly powerful corporate platform.
Halifax based Cree/Metis and settler descent form High Prairie, Alberta.
150 seeks to disrupt the current dominant Canadian narrative by illustrating First Nations narratives from the last 150 years. It is a beaded installation that highlights pressing and disturbing histories that are shared by many First Nations people across Canada. Scanning a beaded qr code takes you to a website.
“The installation is made from 150 beaded bracelets that depict numbers relating to First Nation experiences in Canada during the last 150 years. Numbers such as “1870”, the year the first Indian Residential School opened; “1990” the year of the Oka resistance; “150,000” the number of Metis, Status and non-status First Nations, and Inuit children who attended residential school (this is based on federal government estimates); and “11” the number of treaties in Canada that have been signed and broken.”
This work asks the audience to contemplate the past 150 years but also to imagine solutions to the next 150 years.
Viewers will have the opportunity to share hopes and thoughts about the next 150 years via the “suggestion box” integrated into the installation.
Social Network – make individual the centre of the community and become more image centred with new technology
“web-based services that allow individuals to… construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system… articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and… view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system”
“No more waiting: Facebook Bliss is a place where you can self-administer Facebook notifications”
Darius Kazemi, Reverse OCR bot, ongoing
REVERSE OCR Bot, ongoing
A bot that picks a word and then draws randomly until an OCR library reads that word. Optical character recognition Once the word is recognized, the drawing gets thrown up on Twitter with it’s vocable inspiration.
Considered how we use language online to prove we are human, and how ai is catching up and changing the way wee might think abut drawing (even a line of code can do it!)
By making work that exists in social media: Go to where people are – interrupt their scroll with art – force a pause for consideration – challenge the current uses for the internet:
Amalia Ulman’s Ethira (2013)
Moving a way from popularized social media Ethira by Amalia Ulman
was a custom social media platform for iPhone that allowed users to post anonymous messages on a public forum, but they would disappear soon after posting.
artist’s app and a functional communication tool
fluidity of online identity
“they generated no personally identifiable data, and their posts couldn’t be given a score by other users. Instead, it provided an experience akin to shouting into the void, sort of like we may already be feeling.” (rhizome.net)
Number of Internet users in 2011This map illustrates the total number of Internet users in a country as well as the percentage of the population that had Internet access in 2011. Source: Information Geographies at the Oxford Internet Institute.
Privatization of the internet
critical myths of the internet: that it has been, or continues to be, a democratic space. Although the cost of speech on the web can be low, it has always been easier for the rich to speak and be heard – and digital space is no exception.
Social media echo chamber and algorithyms
Conservation (no print all net, these works were made to be viewed online.
Environmental (server space and pollution cause by energy need, crypto currencies)
The internet has undeniably changed how we receive all forms of written, verbal and visual communications. The spaces we occupy on the internet have become a social construct, with set of habits and social practices that have changed how think about reality.
With browser and social media based works it is possible to Reach a much more wide audience than in traditional brick and mortar institutions. However still only demographics, but only those with access to the internet and economic means.
This type of work is rhizomatic, and we can lead the new connections – if we want to.
Without audience and uses we are just shouting into a void, and all of these works deal with communication in some form, and undoubtedly the internet will be a part of those communications in the future.
who – are you reaching, who benefits, who is left out
how – are the artists considering audience as they make the work (always an engagement element), how could this field become more inclusive, are audiences interacting and reaching the works
what – do the artists use to reach them, what do they communicate,
when – history of net art, time scales of these projects (live streaming… link rot)
where – online, phone, home, public (what does this mean)
why – benefits, issues, connections between medium and message
I was really fortunate to attend a lecture by Dr. Heather Igloliorte, an Inuk curator and art historian from Nunatsiavut, as part of the Pratt Lecture series at Mount Allison University. Her curatorial practice is really astonishing, and I really admire the way she is clearly working towards a more inclusive future.
Her talk focused on her study, dissemination and curation of modern and contemporary Inuit art. In all of her projects there was a clear concern for the artists and the communities she was working with, in urban centres but also, and very importantly, in all of Inuit Nunangat (the four Inuit regions of Arctic Canada).
She is critical of how Inuit art had previously been written about and exhibited, but also how it continues to be created, where it is going and all that is involved in that. She spoke about SakKijâjuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut and incredible exhibition that is so much more than just a show.
She and a team meet with artists and markers from Nunatsiavut and asked what supplies they needed to create anything they wanted, got them from the south and distributed them in the north. During this she was collecting oral histories and also encouraging these artists to try new things with the materials that may never have been available to them before because of the expense and difficulty of getting supplies to the North. I thought this part of the project alone was really remarkable, but it went on to become a four year touring exhibition of the artworks made with these supplies.
I was also extremely interested in her current research as Principal Investigator, SSHRC Partnership Grant, Inuit Futures in Arts Leadership: The Pilimmaksarniq/Pijariuqsarniq Project. This project is specifically designed to allow for a space for emerging Inuit artists, curators, art historians and administrators to learn from experts in their field through mentorship, so that they continue to have a space. I am excited to follow these mentees as they will have an incredible guiding mentor through their time.
Heather has such an inspiring practice, and I also really appreciated the way she talked about there being so many grey areas when it comes to reconciliation, and that we need to make space for each other. For there to be accurate and fair representation is really important, and we need to have open dialogues to achieve that.
In the studio, it has been another week of preparations and research in anticipation of the actual doing:
I have printed and assembled the negative for all the cyanotype projects I am planning to expose, but after 6 days of rain and then a just a bit too windy Sunday, none of the actual printing has happened yet.
I spent a bit of time researching exposure units,and contemplating a membership to somewhere that has an exposure unit, but I had so many issues with it in the past, and it is not quite big enough. In the end I have ordered the needed UV lights for exposing at home and will be able to have a consistent, but flexible, exposure system in place as soon as they arrive. I am eager to get the technical parts of the project out of the way, so I can begin embroidering into the finished cyanotypes.
I received a diy paper music box in the mail and did some tests with that. I think it will work as the perfect combination of drawing, sound and audience participation. I found Stonehenge had just the right weight, and so I cut about 40 meters of strips. I then used one of my favourite astronomy books to create stencils I will use to punch the holes through the music paper with. I have also been considering adding the stars names and other diagrammatic information that is included in these charts, to add to the celestial context.
While working on this I found the music papers reminded me of autoradiograph DNA sequence images. This lead to think about all of this work in relation to identity and wonder what my genome sequence would sound like compared to the patterns of the cosmos. Would they be similar? Might there be exact matches?
This lead me down a google hole and the ethic of sites like 23andme which offer gene sequencing at home, and other similar ‘ancestry’ kits. I am still on the hunt to find out how I might get my hands on an image like this of my own DNA, to play side by side with the cosmos.
Helen Rousseau’s lecture gave me so much to think about in terms of how our work exists in the studio, and the transformations that occur when it goes out into the real world.
I really admired the way she was not afraid to just play with materials, and explore so many different mediums. I have been feeling that I wanted to simplify my studio practice to just a few materials, but maybe that is something to reconsider after seeing the rich materiality in her practice.