Tomorrow, I have a piece that will be auctioned off at Timeraiser – it’s an event to raise volunteer hours for non-profit organizations in Edmonton.
I’m really happy to be included in this event; I think it’s really a win-win situation – the artists chosen are paid for their work, and the volunteers receive the art they have bin on when they complete their volunteer hours.
SO … if you’re in Edmonton Alberta, and you’re looking for a great evening out this Saturday night – come to the Timeraiser!
Getting settled slowly back into life out West, back at work, setting up the studio, and getting some work done in there as well.
I’ve been working on a series of small work for Love, Me in Halifax … this little series is all revolving around keys, and their symbolic significance and all the cultural resonances they have. Quite fun, and I may continue in this vein for a little bit – I’d like to explore some more interactive ideas employing the keys too. I really like the idea of making work that people can engage with directly.
More on this later – with pics of the work going East! *If you’re in Halifax, you will be able to see the work up close and personal at Love, Me next month some time.
Now … as promised: pics from the new studio!
… some of the interesting bits of stuff I’ve acquired here, and brought back from Nova Scotia. This should keep me busy for a while!
To give you an idea of the scale of my collecting “habit,” here’s a shot of the entire shelf of stuff:
A little bit of everything here! Driftwood, bark, animal bones, rusty metal things (of course!) from various places, including the docks and hte railway lines near Halifax harbour, oil lamps (also rusty) … gears and cogs of various types. net, wire, dried kelp, other sea bits, shells, loads of feathers … various ephemera. All treats to my eyes.
Still in the process of setting the studio up. but it is coming along. Mostly need to finish getting shelving and work tables in place, and then it’s just sorting and putting away … so I’ll be working again VERY soon! Exciting!
Other things coming up right away:
I will be dropping off my work for the Edmonton Timeraiser event … and I will also be hanging work at Expressionz – their Grand Opening is coming up September 15 – 18.
Hope to see you there – I will be at the September 15th Art Gallery Opening and Reception.
Back in Alberta, and hit the ground running. It was a fabulous year in Halifax, but it is also really quite good to be back on the Prairie. Sky is so big here – I’d forgotten that, and how amazing clouds and storms are. Also absolutely lovely to reconnect with the people I know out here. I’ve really missed this community, and it’s been great to see everyone again!
I’ve been going nuts without a studio, and much to my utter delight, space has come available at Harcourt House, where i had studio space before the trip to Nova Scotia … so I’m back in the same building, just a couple of doors down form where I was previously. Signed the lease and got keys today … so it’s moving time!!
So looking forward to being set up and starting to work again … it’s been sweet torture going through the boxes of things I’ve brought back from Halifax to work with. So many things to play with and experiments to try!
Photos of the space soon, I hope – once I’ve got set up!
“Occasionally art acts as a slap in the face. It challenges us to take a leap we might feel ill prepared for, but, as we’ve all experienced at some point in our lives, when we do finally let down our guard or resistance, marvelously dramatic changes can occur. Beauty is. We place parameters around what is beautiful and what’s excluded from that definition. In this respect our experience of the new can be expansive, inclusive. More of the world becomes available to us in the form of nourishment, stimulation. “
Taken from an interview with David Sylvian, musician and poet, and – in my opinion anyway – a truly gifted and brilliant individual.
The full interview can be found here. Enjoy. It’s worth the time.
I am going to be chewing on the words and ideas in this discussion for some time.
I have been thinking a good deal lately about light. Not only the way it shifts and changes continually, but it’s physical properties, and the connection between light and time on both the immediate scale (a 24 hour period shifting from dark to light and back) and the cosmic scale (star light, moon light, lightning, the mind-numbing distance that a light-year is).
These musings have come about for a number of reasons.
I am incorporating more and more photographic work into my practice in the last year or so, and so I am increasingly conscious of the technical elements around photography, and the light that I want to capture in the images I make. So it’s practical need as well as aesthetics in this case … and the realization that I have a massive amount to learn about photography and about light.
Living in Halifax for the last year, I have become very aware of how different the light is here than in Alberta – and how my own perception of space have been informed by growing up and living on the Prairie. The light here on the East Coast is far more subtle, incredibly nuanced … I know there are people who have lived out here for many years and complain about how unremittingly grey it can be at times… but it’s anything but constant. Even on the most drab winter day, the light changes constantly; shaped by fog, by rain, by snow, by the odd break in the clouds. It really struck me this past winter; I am so used to the harsh simplicity of the Prairie light: brilliant blue skies that tell you how breath-suckingly cold it is outside, and how blinding walking in fresh snow can be. Leaden skies that produce the crispest whitest snow.
I’ve just got through reading a brilliant book by Ben Tufnell, called Land Art. It traces the history and variety of land art in the US, to the UK and Europe. Really fascinating stuff, and the fact that the work addresses the variation and methodologies in the UK and Europe is a big plus for me; the approach taken by several artists – Goldsworthy, Long, and Fulton in particular – appeals to my interest not only in ideas of transience, but also to my overall desire to ‘tread lightly’ in what I do as an artist and a human. This is all a preamble to the section of the book in which Tufnell discusses Turrell’s Roden Crater, a massive project that has been under construction since the late 1970’s in the Painter Desert in Nevada. This work is utterly amazing; the way Turrell works with the sky and all available forms of light is sheer genius. To give you some idea:
Obviously, any hope I had of updating here on a regular basis proved fruitless.
Still, the last few months have been immensely productive on a number of levels, so it’s really all good in the long run.
A number of things coming down the pipe:
– It looks as though the chapbook for the Archives of Absence project I am working on with Catherine Owen will be coming together (literally, physically!) in the next little while. Had a marvelous meeting with Catherine and our publisher, Trisia Eddy (the genius behind Red Nettle Press) back in May – and things are shaping up well. We’ve picked paper, figured out binding options, got the final layout sorted … so now the birthing begins in earnest for Trisia! I am so very excited by this project, and can’t wait to see the final result. I think it is going to be really beautiful as an object, and as a book. It is so rewarding to work with people from totally different areas of creative activity, and be able to share ideas and and create something larger than the sum of its parts.
– The second (and third) parts of Archives of Absence are coming together very well also. I have finished over 30 gel transfer works on board for the gallery-based portion of this work, and am slowly wrapping my head around the arcane workings of Final Cut Express to get the video portion of the beast together. Have some more photographic work to do when I get back to Edmonton, and reacquaint myself with the Berm in all its vacant oddness, and need to resolve, once and for all, the best way to deal with the collection of objects, and what the archive will itself look like. It’s coming together, and I’m looking forward to finishing all the components and seeing it as a coherent whole.
– I have collected a vast array of wonderful bits in my time in Halifax: bones, bird wings, rusty metal things (many, many rusty things!), all of which will be returning to the Prairie with me all too soon. They will be fuel for the fire on the creation of a new body of work coming out of this year away.
– Plans are afoot and sample works have been created for a collaborative project with visual artist and art historian Kristen Hutchinson. This installation-based work is titled In Living Memory, and will deal with the way in which memory is presented publically – as memorialization – in graveyards, and what happens when there’s no one left to remember those passages.
– I will be traveling to Toronto next week to plan, plot, scheme, and generally hammer out another collaborative project for exhibition with my friend David Young. This work (as yet unnamed) is going to be a process-based installation, exploring some ideas we have around parallel narratives and the conjunction of physical change, memory, and narrative processes … the constant becoming of all these things. It will be exceedingly interesting for both of us, I think, to work through our ideas in relation to our different (but related) methods of working.
– Received some very happy news when I was back in Edmonton in May: my exhibition proposal for Profiles Gallery in St. Albert has been accepted for December 2011 – January 2012. SO … I know I have a good bit to think about and plan (and execute!!) over the next couple of years.
– Had a piece accepted for the next Edmonton Timeraiser. A great opportunity, and a very worthy project!
– have been working on various grants, residency applications, exhibition proposals, and so on. Crossing fingers (and toes and anything else I can!) that some of these bear fruit.
Hmm … I guess I understand why I haven’t been keeping this updated regularly.
Far too long since last posting, but such is the way of it. Grant writing, project work, field work and travel have all taken me away from this endeavour. But this is a good point in the year to begin afresh, and with a little luck, maintain the momentum once begun.
So … to turn to the thin thread of thought I was initially teasing out of my muddled brain a while back: Things: and why I obsess about certain of them.
It seems logical to give pride of place to the category of object for which this blog is named.
Rusty Metal Things is a rather broad and rambling category for me in my collecting, but generally, the objects I find most interesting fall into two groups: those that have degraded to such a point that their former life/purpose/entire form is no longer discernible, and those that are newer to the world of oxidation, and can still tell their story of former utility. I collect – and this is by no means an exhaustive list – tin cans (usually crushed into some interesting shape by vehicle wheels), hinges, bits of wire and wire gridding/mesh, sections of pipe (especially ends bits with joints or connecting frameworks attached), flanges and other round bits that indicate the object’s former existence as part of a structure that opened into (or closed off) something else, bolts, screws, keys (especially rusty skeleton keys!), and of course the previously-mentioned random bits of metal that have so corroded as to be interestingly-shaped abstract artifacts of who-knows-what, as you can see below:
… a bit of wire, and two bits of flat metal, one of which has numbers and letters embossed on it … probably some sort of strapping for identification purposes. All of these objects (and those imaged below) were found on Marginal Road, by the Halifax Seaport.
… a squashed bottle cap, a bit of what appears to be pipe, and some sort of flange or metal gasket.
… an old railway spike, and a rusty bolt. Love rail spikes … one of my favorite things to find – perhaps because the rail system that helped build Canada is a fading memory.
— a bit of extremely fragile metal; this piece is so powdery, and will fall apart in my hands if I am not careful.
What strikes me initially with all of these things is the surface texture. Some are bumpy like coarse-grained leather, some flaking, some sharp even on flat planes. The diversity is quite remarkable, but consistent in the transformation of what was once a smoothe, and oftentimes shiny, thing. It is as though a skin has been shed to reveal a truth lying dormant just below the surface. I am fascinated by the processes of change on and in the metal itself – the slow breakdown and erosion of shape and surface texture, and the eventual decomposition that leaves the original form and meaning of the object entirely in question. I also love the fact that most often, I have absolutely no idea what these objects once were, or what function/meaning/significance they once held in the doing of things in the world. They now have to be taken on their own terms, as they are, not as they were or ‘should’ be.
So at the root of my delight in rusty metal things is the notion of transformation, and its sisters transience and decay. These man-made objects reveal to me the human desire for some sort if permanence in this world – which of course, is the desire for an entirely illusory state. The chemical processes at work on the metal bring it away from the fabricated world of humans, inexorably back to the earth – to the land from which its components were initially extracted. There is such simplicity embodied in the corrosion of these objects, the way they encapsulate the sheer inevitability of this process. I find it both brutal and disarmingly beautiful.
I realize my position here could seem romantic – a nostalgic eye to loss and ‘the better past.’ But while an acknowledgment of loss evident in the pleasure I take in these objects, I feel they serve more as markers of the continued human blindness to the inevitability of decay and change; this is where the delusion and romanticism lie to my mind. I find the obsession in popular culture with the new – the shiny, the (eternally) young – to be exceedingly morbid. As if the world and its contents could be cast in resin, eternally the same … but of course, to do so in reality would be to preempt the consuming machine, the ‘must have more’ imperative inherent in this world view. So instead, new (artificial) obsolescences are created to feed the beast. But I digress somewhat … . Yes, an acknowledgment of loss is part of the attraction, but only insofar as that loss is really not loss at all – merely a state-change. An example of things as they truly are.
I have been contemplating the relationship I have to things – objects, that is. This in part because of several conversations I have had with various people lately, some of them questioning my desire for – and collecting of – what amounts to garbage. I am drawn to collect various cast-offs to the point of obsession: rusty metal things, crow and raven feathers, bits of broken or disassembled clocks and machines, the requisite beach bits (a must for a prairie-born scavenger like myself). Even here, in this small apartment, I am unable to stop myself from bringing random things home as I find them (it’s more like they have found me).
Really the question is why? Why this particular affinity for particular forms of detritus? On one level the answer is simple – it is fodder for my work, and they are objects with shapes and textures that I find pleasing. But this does beg the question, really, and raises another whole set of questions about the nature of my work. Perhaps I need to engage in a process similar to that if Roger-Pol Droit in his book How Are Things? and catalogue my response and relationship with the objects I collect, or at the very least, examine my fascination with the categories of things that increasingly inhabit my world. (This book is, by the way, a delightful read – and a fascinating exploration of the relationship between objects, their roles in our lives, and the emotional and physical connections we have with them.)
I find myself beginning this examination with a passage from Droit’s book, that bear reproducing here:
“Is anyone really persuaded that our external reality teaches us nothing? That their [things’] quantity is indifferent, their diversity without significance? That their variety, categories, genealogies and metamorphoses are as nothing — just so many irrelevant culs-de-sac? On the contrary. Things have no residence other than in their absolute singularity. Matter in this particular place, under this particular form. Displaying this colour and no other. This texture and no other. This degree of wear and tear and no other. Each thing is itself and no other.” (pp 9 – 10)
It is indeed this – the singularity of each object that I encounter – that draws my initial attention. But this could be true of any collection; so the additional layer of understanding that must be gained revolves around the particular categories of object that I collect, and what whose categories and the individual characteristics of the objects within each category provide in that way of … what? Satisfaction of some sort? Understanding?