WEEK 1-Walking a km with Atlas
on January 15, 2021, I walked a kilometer of trails with my dog Atlas and filmed (most) of the walk with my phone. (The trail was icy so I needed to watch my footing in a few places!) In order to measure the one kilometer, I relied on my Fitbit kilometer tracker. I also attached an old Fitbit to my dog’s collar to measure his distance covered during my 1km walk. To walk 1km I took 1,536 steps and it took 15 minutes. During my 1 km, Atlas covered 10% more ground (1.1km) not to mention how productive he was undertaking all the other doggy activities during the 1.1km (e.g. chasing squirrels and birds, picking up sticks, leaving p-mails and sniffing the whole way). Similar to Yoko Ono’s Grapefruit book and undertaking the activities suggested by her, I found the activity of walking this km and contemplating how I experienced the km differently than Atlas broke down some boundaries of my understanding of what a km is and what it could be. It also made me contemplate time and how time units are man-made. For instance, on average, a dog’s life is significantly shorter than a human’s in terms of man’s definition of time, however, how much they “live” in the time they are alive cannot be measured by the same measurements that we typically place on a person’s life. It was also interesting to re-watch the video that I took of the walk: I noticed things that I hadn’t noticed while experiencing it live: how windy it was; the regular “crunch” beat my feet made walking through the snow (sounds almost like a heartbeat throughout much of the video), my dog’s ears flapping in the wind when he stands still. The video, while evidence of the walk, has also become a meditative work in itself for me. Similar to my comments on Sol LeWitt’s work, there are 3 pieces created from my work: 1) the concept of comparing one being’s km to another’s; 2) the act or performance of the walk; and 3) the resulting video as evidence or product which has its own substance and value.
To provide evidence of the distance travelled I have attached the beginning and ending kilometer readings on both Fitbits and the beginning and ending steps on my Fitbit. I have also attached the link to the video documenting most of the walk.
Homework Week 1
Sol LeWitt discussion notes based on viewing of video and reading of materials under the Artists section on WordPress:
How does Sol LeWitt express the notion that “the idea is the machine that makes the art” in his work? What does the artist’s actual hand have to do with the final work in a conceptual art context?
Sol LeWitt expresses the notion that “the idea is the machine that makes the art” through his conceptual art where the ideas and execution blueprints (e.g. the machine) are prepared in advance for others to execute (e.g. the individuals and supplies used are the inputs into the machine). Personally, I would argue that there are different artworks produced out of the work that we view in the video For All to See: 1) there is the conceptual piece, or the idea, that Lewitt produces, in terms of the diagram and instructions; 2) there is a performance piece that is created with the execution of the instructions by the team gathered; 3) and finally, there is the final physical artwork that is the documentation or evidence of the first two artworks converging. Although LeWitt’s actual hand was only applied to the original concept and instructions, without the birth and documentation of this first conceptual piece, the other two artworks would not be possible and would not exist. The video compares LeWitt’s art to composing music, which I agree with. His blueprints and concepts are the sheet music, but the artists require skills to execute (as would musicians reading the musical score), to interpret and adapt the performance according to their situation at time of performance.
The video also made me think of the saying “what is old is new again”. It was very normal throughout art history for established artists to employ a team of individuals in their workshop to execute artwork. This was a method to create more art than one person could create on their own and also was a training ground for young artists. It is only in more recent years that the norm is the concept of the celebrity artist. I see Sol Lewitt perhaps trying to rejuvenate this practice as part of his conceptual art. It is interesting how the video focuses on the artistry skill of Lewitt only, when only people of at least some skill would be required to execute the blueprint as intended.
Where do you draw the boundaries around artworks in this video? What are the artworks? What strategies and tools does Ono use to challenge the viewer? Do you like any of these concept works? Discuss.
The conceptual art presented by Yoko Ono is both the book and the video of her reading excerpts from the book. My interpretation of this work is that her concept is to eliminate boundaries of what is considered art. Similar to the work we viewed from Sol Lewitt, the short instructions provided by Ono are the blueprints or concepts of art for others to interpret and perform, or not, as their own art based on her concept. It goes further than Lewitt’s concept as the instructions are less defined and sometimes not even able to be performed, if taken literally from the instructions. By including the absurd, the impossible and the humorous in the instructions, it challenges the viewer to think about art, things and living differently, and blurs the line between what we consider being art/not art. It also changes how you think in terms of problem solving. For instance, those instructions that are impossible from a literal sense make you think “well, how could I interpret this differently and perform the essence of what she is getting at”. I like the concept of this book and the variety of instructions. Different concept works appeal to me on different days or in different moods. On some days, listening to my heart beat may be exactly what is needed and all the energy I have, whereas on other days, the more difficult or mindful activities may result in something more profound. In this sense I find the concept of the art very forgiving, kind and gentle. The book actually says to burn it after reading it. To Ono, her artwork is complete by putting the concepts out there. If one chooses to expand on the art by performing any of the instructions, that is up t o the next artist in the chain and is independent of her.
Bruce Nauman discussion notes based on video The True Artist Helps the World and reading of materials under the Artists section on WordPress..
Describe two works by Bruce Nauman (include images) where he frames every day actions (non-heroic, banal) as art. How are they “framed” as art, and what does the framing do to our understanding and experience of the actions?
Conceptually, Bruce Nauman frames everything he does as art because he is an artist and logically concludes (somewhat tongue-in cheek, but also a challenge to viewers) that what he produces must be art (similar to Fountain by Marcel Duchamp and Dadaism). I particularly like his neon light work and chose Double Poke in the Eye (showing two neon heads poking each other in the eye with fingers) and Seven Figures (showing seven figures having sex). Both these works challenge what we think of as sculpture in terms of the material the sculptures are made with and the movement of the sculptures, but the topics that are being represented in the sculptures also challenge our understanding of the work. At first look, there is no mystery to what exactly is being represented (two figures poking each other in the eye and seven figures having sex) but the viewer’s mind then races to what the possible meaning could be. His artwork can be quite shocking (either the topic being represented or the manner in which it is represented) in its lack of subtlety, which forces the viewer to contemplate. It is hard to look away.
For this week’s assignment I chose to stand outside blindfolded standing on a small stool on my backyard deck. I had my daughter take pictures of me at the start and every ten minutes afterwards, up to 60 minutes (seven pictures in total). I wanted to challenge myself in terms of taking away one sense (sight) and limiting any movement (if I shuffled, or took a step I would fall off the stool) and also experiencing the cold of outside. I have attended several meditation and mindfulness experiences, so I knew that control of the breath was essential to the experience. The first 10 minutes were the hardest (as always) as the body fights the stillness until the mind and breath takes control. As Marina Abromovic states in the film, it is all about a state of mind that allows you to push your body physically to stay still. Similar to Abromovic, I fed on the “audience”. I found myself creating a system to know when my daughter would come outside to take a picture. I regulated the rhythm of my breath to the sound of the filter on the hot-tub (which was close by) and I soon discovered that 360-370 breaths was 10 minutes. I needed to understand the progress to feel good about carrying on. During the 60 minutes, I noticed several different sensations or changes. I noticed dogs barking in the neighbourhood, not just the ones close by, but those barking farther in the distance. My dog was in the backyard while I performed and at first was whining at my feet, not understanding why I was not interacting with him. I could hear him running, playing and chewing on ice and my mind would make mental images of what he was doing. I heard two planes go overhead and could tell that they were small engine planes (maybe private?) and thought about how COVID has drastically changed travel and the airline industry. I remarked on how many birds were active in the backyard at 3:30-4:30 pm. And by about the 30 minute mark, I started noticing the sound of the 10-minute timer alarm coming from inside the house, notifying my daughter that she should take the picture. The 10 minute-40 minute marks were the easiest, I could feel myself getting into the rhythm of breathing and slowing down. I had a few pain points during this time (cold fingers, pain in the arch of one foot, numbness settling into one foot) but the breathing made them manageable as I breathed into the pain. The 40-50 minute section was the most trying. My muscles in my legs were getting a bit tired from supporting myself in one position on the stool (I was essentially in Mountain Position for 40-50 minutes at this point with muscles engaged) and the combination with blindfolding was making me a bit dizzy or off balance. I had to be very present to stay on the stool. Once I hit 50 minutes, I found it easy as I knew there was an endpoint (360 slow breaths) and I counted down. I was a bit stiff at the end and had to take a second or two once the blindfold was off to re-orient my senses before coming down off the stool. It did make me think though what torture it would be to be in solitary confinement, not knowing when the end of the ordeal was near. You can visually see the stress built up over the one hour in the two pictures (Left-beginning and Right-end) below in the difference of expression in my face and the rigidity of my hands by the end.
I have respect for Marina Abromovic and her practice in terms of the messaging and the innovation of the art at the time. I do feel her authenticity has changed over the years, and this is touched on in the film The Artist is Present, where a friend states that she is always performing. I personally feel that her art is also her therapy for her unhappy childhood and the masochistic tendencies of her art, while making strong and significant statements about the art world, relationships and treatment of women, were also cathartic in her own coming to terms with the lack of love she received from her own parents. The meaning of the art to her may be different to the meaning of the art to the viewers of her art.
While watching The Artist is Present, I couldn’t help but think of her as similar to a cult leader. She is physically attractive, highly charismatic, unpredictable, seemingly beyond human in the physical demands her body can endure. I found the speech she gave in Italy very interesting, as she specifically says not to see artists as idols, and yet that seems to be what happens with much of the audience during The Artist is Present; many seem to idolize her. I also found it interesting with one of her earlier works being “Art must be beautiful, Artist must be Beautiful”, that she chose all young and beautiful artists to re-enact her earlier works during The Artist is Present (not one body that might be considered overweight or unfit to be found as part of the team). The music choice in the film also often provided an “exotic” flavour to the scenes. I couldn’t help but wonder throughout the film how much influence she had in the story told and the approaches taken. I thoroughly enjoyed the film, but also felt throughout that the documentary was another of her “performances” geared to creating the image she has worked so hard to attain.
Week 3 post-One sentence instructions
- Lee Walton/Making changes: Modify the position of random things found while walking in the city.
- Lee Walton/Sitting: Sit on a park bench close to a stranger.
- Jon Sasaki/Ladder Climb: Climb on an unsupported ladder as high as you can and repeat each time you fall.
- Jon Sasaki/Dead End, Eastern Market, Detroit: Drive a van into a narrow alleyway and do a U-turn.
- Lenka Clayton/The Distance I Can Be From My Son (Back Alley): Film your toddler wandering away from you until you feel it is unsafe and measure the distance reached.
- Yuula Benivolski: Not available.
I thought carefully about what to defenestrate for this week’s assignment as I was sure there would be some emotional attachment to the item I was throwing out the window. Travelling alone and with my children is normally an important part of my life. Given, the latest travel restrictions the government is putting in place this week, I determined that the likelihood of needing my suitcase for a vacation anytime soon was slim-to-none. (That idea is out the window!) I packed up a small suitcase with a sun dress, flip-flops, bathing suit, sunscreen and a beach towel and threw it out the window. The emptied contents on my deck in the snow do look pretty sad, but no point stressing over it! When the time is right, I will pick up the pieces and travel once again.
Week 4-Adad Hannah and Social Distancing Portraits
Adad Hannah’s work is very interesting to me. In his work, including the Social Distancing Portraits, there is a strong sense of recognizing something everyday and common, but there is something “off” or different (sometimes slightly, as in the social distancing portraits, and sometimes boldly, as in the The Screen) that makes you stop and think about human behaviours and humanity itself.
In the Social Distancing Portrait series, Adad Hannah has observed everyday people; people we would expect to see in our own neighbourhoods. They include people of different genders, age groups, ethnicities and backgrounds. It is difficult to pinpoint how these people are different from or similar to each other and I believe that is the point. Every one of the individuals is unique, and yet we are all unified by dealing with the global pandemic. The approach of having the subjects in each portrait stand still during a time-elapsed video is powerful in a few ways. If the portraits of the subjects were captured in a photograph, it makes it too easy for the viewer to look quickly and move on. With the viewer seeing a “live” performance in each portrait, it is difficult to look away and it lengthens and intensifies the gaze by the viewer. By giving more time, you start to build a relationship with each of the subjects, and watch them more intently. The short quotes also provide a link between the individuals portrayed. Each is different and unique, however, the themes of the quotes are similar, expressing their insecurity about the impact on their life, their mental and physical health, financial security, and the uncertainty of the future. Using a combination of live film and photographic portraiture also reflects on the state of most people during the pandemic; we are living our lives and time is going by, but we are restricted in our movements and everything is on hold. There is not much going on in the time elapsed. The people portrayed in each portrait are centered in the frame (both horizontally and vertically) and are shown full body and in-focus. The posture tends to be relaxed, doing something that the subject would likely be doing as part of their regular day. The shot is taken from a distance and usually outside, as would be expected during a pandemic, and in many cases the subjects portrayed look at the camera.
For my one-minute video, I chose to film my two children on their way to school on their first day back since the Christmas lock-down. This is a significant milestone during the pandemic, back to some semblance of normality, even though they need to wear masks all day. Similar to Adad Hannah, I filmed them from at least 5 metres away and centered them in the middle of the shot.
Quote from Anika: I think COVID really affected me because of online school. My teacher couldn’t teach everything she was planning and now for the rest of the year she is going to have to rush. Online school has also made it hard to see friends because at recess they are not in the schoolyard to play with. You can’t just talk to them during class because it would overpower the teacher and everyone would hear you. I think COVID will always be here, even if it is not as strong. Some stores are always going to make you wear a mask.
Quote from Shayne: I don’t like COVID because I can’t see all my friends. We also can’t do my favourite sports because everything is closed. I wish that we were still doing online school because online school is easier.
Turn and face the Strange: Darcey Steinke on Our New Life with Masks notes:
While I found Steinke’s article quite interesting to hear her point of view on masks and the face, and some background on masks, there is quite a few of her opinions I disagree with as well. As it relates to COVID masks, I always find it amazing what a wide range of emotional reactions there are. It is quite obvious Steinke has a visceral negative reaction to masks. Personally they do not bother me. There have been a few instances where I have run into people at stores that did not recognize me at first, but once you say who you are the moment is over…not a big deal. I have had it happen in the past when someone has not seen me in a while or since my last haircut, etc. While the masks do muffle speech a bit, from the standpoint of reading people’s emotions I haven’t had issues either. Maybe I have always relied on the eyes to smile and overall body language, rather than the lips.
I do think the difference between seeing live faces and those on communication screens such as Zoom is very different. I have been fortunate not to have had a funeral to attend during COVID, as the inability to see loved ones live during a time of mourning is very difficult.
I also think the link between the different masks and interaction with faces she describes have a tenuous link at best with our current COVID situation. Many of the masks she discusses, such as ritual masks, have a long history of meaning and symbolism. Other masks, such as the KKK and terrorist masks serve the purpose of making the identity of the people performing shameful tasks anonymous. I just cannot associate that sort of emotion with a piece of fabric which, in our society today, has a functional purpose to medically protect the vulnerable for a temporary period of time. I have tried, but I can’t understand the viewpoint that the COVID mask is an infringement on human rights. It is just something to get used to for a short term and necessary purpose.
I also disagree with her comment of the aging face being an anti-face and a woman’s face becoming less interesting as she ages. As a 50 year old woman, I can honestly say I have never been more comfortable with my face. While 20 year old men may no longer find it attractive (which I am perfectly ok with!), I also find I am listened to and get more respect than my 20-year-old face did, even though I may be speaking the same words. Older faces tell a story to me and are beautiful in a different way.
Of most interest to me was the part describing John Howard Griffin’s experience of living both as a black man and a white man. How people related to the same person differently depending on which “mask” he was wearing is fascinating. I plan on reading the book. I also wonder if this impacted his behaviour and personality depending on which mask he wore.
While part of my face is covered while I am outside these days, I think more people have actually looked at my face during COVID with all the Zoom calls. On Zoom classes all the other students see is your face. In many live classes, I think students only really look at the teacher. To be honest though, to not be seen by a lot of people over a period of time is not particularly concerning to me as others viewing me does not define who I am.
Of the different artworks we viewed in class, my favourites are Erwin Wurm One-Minute-Sculpture Series and Nina Katchadourian. Both series are full of wit, are “in the moment” and I appreciate the humour.
My Different Faces
This last image describes sometimes how I feel as a mom (similar to the two-faced good-cop/bad-cop from The Lego Movie). I used one bag with the Mean/Naggy Mom and Fun Mom on opposite sides. (note: I revised these photos based on feedback in class to have better lighting, focus and plain background).
Week 7 Notes
- 40 Part Motet by Janet Cardiff
Conceptual prompts: Takes (beautiful) sound created by 40 parts to create a whole and allows it to be deconstructed into its smaller pieces again if desired or listened to in different combinations. The sound becomes physical, more like a sculpture that you can walk around and examine from different angles/speakers.
This is different than listening to the same music sung by the same individuals in a concert setting or on speakers/headphones as it allows the listener to focus on specific elements and consider how it fits into the whole. I would imagine the experience is also different depending on the room that it is in, given different acoustics, and also the visuals available as you listen, as well as how close or far apart the speakers are from each other. The type of music chosen is also spiritual and can be quite transcendental given all these factors. The musical “sculpture” might not be as successful with a less spiritual song. Interest is maintained through the ability to hear the song very differently depending where you stand. Given there are 40 different speakers emitting different sounds you could spend quite a lot of time listening to and experiencing the piece differently.
Hearing the piece on my computer is probably quite different than hearing it “live” with the speakers in the room, but it is a beautiful piece and I can imagine from watching the video that is is quite a captivating experience.
- Kelly Mark’s I Really Should. I really appreciate this piece in that it is words that many of us say to ourselves and others (“you really should”), often as advice, as a scolding, as a change agent or just out of habit. By hearing the same words expressed over and over, the repetition changed how I heard and understood the words throughout the piece. At first the words just ran over me, they are familiar words that don’t hold a lot of weight because they are so familiar. Then they became a bit more sinister and I started to feel annoyed or berated by all the things she was telling herself she should be doing (many of which I tell myself to do all the time), and then I felt like she was being too hard on herself and I was exhausted by the long list of “to-do’s” she had set herself up to do. It would be impossible to achieve everything and many of the items may have been important in the moment, but many of these were not essential to living a happy life and were setting her up for feelings of inadequacy. The only thing holding these different sentences together was the words “I really should”. Otherwise the thoughts were random, with some being important to daily life and others being mundane.
- Pipes in C by Anna Ripmeester: I quite liked this piece in that she took a found noise and turned it into music. It was a constructive, playful and positive way to turn an annoying situation into something positive (if you can’t beat it, join it). This differed from conventional music in that one part of it was not controllable, the pipe sound was the dominant and the guitar music the accompaniment.
Week 7 – audio piece proposals
Proposal 1: Similar to One Minute Apology by Laurel Woodcock and a Day in the Life (24 hour version) by Dave Dyment, I thought it would be interesting to take existing pre-recorded songs and reconfigure them with a different message and sound. I am proposing to do a piece about time and sound by piecing together 60 versions of the word “second” sung by 60 different artists in 60 different songs. They will be arranged chronologically (based on release date of the song) and I will also have an overlay of a clock ticking seconds over the top as it will last exactly one minute. The piece will be called “60 Seconds in a Minute”. I have already experimented with 20 songs and the effect is interesting in how the same word sounds so different depending on the voice, how the word is stretched out, or said shorter in more of a staccato, the ticking clock in between ties it together. Some “seconds” are longer than others; some take more than a second to say and others less than a second.
Proposal 2: We have several digital devices in the house that have alarms that go off for several reasons (waking up, reminders, meeting notices, etc.). The other day several went off at the same time. I thought it would be interesting to hear how they all sound together as a symphony (or cacophony) of sounds that are supposed to alert and awaken. This piece is reminiscent of Dot Matrix Symphony, The User where found sounds from an automated source are combined to make new sound/music.
Proposal 3: Proposal 3 is of a more serious nature, I thought about having 2 voices (1 male and 1 female) reading from a script. The script goes through the typical words said to each other from the time one of the persons discovers they have a terminal illness to the time they die and shows how the relationship changes from partners/loved-one to care-giver/care-receiver. In the beginning the script covers shock, dismay, expressions of love for each other, as the script evolves, the two people talk over each other (one discusses doctor appts, medicine schedules; the other discusses things they want to do before they die, home remedies, philosophies around death) and in the end they converge and say goodbye. Having known several people who have lived through this (including myself), it is a relationship that changes “in a minute” (no matter how long the person is ill) but is also one that is common for caregivers/those in palliative care. In terms of artists that we reviewed, it would most relate to I Really Should by Kelly Mark. This piece is also a spoken piece, that when you hear all the “I really should’s” together gives a different perspective on what these words, that you use everyday really mean when taken all together. (Note: based on feedback from Diane I did not pursue this piece as she felt it did not fit into description of the assignment.)
Week 8 -Completed Audio Pieces
I chose to complete both Proposal 1 and Proposal 2 above.
For Proposal 1, I completed a mix of clips from 60 songs recorded by various artists, arranged chronologically from the 1950’s-2020, singing the word “Second”. The result is 60 “Seconds” in Under a Minute. The variety of voices and styles (I chose a variety of crooners, rap artists, reggae, pop, rock, alternative, jazz, heavy metal and show tunes) and manner of singing the word is interesting, with some taking longer than a second but most taking less time. I also thought it was fun that 60 “seconds” can be executed in less than 60 seconds. What struck me most was how certain famous voices could easily be distinguished, as they have such unique voices and how memories flooded back to me for certain sounds just hearing that one word (Many of these songs were popular during my teens and early twenties). As discussed in the proposal, this piece is reminiscent of One Minute Apology by Laurel Woodcock and a Day in the Life (24 hour version) by Dave Dyment where found pre-recorded songs are reconfigured for a new purpose.
For Proposal 2, Eight Alarm Symphony I combined and mixed 8 different common alarm sounds from devices in the house (cell phones, ipods) into a symphony. The sound is a bit jarring at its apex, which is interesting as these sounds are supposed to alert you to important events or wake you in a pleasant way. As discussed in the proposal, this piece is reminiscent of Dot Matrix Symphony, The User, using found sound created by an automated device and remixing it.
Week 9 and 10
I am proposing to create documentation of the books I have read for pleasure in my life. I know in advance that I won’t be able to make a complete list as I am quite a prolific reader and have also read many children’s books in my own childhood, babysitting family members and raising my own children that I won’t be able to remember all of them. There are some books I have read several times in my life and have understood different messages throughout the years as I matured and based on what was important in my life. I have not decided exactly how I will document yet. One way could be a list based on my memory and the most memorable books in my life would be documented first. Another way could be a list based on my memory of approximate year/age of when I read them. I could do a word bubble where certain books that I have read many times would be larger type, with those I read only once would be small type. I could also do a collection of the front-page image of the books in a catalogue format. I strongly believe that you can tell a lot about a person based on the books they read (and whether they read for pleasure or not). I also believe that what you read can shape the person to a certain degree. This work would be similar to Douglas Gordon’s List of Names from 1990 to ongoing. Gaps can also be filled in as I go. For instance I forgot how much I enjoyed Judy Blume books as a youth. My daughter picked up one of her books the other day and a flood of memories of how much I enjoyed them came back.
Week 11 and 12
I decided to document my life’s reading with a series of doodles and words representing the books that have deep memory for me. This project is a larger undertaking than what can be documented in one week, but the process is an enjoyable one and I will continue it as a conceptual portrait. I found the act of documenting and doodling.kept producing additional memories and images that I associated with the books. I managed to document about 100 books to date and they are loosely grouped on the four pages between books I remember enjoying as a child, books I remember enjoying reading to and with children in my life (mine and others), classic books that I have read several times, and books that I read during my teens/twenties that I have deep memories from. There are many, many more books to document as I dig deeper into my memories!