Week 1: Book Stacks
Investigating Artists’ Works
Investigating the works of Katchadourian, Dyment, and Park allowed me to understand how diverse the physical form of a book can be as a conduit of meaning. Each artist intercepts the original intention of the novel as an individual container of writings and knowledge and draws meaning from external aesthetic qualities, titles, and ideas of ownership. Nina Katchadourian focuses on the personal context of book collections and how they reflect upon their owners and the spaces in which they exist. They are archival in nature, utilizing an accumulated vault of knowledge to construct a new meaning in the present. She begins by documenting each book in the library through a series of lists from which she begins to sort and curate books that connect to one another. Rather than being taken in their original context, the books are physically rearranged in stacks and reinterpreted by drawing connections between titles and their owners. Her piece Dyslexia from her Reference series exemplifies these strategies, using the titles printed on the book spines to speak to dyslexia as an experience of reading, perceiving, and rearrangement. The owner of the collection from which this piece was created is a former eye surgeon and photographer, someone who is clearly deeply familiar with experiences of looking.
Dave Dyment takes a slightly different approach, drawing inspiration from popular culture, multiples, artists books, and editions. His work with books involves a sense of chronology and time, using titles and linear arrangement to signal an unfolding or evolution. Ryan Park’s approach on the other hand, plays more with aesthetic quality over text driven meaning. He stacks books open and face up, allowing only slivers of the book cover colours to peek through and create a gradient. His works elicit a playful and joyful experimentation that is concerned with visual pleasure. The decision to open the book to create a new curving form reflects Katchadourians idea of treating the book as a sculptural item or readymade.
Going into this project I had no doubt in my mind that I would be able to put together meaningful compositions that reflect the connection between myself and my roommates. I am fortunate enough to have a roommate who works at the Bookshelf, and consequently, a stream of books is constantly being welcomed into our home. We each have an individual collection as well as a shared collection, however, even those that are in personal libraries end up circulating between us. Very quickly I noticed a pattern of categorization: self help, philosophy, poetry, fiction and spirituality. I think this speaks to the intersection of our experiences and interests as friends (though I feel that word downplays the connection we share) and how we are presently navigating our lives.
The process of creating my stacks very closely replicated the process of Nina Katchadourian in that I developed a list of all the titles which were then transferred individually onto cue cards. From the spread I was able to freely arrange as many times as necessary, snapping photos of arrangements that had potential (pictured are some that I did not choose for my final composition and one that made the cut).
This is a technique that I had previously used in an exercise that involved creating haikus by using comic books as source material. It was extremely effective and extremely enjoyable. It opens up endless possibilities and interactions with the material. In the end, three compositions resonated the most, in that they unconsciously arose from feelings that I, and many others are experiencing at this time of great change for our world. These are feelings of loneliness, laziness, and a deep craving for human touch. I also chose to decisively break up lines to indicate pauses in the flow of reading, as well as support clarity and emphasis on the titles themselves. This also served as a symbol for the elapse of time in the third piece “Human Touch“, as a long stack of blank pages were placed after the words “flash forward”. I found that in some of the more lengthy stacks of the artists I explored, the closeness of the titles and the varying colors and fonts sometimes affected the readability. I find the spacing provides a sense of calm and an even greater impact on how the works are experienced.
Week 2: Text as Art
In our week 2 exploration of text within art, I found the works of Shelley Niro and Joi T. Arcand to be particularly striking and connective. Shelley Niro’s The Shirt offers bold commentary that interrupts colonial imagery and historical narratives relating to the experience of Indigeneity in the Western world. An Indigenous woman stands at the fore of the image, dressed in clothing that is reminiscent of biker styles and backed by a pastoral “American” landscape. The text on her T-shirt acutely targets the violent history of settler colonialism, one that is often hidden under the myth of national tolerance and inclusivity. Actually embodying these words provides an extremely personal communication of these ideas, and expresses visibility to those who presently carry the intergenerational trauma of their ancestral history.
Joi T. Arcand’s works Northern Pawn, South Vietnam and Amber Motors provide a similar infiltration of Indigenous presence into the visual landscape. Her text/photography works involve the manipulation of storefront and advert sings by replacing the text with Cree syllabics. To her, this is a statement of hopeful potentialities- a world where her language can be seen and experienced in the everyday external world. It creates an environment of intrigue and unfamiliarity to those who have not encountered the Cree language, and perhaps one of celebration and freedom to those who deeply understand the oppressive history of practicing their own language.
Each of these works involve a kind of confrontation with the viewer, perhaps even eliciting a necessary discomfort in order to highlight how colonialism has threatened the prevalence of authentic Indigenous presence in relation to the land, commercial spaces, and art institutions/discourses. They were also created in relation to the commerciality of Canadian capitalist culture and visual consumption, a practice that is often exclusionary of Indigenous people. The viewer is invited to reflect on their own identity in relation to the land, as well as their own ancestral ties and relationship to language.
Week 3: Banner
Potential Phrases Explored
-vague, meaningless, value
After researching the artists introduced this week, I was interested in the ways text can be used to create a connectivity and relatability within individual experience. For example in the “Self Portrait” text work by Micah Lexier, confrontation with his own mortality is one that can be felt by all that view the work, as they are invited to place themselves within the time scale he creates through the measurement of text and space. Similarly, Hiba Abdullah’s work “we remain profoundly and infinitely connected” is both an acknowledgment of ones individuality as the viewer, and one’s place within a collective, unified species.
For my banner I chose the words “emotional labor”. They were the first words that popped out of the page, and I think that fact alone speaks to my recent experiences as well as the experiences of many of us right now. Personally, mental and emotional stress and alchemy occurs most often in the comfort of my bed, a space where vulnerability is welcomed and I have the quiet comfort of myself to rely on. Solitude is extremely important to me and to my personal healing and self care. The words themselves, “emotional labor” can allude to one of two experiences with heavy or turbulent emotional states: the seemingly unending suffering that accompanies mental illness and the toll it takes on the body and mind, as well as the potentiality for something incredible to be birthed out of the labor that is taken on.
Week 4: Commune With Nature Planning
For my commune with nature I intend to have a shared musical experience with a tree. Deeper than that, I wish to extend an offering through song-a serenade infused with words of thanks and inquiry and a desire for connection with this powerful living being. To do this I have set out to write a song that with be performed by me alone on guitar and vocals.
I’ve been sitting on a chord progression for the past few weeks, but was at a loss for what I wanted the song itself to be about. This project opened up the possibility of writing about the unexpected subject of a tree, then actually performing for them (them seems more fitting than “it”). With this seed now planted (haha) I have come up with a melody and have been workshopping lyrics, playing the song over and over while making revisions.
In the performance, I will situate myself in relation to the tree in a way that makes sense, likely sitting on the ground across from them with some space in between. I’ll set up the camera on a tripod and shoot a one-shot frame throughout the whole song. Audio will be filmed on a zoom recording device and lined up with the video in editing. I’m thinking of possibly adding some overlapped shots of the tree close up, me touching and physically interacting with it as well, but I’m not sure if that would be integral to the piece (and I’m also not very savvy when it comes to video editing).
Lyrics (so far)
Getting to Know My Tree Friend
Since I live close to Exhibition park and regularly walk in that area, I’ve taken a few visits to find a connection. I spent time observing many trees, up close and from afar, and there were a few that drew my particular interest. The exact reason I favor some trees over others isn’t particularity clear to me. Maybe it’s the way they relate to the framing I have in mind for the video shot, or the intricate patterns on their bark. Maybe it’s the subconsciously engrained relations I’ve made between size and power or girth and wisdom. Or maybe the energetic field of certain trees merge more seamlessly with mine. It’s hard to say.
Week 5: Commune With Nature Video
The creation of this piece was heavily inspired by both Machine Project’s Houseplant Vacation and Benny Nemerofsky’s Trees are Fags audio walk. In Houseplant Vacation I was particularly interested in the usage of sound, and the idea that plants can “hear” the music being played for them through the vibrational frequencies passing through the space. It reminded me of cymatics, which is both an art form and a science that makes sound visible. Essentially the process is using the instrument called a CymaScope to imprint certain sounds onto the surface of water, producing incredible mandala-like patterns. I love visualizing the water particles within the plants reacting to these auditory resonances with beautifully unique harmonized imprints.
What struck me in the Trees are Fags walk, was the choice of using the bassoon to soundtrack and guide the experience. It called to mind the materiality of the bassoon as a woodwind, whose body was only able to exist because of the sacrifice of a tree. The guitar has a similar history, and I wanted to give back through song to the trees as a thank you for their sacrifice.
The process of creating this video was a little tricky, as I had no assistance with the setup/recording. The cold and the snow made me very wary of the technology and my guitar itself, and I had to take precautionary measures in order to keep everything dry and safe. I had set up a tarp as well as a blanket so that I could comfortably sit on the ground without having the snow soak through, and I wrapped delicate tech in rags (I ended up snapping a guitar string due to the cold but was lucky enough to get the take before that happened). I set up my DSLR on a tripod, and used a zoom recording device for the audio which I later synched up in the editing process. It was a one take, due to the numbing of my fingers while playing, and I was very satisfied that everything went smoothly the first time around. However, in order to do it in a one take I had to sacrifice the quality of my video for longevity. My camera only records up to 5 mins at a time at full HQ resolution, so I had to bump it down in order to have 20 mins recording time as a cushion. In hindsight, I wish I had been able to record it with my phone, however had no way of mounting it to a tripod in order to get the shot I wanted. So, I did the best I could with cropping and creating interest through color correcting in the editing stages. I also gave some extra TLC to the audio with some light mixing.
The title I landed on is Cycles. I hope you enjoy!
Week 6: Zoom Video Planning
For this project I’ve teamed up with Justin and Emil in order to maximize brain power and efficiency. In our first meeting we hopped on zoom to brainstorm ideas and talk about themes that immediately come to mind when considering zoom as a medium for creating video work. Themes that arose immediately were those of identity, technological effect on perception, distortion, communication, connection, and authentic versus inauthentic presence. In this discussion, Emil referenced Jason Salavon’s video work, which integrates technology with the idea of distortion and overlapping through the manipulation and reconfiguration of preexisting media and data. His work All the Ways (The Simpsons) sparked an idea for us, and we began to think about how the overlapping of multiple videos (particularly the shot of the face which is a common theme in video art) ties into ideas of individuality and loss of presence.
All of us knew that we wanted this project to invite many participants into the process of creation, and we thought that we could prompt people with a question to talk about over zoom. We would then layer both the audio and video on top of one another to consequently dissolve each person into a pixelated mess. In order to connect the thematic dots, we knew the question had to involve the idea of technology’s effect on individuality, presence, and distortion, so that was something we took into consideration in our brainstorming.
Although this was an exciting idea, the conversation took a turn when I suggested a different route we could take. I am currently in Drawing IV, and our professor Paul has dedicated a few classes to shared reading sessions. He would choose a selection of reading that related to our class themes and discussions, and each week different readers were assigned chunks that were then read in turn. The reading was also shared on the screen, so those of us who were not narrators were able to read along as well. I found this exercise to be extremely engaging, and it created a wholesome space of connectivity where my classmates and I settled into a story-time-like scenario. It was interesting to hear the difference intonations, pronunciations and approaches to the text that each reader took, and I loved the sense of vulnerability that arises from reading in front of others.
With this experience in mind, I suggested we do a sort of group story-time recorded zoom call with a bunch of volunteers. We bounced ideas off of each other and eventually decided that instead of having people read off a selection of our choosing, it might be interesting to have each person write a sentence or two of poetry (or any writing of their own), then read it out. We would ask for participants to sign up and send in their submissions, then randomly generate the order that they will read in. We’ll then type up a master document of the lines, and distribute it to each person to follow along with during the reading.
Week 7: Exploring Video Art
Reflecting on these pieces:
In viewing Rashaad Newsome’s Suck Teeth Compositions and Basil AlZeri’s The Mobile Kitchen Lab, there were a few parallels I found between the two works, within both the subject matter and the resulting effects of their presentation. Each film respectively touches upon themes of deep cultural connection, and acts as a sort of homage to ancestral practices and the passing down of intergenerational knowledge. This connection is made through gesture and emphasizes linguistic/aural tradition as a way of relating to ones ancestral lineage. The way that the technology is used in Suck Teeth Compositions allows the viewer to experience a personal moment with this gesture of sucking air between the teeth. Using portrait shots above the shoulders from many angles allows for a greater understanding into the nuance of the action, as well as the micro-expressions of the face that accompany the sound. We are able to compare the similarities and differences between individuals in the way they perform the sound in order to better understand the overarching meaning behind it. If these actions were being performed live, however, they would definitely have a different effect. For one, we would be able to see involvement of the whole body and how those messages in gesture contribute further to the sound. There would also be context surrounding, and likely it would be more orchestrated by incorporating things that happen before/after the individual makes the sound.
In Mobile Kitchen Lab, there are a few layers of technology that AlZeri utilizes, the first being the fact that his performance of cooking is recorded, and the second being the video call that he engages in with his mother during the piece in which she relays instructions to him. These technologies create a sort of separation of the action that would otherwise be mended in a live performance. It would be more sensory, particularly in the triggering of the olfactory sense, and would appear to be a lot more personal had his mother been in the space with him, as if the viewer was invited into the kitchen of a mother and son.
Final Zoom Video Piece:
For the Zoom video piece, as I mentioned in a pervious post, I paired up with Emil and Justin. We initially had many ideas that we were mulling over, and were super excited about a few. However, the longer we sat on ideas the more ideas came, and the initial ideas fell into the background. We went back and fourth quite a few times between a few main ideas, trying to imagine how each would play out in actuality. We knew we wanted many people to be involved and use the grid layout of Zoom to our advantage. Finally, we landed on and executed the YesNo idea. Essentially, the piece operates using a system of yes or no questions that we asked each individual we interviewed. The fun part, however, is that the list of 30 questions that we established aren’t available to the viewer, only the reactions to the questions. In order to avoid conflicting audio, we typed each question live into the chat and had the interviewee give a yes or no answer. Then we complied all of the responses into a singular video, seeing if we could align certain answers and have others popcorn around. What resulted was a sort of strange ambiguous string of yes’ and no’s, tied into some interesting responses and facial expressions to the bizarre list of questions we asked. Candace Beritz’s Legend (A Portrait of Bob Marley) was a huge source of inspiration for this work, particularly the joy that arises from the space in between each person singing, and the desire to circulate the gaze around the screen to see the expressions of each individual.
Week 8: BREAD
What does bread mean to me???
After listening to the podcast which reflected upon bread as a connector between childhood memories, comfort, family and sustenance, I felt a bit of a lack of resonance due to my own personal experiences and relationships to bread. I can understand these deeply felt connections that people hold to bread, and have recently been building a connection through my own through experimenting with baking. But growing up, fresh baked bread was not a staple in my home. Whole wheat Wonderbread was pretty much the norm in my household, as well as grocery store tortilla’s that we’d store in the freezer and the occasional dozen of Tim Hortons bagels. Most of the bread I ate was limp and soft, pretty bland tasting, but made for an insanely delicious grilled cheese with Kraft singles (which was my personal after school staple). With all that being said, my golden memories of bread lie in the social rarity of a fresh baguette, which my family would invest in when guests came over for dinner. I swear, 12 year old me had no problem downing half a baguette with butter (& leaving room for the rest of the meal AND desert…how did I do that?!). White, crusty, flakey, chewy bread. Absolutely divine.
Hearing about the rise in baking over the pandemic makes a lot of sense, and for many reasons. I myself took to baking at the beginning of lockdown so I can relate to this desire. I think the idea of comfort is a central motivator for people picking up this skill. The reliability and stability of bread, the smell, the warmth, and the ability to share all serve as tools of comfort and soothing during a time that is extremely confusing and anxiety inducing. Time is also a factor, which was also touched upon in the podcast. Many of us now have copious amounts of spare time and are searching for places to channel our energy. One baker was speaking of the process of creating bread, and how each time it is an exciting and joy-filled event, to know that the bread is alive and growing alongside us. It takes care, practice, and patience, things which many people are able to give at this time that they otherwise may not have been able to do.
Cooking is an art. It involves systems, color, texture, aesthetics, patience, time, care, and passion. Both cooking and art typically involve the senses of looking, hearing, and feeling, and it is in this space that they intersect. However, what is unique to cooking that is often not found in traditional art practices, is engagement with the senses of taste and smell. These are similarly sensitive and subjective forms of consuming. I think that the many ways artists engage in their work is similar to that of chefs and bakers and cooks alike. There is a sense of connection to materials, an understanding of the medium through which you are communicating. It takes a certain level of awareness and ability, if not skill, to manipulate your medium in a way that is effective for you or your audience. One just deals thoroughly with flavor, while the other is often more concerned with engagement with space (a statement that I make as someone who is not a chef. Maybe some find space plays a role in their work?)
Here are some photos of the bread I made in class with everyone- forgot to take a pic of the whole loaf but my roommates and I were too excited to slap some jam on a warm slice.
Week 9: Food Art
Approaching this project was a difficult feat for me. I’m not exactly sure why this was, whether it be end of year burnout, creative block, or simply too many possibilities that my brain shut all of them out. Or maybe its because I have a difficult history with food. Regardless, it took some time to land where I did. I started thinking about my favorite foods growing up (and currently) and spaghetti stood out as a staple of my sustenance. The gesture of eating spaghetti as a messy, slurpy ordeal was something I wanted to explore, which is where Infinity Noodle was born. I wanted to see how long I could continue this action of slurping a noodle, one after the other with little to no pause. It became a slightly arduous task as my lips became sore from remaining pursed for 8 mins straight. I also became a little frustrated as I was hungry and this clearly was a counterintuitive way to feed yourself. One big slurp of an endless noodle supply. I made the decision to not wipe the sauce off my chin as it dripped down as to not disturb the action.
After shooting Infinity Noodle, I still had a substantial amount of pasta left. Of course, I didn’t want it to go to waste, and it seemed like it would be a missed opportunity had I turned off the camera and ate it like a normal lunch. I decided to continue eating it with my hands and film another piece of careless, messy eating, allowing sauce to splatter and drip wherever it wanted to. I found it showcased the nature of the food itself and how it behaves when we take away our learned customs of manners and “proper” approaches to eating (i.e., twist the forkful of spaghetti with a fork and spoon to create a perfectly clean bite). It was uncomfortable at first but I quickly sunk into the action and started enjoying myself.
I ended up absolutely hating the video that came from this exercise and was actually repulsed watching it. I literally could not bear to upload it. I was going to scrap it completely, before noticing the interest that came from certain stills, moments where the gesture and feeling of eating in this way were captured without having all the information available. This was much more effective for me and I actually enjoy looking at this viscerally unflattering photo set. I titled it Finger Food.
Week 12: Pandemic Cake
Look at how pretty they are!!!!! And they tasted pretty freakin good too. I’ll attach the recipe below, but the only two places ways I took some liberties was by adding chopped up walnuts and the icing which I bought premade from the store.