The first work I looked at is “ A Day at the Beach” by Nina Katchadourian. Her strategy to select and order books is to write down every title within a library onto separate cards, and select a few that jump out at her. She relentlessly organizes and reorganizes thee title cards until she arrives at an order with which she is satisfied. Her decisions are based on how the books talk to one another, and in this specific piece, that manifests quite humorously. The final compositions expand the meaning of each individual book by telling a new story, one of a shark attack at a beach. This might tell us something about the book’s owner, such as an affinity to the ocean, or even simply living in a coastal place.
The Second work I am discussing is “ One Billion Years [Past and Future]” by Dave Dyment. He selected these books by finding titles that related to the passage of time, by mentioning years somehow. He composes them in chronological order, from “One Billion years ago” to “The Next Billion Years,” with others such as “Only 50 Years Ago” and others with similar titles. Together, these books tell a sort of loose history, and predict the future. Having an imaginable timeline laid out in book titles is a very fascinating concept. I suspect these books did not come from a singular library, so rather than revealing something about the owner, perhaps it is revealing of Dyment’s own interests in time as a concept.
I have an EXTREMELY limited supply of books. Any of the books I have are all with my mom, in boxes who knows where, since we are in the process of moving. All that I have with me in Guelph are the textbooks I’ve collected over the years. With a total of eleven books, it might sound sufficient, but truth be told I struggled. There was little interest or deviance between the appearances of the books, and almost all of them fell within one of two sizes. So, I decided to use word play to have the titles of individual books interact with another. My problem was that almost none of the titles worked well together (I changed my focus of study once or twice before settling on a studio major). How could I convey an idea with the title of one book? I looked towards Ryan Park’s, and a few of Nina Katchadourian’s, work and realized that the titles of every book did not have to be shown to convey an idea. I could use the books I had with less interesting titles as a sculptural building block to interact with the more engaging titles.
The first arrangement seemed obvious to me, since I had two copies of “Image on the Edge.” Initially I was going to stack books neatly with these particular books simply on the edge of the others while backwards, but I decided to take the meaning of “edge” one step further and nearly topple these end pieces off of the shelf. With the only indicator of an image being on the edge of both the stack and the shelf, I am happy with how this turned out considering my challenges.
After using the books faced the opposite way, the other arrangements came slightly easier to me. I had a Leadership textbooks which I wanted to arrange to become the leader of other following books. The titles of the following books were unimportant to the concept, and would have in fact muddied this idea had I presented them. I would have ideally liked to have books of descending order to make the leadership book look the biggest (therefore older and wiser in appearance) but unfortunately, it was one of my smaller stature books. I solved this problem by creating a gap between the leader and the following books. I lined them up in an orderly row, with the leadership book a few “steps” ahead so it would appear as if it were leading the way.
The Power of Critical Thinking
In my next stack, I wanted to play on the word “power.” I figured what better display of power than to seemingly defy physics? I carefully (with plenty of failure) balanced a few books on top of my vertical copy of “The Power of Critical Thinking.” I’m sad to report his flimsy paperback textbook did NOT stay upright on its own. But with some balancing, (and admittedly a hidden support system) I was able to capture this shot of this “powerful” book. I like this one since critical thinking seems to be in short supply these days, and I think the world would literally be a lot stronger if everyone brushed up on their critical thinking skills.
Last, I wanted to use my singular non-textbook-book somehow. I pondered this a lot, and since using other books as a building block when the titles did not compliment each other had worked previously, I easily settled on a similar arrangement method. I think I took books as a sculptural unit to the next level with this stack, building a throne of books for my “A Game of Thrones” book. The word “game” also came into play when my huge, seldom read, chemistry textbook which provided the foundation of the throne came crashing shut just milliseconds after this shot was captured. This was surprisingly hard to balance, due to my untouched, tight-spined books.
Belief+Doubt by Barbara Kruger uses immersive installation as the method to express her message. Every inch of interior space is covered with massively sized words, overwhelming the viewer with text.
Here on Future Earth by Joi T. Arcand uses photography to express her message. This photo series evokes great feelings of a familiar world, only something seems slightly off. The text we are used to seeing in a small town – such as store fronts and road signs–has been fully replaced by Cree syllabics.
Both works use text displayed in an environment in unexpected ways. Where Kruger places text on multiple surfaces, unrestricted by where text is most typically observed, Arcand uses text in predictable places, but uses a an unknown (to the majority of viewers) language with an unknown alphabet. The sense of space is important to both works, in that Kruger’s piece deals with experiencing the space as an installation work, and Arcand’s – though photographs – evoke a sense of familiarity that can transport the viewers into feeling like they have navigated that kind of space many times previously. It would also be fair to say that existentialism would be at play in both of these artworks. For Barbara Kruger, the text itself asks questions and makes statements such as “PLENTY IS ENOUGH,” and “WHO IS FREE TO CHOOSE?” which address societal structures and begs viewers to reconsider what they think they know. The sheer scale of these words also puts emphasis on how the message is meant to be received. For Joi T. Arcand, the viewer is left to feel as if they are disoriented and foreign in an all too familiar place. For viewers that can understand the Cree syllabics, perhaps they are led to reflect on what the modern environment would look like had colonization not occurred (still probably not quite like Arcand depicted).
“Aesthetic of Powerlessness”
I lifted many phrases from the article, but became most interested in “aesthetic of powerlessness.” I thought it was interesting since most times, powerlessness is hidden away from the world, and instead wanted to put it on display, and show the “aesthetic.” I also wanted to capture multiple layers of powerlessness in a single image, with themes of poor mental health, total dependance on technology, the unavoidable lifestyle adjustments of a pandemic, and anything else that might lead to the monotony of an everyday life of powerlessness.
I used many uplifting colours in the banner to act as an oxymoron of sorts. I enjoyed the idea as a banner used for celebrations (such as “happy birthday”), and thought it would be interesting in conjunction with a condition that causes most people great shame. I also lowered the saturation of the photo to make the life and aesthetic more dull, and to come across even more powerless than the content of the image suggests. At first I began to remove the shadows cast by the banners, but then ultimately decided to leave them in because my original intention was to cast a spotlight on this hidden human condition, and though the shadows make for unideal composition, it further showcases a raw, and un-orchestrated aesthetic. Therefore, I made the spotlight both figurative and literal.
VIDEO PROPOSAL: “DORMANT”
I struggled a bit in thinking of how to relate to nature in the winter months. Most everything is dormant. If it were any other season, I would love nothing more than to convene with nature and all of its magnificent beauty. But I greatly dislike winter, and what nature brings with the season. But, I realized I do not need to “do” anything for this video other than lean into my instinctual reaction to nature during this time of the year. My feelings toward nature during this time should provide the content for how I communicate with what is around me.
I want my video to be calm and meditative. Perhaps a bit melancholy, but ideally it will capture a submission to nature. An exercise that enforces learning from the natural wildlife that pauses its vivaciousness during the winter time. I also wish to reflect on the natural condition of seasonal depression.
Similar to Rebecca Belmore’s Speaking to Their Mother, I wish to convey the communication between the earth and people. Only instead of speaking to the earth, I want to show the earth speaking to us, and the powerful commands of nature.
Similar to Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay’s “Trees are Fags”, I wish to look towards trees (among other natural life) to learn their wisdoms, and become aware of my mind and body.
I have prepared a monologue. Every statement comes at a 30 second interval on voiceover, in between the statements, simple visual actions will be taken to allow resonation.
Script is in bold– Instructions for actions in regular text.
- Approach from off camera, poorly dressed for the winter.
- It seems that as the seasons pass and change, so do I.
- I put on outerwear (prepare for the conditions).
- It’s cold, very cold.
- Stay still. Breath long, hot, visible breaths.
- What must I do to feel warmth?
- Turn to face the tree (right side of the shot).
- I’ve noticed the sunlight doesn’t last very long these days.
- My energy is quite low.
- Sit on the ground.
- I think I’ll go to sleep for a little while.
- Lay down on side facing camera.
- As the earth is blanketed in snow, so am I tucked in to slumber.
- Close my eyes.
- Let’s dream of something nicer for a while.
- Shift in slumber, change positions.
- I can’t wait to wake up to lovelier conditions.
- Be still.
- Until then.
When prompted to commune with nature, I felt puzzled as to what I could possibly do. I do not exactly feel inspired by nature during this time of year. No “exciting” ideas came to mind. With art, I struggle with simplicity, and rarely ever feel comfortable with the concept “less is more.” But with this project, I was able to lean into my lack of enthusiasm, and just react and commune with nature the way I automatically do, even if that reaction is to just “be.”
I took inspiration from the artists Rebecca Belmore and Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay and their works. Belmore’s Talking to Their Mother inspired the idea to listen, respond and converse with nature. Nemerofsky Ramsay’s Trees are Fags reminded me of the connection to trees and other life forces found in nature. Together, both of these works guided me to the connective self awareness of one’s own mind and body, and what the acceptance of what nature insists of us looks and feels like outdoors.
The technical aspect of this video was challenging. I had no filming equipment, and I shot the footage after the winter storm, away from my house. Even a make-shift tripod was not a plausible option for me. Instead I employed my brother and roommate as my camera crew. Even with instruction, a couple of the shots did not come out as I envisioned, but I did with what I had, and made formal decisions based on what I managed to collect. Audio was even trickier, as many of my video clips had traffic noises in the background, due to one of my locations being nearby a major intersection, during peak time. I managed to cut out this traffic noise, as it had no place, and no significance to my concept. Though the professional quality is questionable, I made sure to set my intentions with the other formal aspects, and stick to them.
This video is a response to winter. The response is to shorter days and longer nights, the lack of light and warmth, and the way the earth shuts down and is at rest for quite some time. I often find myself following nature’s lead in the winter months, having not much energy to spare. Here I situate myself among nature, and insert my own personal experience with in the natural world. I discovered my own instincts are not unlike the way that wildlife reacts to the changing season. The experience was validating, in that slowing down, or needing to rest is a universal experience; life cannot be measured by productivity. It is my intention that this video may serve as a reminder of this sentiment. While watching this video, take the opportunity to meditate, and be aware of your breathing, heartbeat, and reconnect with your core life force.
ZOOM VIDEO Proposal
I wish to play with different camera angles on zoom. This idea was inspired from joining a zoom meeting with my roommate where I could be seen within her frame, as well as my own. I thought the phenomenon was silly, entertaining, and quite fascinating.
The most interesting thing about zoom, in my opinion, is simply the use of multiple live videos on a single screen. Usually, zoom reduces us to 2D figures, where we only ever see each other from straight on, head and shoulders. My plan is to set up multiple cameras around me, take advantage of the multiple screens, and observe myself from every angle. In a pandemic, we are missing out on the presence of others, so I intend to stimulate my presence more holistically, rather than just a face in a tiny square.
I am unsure how many cameras I have access to for this task, but I know I have at least four. At minimum, I plan to set up cameras in front, behind, and at both of my side profiles. Hopefully, If I can manage to acquire more cameras (at the permission of my roommates), I might position more cameras to capture myself from even more angles than one would typically see in real life.
This video is not just about recontextualizing the body in our modified world, but for me to also observe myself. It seems difficult for someone to truly observe themselves in an objective manner, so this will be an additional goal of mine.
I will look to Pipilotti Rist as inspiration, where her work “Flatten” shows her from an unexpected angle.