Drop-in Classes for Professional Development

There will be a series of drop in classes for fourth year students on Wednesday nights in Alexander 380 from 6:00pm to 7:00-7:30pm. These classes are designed to provide graduating students with resources to help them sustain an art practice after their undergraduate degree. The classes this semester will be:

March 2: Applying for Graduate School
March 16: Round table discussion with experienced MFAs
March 30: Art Therapy Q and A
Again, all sessions are drop-in and require no sign-up.

Simon Starling

Simon Starling is an English conceptual artist born in 1967 in Epsom, Surrey. He is fascinated by the processes involved in transforming one object into another. He creates objects, installations, and pilgrimage style journeys which convey the ideas of nature, technology and economics. He describes his work as: “‘the physical manifestation of a thought process’, revealing hidden histories and relationships.’”

Tabernas Desert Run (2004)

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Starling crossed the Tabernas Desert in Spain using an improvised electric bicycle. The only waste produced was water in which he used up the water to paint an illustration of a cactus. No waste was produced in this piece. This piece showed the contrast between the efficient cactus and the contrived efforts of man is comic and insightful. This emphasized the commercial exploitation of natural resources in the region.

Shedboatshed (Mobile Architecture No. 2) (2005)

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Starling dismantled a shed and recreated it into a boat loaded with the remains of the shed. Starling dismantled a shed and recreated it into a boat loaded with the remains of the shed. Both pilgrimages provide a buttress against the pressures of modernity, mass production and global capitalism.

One Ton, II (2005)

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This piece focuses on energy consumption, the mass amount of energy used to produce small amounts of platinum. One ton of ore which was mined from the South African open cast mine was needed to produce the five handmade platinum prints.

Autoxylopyrocycloboros (2006)

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This piece was presented as a slide projection in which Starling voyaged the waters of Scotland’s Loch Long. The boat is a 20 foot long clinker-built wooden craft called Dignity. The boat was salvaged from the sea bed and it was restored by its previous owner. It was fitted at Cove Park with a single cylinder, marine steam engine. Dignity was both vessel and fuel for Autoxylopyrocycloboros. The boat eventually sank back to the sea bed of Loch.

Phantom Ride (2013)

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The Tate Britain Commission invited Starling to develop a new work that responded to the Tate collection. In 2013, Starling created a film piece where he claimed will take you on a “‘rollercoaster ride on invisible rails’” through histories and memories of Tate Britain’s famous Duveen galleries. Starling uses huge projection screens and he reveals significant artworks and events that occurred in the space previously like ghostly apparitions. Starling uses motion control technology that reveals the rubble of the destructive bomb-blast that ruined the space in 1940, confronted an up-turned Jaguar jet fighter and iconic paintings that float in mid air.

Starling describes Phantom Ride:

“‘The phantom ride was a genre of film popular in the very early days of cinema. A camera was fixed to a moving vehicle to simulate a journey for an immobile cinema audience. They sat pinned to their seats, white-knuckled for fear they might derail on the next precipitous bend. The train tracks or the road anticipated the trajectory of the ‘phantom’ vehicle. Here though, the way has vanished. The highly precise and repeatable movements of the huge robotic arm on the similarly track-bound ‘motion control camera’ used to make this film facilitate a rollercoaster ride on invisible rails. The film’s soundtrack is the only remaining evidence of the camera’s week-long presence in the Duveens – the audible contractions and expansions, the ascents, descents and contortions, of a very real machine.'”

Germaine Koh

Germaine Koh is a Canadian visual artist based in Vancouver. Her conceptually-generated work is concerned with the significance of everyday actions, familiar objects and common places.

Knitwork, 1992, increasing length, unravelled used garments, with text and photographic documentation

Begun in February 1992, Knitwork is a life-long piece made by my unraveling used garments and re-knitting the yarn into a single continuously growing object. As it records the ongoing passage of time and effort, the work becomes a monument to the artifacts that comprise it, to mundane activity, and to everyday labour. As a visual record of the passage of time, the details of the piece incidentally register variations in my process, and through these one can retrace a history of decisions. Although the slow accumulation of layers of obsolete goods might recall geological processes, the limits of the piece are actually human; the work will be finished when I cease (to be). It is both sublime and resolutely absurd, both excessive and banal, both rigorous and formless; in other words, it is a practical test of the imagination.

Germaine Koh, Fête, 1997, artist’s hair, ribbon, binding. Project ongoing since 1997.

A growing collection of swags of the artist’s hair, sewn into fringes and hanging on a wall like tinsel celebrating a rite of passage. Each section is discreetly embroidered with a date, referring to the year in which the artist had the haircut resulting in the hair for that section. Ordered chronologically, each section has a different character: more and less healthy, increasingly showing grey. The hair continues to be somewhat organic, hanging differently with atmospheric changes.

Fair-weather forces: wind speed, 2002, found metal turnstile with added electric motor and electronic circuits, anemometer.

A standard metal turnstile is placed, as usual, near the threshold of a room. It rotates at a changing speed related directly to the exterior wind speed as measured by the anemometer. In this way it suggests that it could be regulating the flow of people into the space according to the weather outside:  calm days encourage lazy movements and windy conditions brisk ones.
This was the first in the Fair-weather forces series of architectonic interventions which suggest a reciprocal relationship between human behaviour and natural phenomena.

Germaine Koh, “Watch’ (2000), performance for storefront display window. Toronto presentation at Solo Exhibition, 5-7 February 2001, 10am-6pm daily. Photo: Phil Klygo

“For Watch I spent office hours for several consecutive days in an enclosed storefront display window, actively observing passers-by and the life of the street. Dressed in simple clothing and equipped with only a simple chair, I watched impassively but attentively, neither communicating with nor responding to those who may attempt to interact with me.”

Shell, 2005, situation with aluminum, acrylic and wood structure modifying existing architecture.

Shell was a situation in which part of an existing windowed storefront is physically opened to the public, for use 24 hours a day. An enclosure resembling a transit shelter was built on the inside of the space, attached to the existing glass frontage, a pane of which was removed in order to create free access to the new structure from the street. Now given over to the public sphere, the area inside the shelter became an in-between, layered space. It offered shelter, but uneasily, remaining part of the interior space while serving as a recognizable public form (bus shelter). It also exposes the vulnerability of the private space — not so much for the physical breach (which is only a matter of square metres lent), but more through our recognizing the fragility of our notions of safety, property, and propriety.

Fallow, 2005, soil and plants transplanted from local vacant land. Presentation at Charles H Scott Gallery, 2009.

Instead of displaying a crop of new work, for one exhibition period the space lies fallow. The floor space of the gallery is completely covered with soil and plant matter from nearby vacant land. Plants and seeds in the soil continue to grow over the course of the show, during which time the trade practices and commercial goals usually associated with an exhibition are slowed to processes of waiting and watching. Although withdrawn from “constructive” use, the exhibition space is far from empty, but rather full of richly non-productive time and process.

MAINstREetBUS, 2009, Bus wrap and interior advertising panels of #3 Main Street bus.

The MAINstREetBUS project appears as a photographic reflection of the street that the #3 Main bus travels. The interior advertising panels of one bus form a sort of panoramic photo essay focusing on businesses, sights and locations on Main Street. The bus exterior is completely wrapped in a camouflage pattern of imagery depicting these surroundings. The image create a relationship between the street and the bus, possibly returning bus riders’ attention back to the very surroundings through the bus traverses — surroundings that may be so familiar we tend to overlook them.

SeeSawSeat prototype, 2011, 16 x 96 x 16, anodized aluminm and ipe wood.

SeeSawSeat is a public bench that presents a modest and playful conundrum to those who encounter it. Its seat pivots atop a central fulcrum, becoming a teeter-totter. Uncomfortable when used by only one person, the individuals that encounter it will soon deduce that it is best experienced with another person, so the seat becomes a tool for social exchange.

DIY Field, 2011, Metal posts with interactive LED lights.

DIY Field is an interactive grid of 38 pedestrian-scale light posts on a sloped piece of ground in Winnipeg’s Central Park. In keeping with the themes of play developed throughout the park, each post’s light and colour is controllable by park users, creating a flexible field that is configurable by individuals for emergent game play and other uses.

The poles recall game- and sports equipment such as pylons, slalom markers, goal posts, and signaling devices. They minimally articulate a space that is otherwise left open for the public to animate and invent uses. Besides creating a situation for play by giving users and residents a measure of control over the character and mood of the space, the project also communicates a vision of public space that is shaped by how it is used and negotiated by citizens in real life, as much by how it is planned.


Francis Alÿs

Francis Alÿs is a Mexico-based artist who’s work encompasses a variety of media, often performances that are documented by video, photography, writing, painting, and animation. His work is described as poetic and political, as he often examines the social, cultural, and political conditions of the land.

Cuentos Patrióticos (Mexico City, 1997)

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Francis Alÿs often performs various kinds of walks. An early walk of his includes “Cuentos patrióticos” or Patriotic Tales in 1997. This black and white video documents the artist’s re-enactment of a historical moment in Mexico’s political history. The video shows Alÿs leading a flock of sheep in single file around the flagstaff in the middle of the Zócalo, the ceremonial square at the heart of Mexico City, and the centre for urban activities and political rallies. Occasionally, a sheep joins the group, and the others adjust themselves within the circle to maintain its shape. The action mirrors an event in 1968, when civil servants were forced to congregate in the Zócalo to welcome the new government, yet bleated like sheep to mark their protest.

The Green Line (Jerusalem, 2004)





Another politically charged walk is “The Green Line“, where Francis Alÿs walks the Armistice border in Jerusalem carrying a leaking can of green paint that trails a line behind him as he walks. The title of the work, and the green line itself, are references to the historic Green Line that was agreed upon in 1949 as the boundary between Israeli and Palestinian land at the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. After the war had resulted in a clear win for Israel, the Israeli state was established and a green line was literally drawn out on a map to demarcate its borders with Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Lebanon during the Armistice Agreements

Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing (Mexico City 1997)

His walks are often location based and can be simply about the city. In a well known piece titled “Sometimes Making Something Leads to Nothing“, Alÿs pushes a large block of ice around Mexico City for over 9 hours until it melts away. The piece transforms into a way of getting to know the city from a different perspective.

Samples II (London, 2004)

Similarly, inn “Samples II”, Alÿs walks around London, England with a drum stick in his hand, playing the sounds of metal fences beside him.

These two walks also reference another theme of his work. Francis Alÿs has a series of works that explore the kinds of games that children play where they live. In another video, he documents the same action for the fencing around Fitzroy Square specifically.

Children’s Games (Worldwide, 1999-present)

His series, “Children’s Games” contains video documentation of the games children play all around the world including Mexico, Afghanistan, France, Belgium, Venezuela, and Morocco. The games are usually ones involving a group of children outside with, playing with bought toys or found items such as kites, marbles, water bottles, sticks, coins, old bike tires, and even broken pieces of mirror.

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Francis Alÿs references this interest in children’s games in different bodies of work. A theme that often comes up in his work is the task of doing, undoing, and not doing.

Reel/Unreel (Kabul, Afghanistan 2011)

An example of this “doing and undoing” is Francis Alÿs’ video Reel/Unreel, where “the action takes place along the bare cityscape of Kabul, Afghanistan. The cameras follow a reel of film as it unrolls through the old part of town—pushed by two children, uphill and downhill, like a hoop, inspiring an improvised narrative”

“On the 5th of September 2001, the Taliban confiscated thousands of reels of film for the Afghan Film Archive and burned them on the outskirts of kabul. People say the fire lasted 15 days. But the Taliban didn’t know they were mostly given film print copies which can be replaced and not the original negatives, which cannot.”

Sometimes Doing is Undoing and Sometimes Undoing is Doing (Afghanistan, 2013)

Another obvious example of this theme is Francis Alÿs’ video piece “Sometimes Doing is Undoing and Sometimes Undoing is Doing“.

“The films are played on a split screen and show two soldiers—one a member of the Western forces still occupying the country on the side of the official government and the other a Taliban anti-government fighter—as they take apart and reassemble their weapons, each in their own separate world.”

When Faith Moves Mountains (Lima, Peru 2002)


In “When Faith Moves Mountains“, Francis Alÿs congregates 500 volunteers to shovel a large dune on the outskirts of Lima, Peru to be moved 10 cm from its original location. Over the course of a day, the volunteers move the surface of the dune over, accomplishing an overall un-recognizable event. The principle for the action was “maximum effort, minimal result”, but the social aspect of requiring many people provides a great sense of achievement.

A Story of Deception 2003–6


Francis Alys’s exhibition in the Tate museum takes after this photograph. In his works, Alys investigates the process of modernization in Latin America and Mexico. The mirage suggests that the goal is never reached. The deception comes from the promises the government makes about social change that are broken.

El Ensayo (Tijuana 1999-2001)

Likewise, Alys’ series of works exploring the nature of rehearsals also connotes this theme of deception. In the video, a red VW beetle drives up a hill as music of a brass band rehearsing is played. But, whenever the band pauses, Alys takes his foot off the acceleration only to roll back down. This references the idea that modernity in Latin America is always being delayed and never reached.

The Ambassador (2001)


In a work called The Ambassador, he sent a peacock to represent him at the Venice Biennale of 2001. Given Alÿs’s apparent desire to produce work which acquires its meaning through engaging other people, the gesture might be seen as a way of subverting the Romantic cult of the artist as sole begetter of the artistic enterprise.



Fiona Tan has made numerous film and video works, varying in scale and duration, as well as films for theatrical release, television broad cast, site specific presentations and gallery installations. Her work borderlines narrative documentary and multimedia installation.

Tan was born in 1966, in Indonesia to a Chinese father and an Australian mother of Scottish descent. She grew up in Melbourne and now lives her adult life in Europe, currently located in Amsterdam.

Earlier work explores themes of identity within a post colonial world using her individual heritage as running influence. Her biological facts were often brought to light within her works of the late 1990s, which explored the construction of postcolonial identities through editing of archival films, usually shot by Western perspectives facing the “exotic” cultures of the East.

Major themes shown in her current work consist of notions of time, memory, mind and identity. There is a continuous confrontation of the self and the individual within her work, viewing the self “as an assignment of possibilities always changing”. There is the romanticized ability within her work for the viewer to find “profound meaning in simple gestures, and to learn by looking and feeling rather than intellectualizing”.

Perspectives of the self in time is especially important through exploration of concepts of the past and present and how they persist in memory through images.

“In common nomanclature, we ‘imagine’ our future and ‘remember’ our past. Tan’s work suggests that in each present moment we are, in fact, actively creating our past every bit as much as we are shaping our future; narratives about what we have done and what we will do are equally nebulous. As individuals, we hover as the fulcrum of this past-present dynamic, trying, often in vain, to extract a familiar, concrete sense of ourselves from the fluctuating narratives we are continually rewriting.”



Correction is a video installation that incorporates approximately 300 video portraits of guards and inmates from four American prisons. The portraits are displayed on six hanging screens that arrange themselves in a circle. Each portrait shows an anonymous inmate or guard standing still for approximately 40 seconds, while maintaining complete eye contact with  the camera. These portraits can be considered as “photographic portraits in motion”. The waist up framing of the portraits is a reference to a Hollywood technique used in the 1930s, 40s and 50s, titled the Amerikanische Einstellung also known as the American Shot.

Within Correction, Tan is drawing attention to displaying a group of citizens whom “society prefers to keep out of sight”. The piece reveals Tan’s interest in incorporating sociological and anthropological methods and structures into the relationship between the still and moving image.



“Correction”(2004) (video link)


Provenance is a silent film series that connects the relationship between moving images and traditional easel painting. Six subjects were selected as a focus and are closely related to Tan, ranging from neighbours, former teachers, a local grocer and her youngest child. The films are shown without audio on small, black-framed LCD monitors hung in a row at eye level.  The films range in length from three to five minutes, displaying the subjects in everyday activities.

Through slow panning shots and a focus on simple moments, an intimacy is created through each film. At one point in every film, the subject turns to look into Tan’s camera, essentially breaking the fourth wall and striking a formal pose that invokes the painted portraits which inspired the project.


“As I was filming, I asked myself if it’s possible to look at a film as if at a painting, and if so what that would mean, and then what it is that makes a portrait successful.”



PROVENANCE (2008) (video link)


Rise and Fall is a a 22-minute two-channel video involving two women of contrasting ages. There is trouble distinguishing if both women are related or if they actually represent a single person at two points in her life. Soft and intimate glimpses of their everyday rituals are shown from bathing to dressing, writing in their diaries and solitary contemplation. The two screens interweave the two character’s lives, entangling their moments alone. The image of a waterfall within the film can be considered as a central metaphor, being uncontrollable like the factors of time and memory.

“The narrative winds in and out like a temporal Mobius strip. It follows two women—one eager and young, one reticent and older—through their daily activities. The visitor is left to ponder if perhaps these two women are actually one.”

“Your present self was shaped by your past, and your past may be worn and shaped by the currents of time and experience.”



RISE AND FALL (2009) (video link)

VOX POPULI (2004-2014)

Vox Populi is a found photo series in which Fiona Tan asks individuals that inhabit a specific city for their personal family photographs and albums. Tan selects photos that range in time creating a multifaceted portrait of the specific place elected, through the photographs of the people who live, or lived, in each locale. The work has been explored through 5 cities: Norway, Switzerland, Tokyo, Sydney and London.

The photos are displayed both on the wall of the gallery and in the compilation of a book. Both ways of viewing create alternate meanings from the viewer. The wall piece allows an overall scan and survey of faces, while page turning of a book of images references the original source of the family album.

“They are photographs of strangers, yet we’ve see them countless times: toddlers grinning from foamy bathtubs, teenagers awkwardly showing off their first party dresses, granddads cuddling newborns. Local variations aside, they could be found pretty much anywhere, stuck on the yellowing cardboard pages of hefty photo albums. ”