I thought I would let the noise and chatter die down a bit before offering my take on the new anti-spam law passed by the current Conservative government of Canada.
As an arts and culture marketer, I did not participate in sending out emails asking for consent to keep on sending on emails. Nor did I answer these emails requesting permission to keep sending me emails I had already given permission for because it is, frankly, none of the government’s business who is communicating with me or with whom I am communicating with.
There is no difference between a hand written letter, a postcard, a messenger pigeon or a telephone call and an email. Though it may be the law, it is not moral to comply with this intrusive oversight of my relationship with other people. Period.
Most Canadians seem to interpret this law as curbing the annoying, unsolicited, commercial based emails that come to mind when you hear the word “spam”. Fair enough but what has that got to do with me as an artist, writer or with a gallery or charity sending me press releases? Most unsolicted email is not from reputable organizations, or even Canadian ones. They are, by nature, beyond accountability for their practices. So what that leaves are a handful of legitimate, Canadian based businesses that have real addresses and real people who are the only ones who will be left to be punished by this new law.
So what is really going on here? This law was apparently 10 years in the making and it certainly seems that much out of date. Anyone who knows anything about using email and the internet knows how to deal with real spam without any real effort or time so obviously there is not a technical limit which our government is attempting to address on our behalf. This law seems like it written by and for cranky senior citizens who are still using dial-up and are worried about the time it takes to read everything everyone sends them. From what I’ve heard and read, the majority of supporters are just such people who are frustrated with spam and think this will address their problem. It won’t. But that won’t stop people from trying to change the democratic world around them to adjust one minor irritation that could be fixed easily in many other ways.
This new law will give the government real teeth in shutting down organizations they don’t like. All this complaint based process needs is one political patsy on an email list, along with the usual conservative base of well-meaning but angry and mis-informed citizens, to start the ball of punishment rolling over everyone else.
No more fundraising – it’s spam. No environmental news – it’s spam. No critical gathering of minds or art – it’s spam. No more dignity in the privacy of your communications – it’s spam. This reminds me of when I heard about a former dictator in a former east block communist regime who had only one photocopier in the country, in a government building, in order to stop the spread of information and stifle dissent.
Unfortunately in Canada there is a culture of uncritical complicity and this law will probably work well because we won’t be able to hear about how it is not working well. But the empty simulacrum of the government dealing with someone that annoyed you is now out there. Now go shopping and sign up for great deals by email at your local big box store. I promise you this law was never intended to interfere with that relationship.
Strictly speaking, what the City of Detroit decides to do with its public art collection is none of my business as I’m Canadian. However, the phenomenon of large and valuable public art collections is universal across much of the world. As such there are some common characteristics that I do feel comfortable commenting on.
The problem with large valuable art collections is that they are tombs for the collected works. You the public will ever only see the very tip of the iceberg, even if you attend every exhibit at one of these large institutions during your entire life. A public art institution buying your work is most likely a death sentence for that work, but a nice addition to your pedigree. The worth through this relationship is thus largely removed from reality — conceptual and abstract for the artist and the public. To me, this is the same kind of instability produced through the financial system on perceived worth of bonds, stocks and futures. At some point, for the institution, the physical cost of housing, maintaining and documenting a large amount of work increased the value of a few works and the others depreciate because no one has ever heard of these artists or seen their work.
What selling this collection would do is allow most of this work to see the light of day again. This work could be disseminated across the world, allowing people to see it who would never have been able to see it otherwise. This is great news for the work and the artist(s) who made the work. It is not such great news for the institution that was hoarding it but how does or how should that affect our opinion? I feel it does affect most people’s perspective on this situation but I also think most people do not realize they are associating the art with an institution. An organization’s ambitions are not the same thing as important art works, though I think they want to be and we want somebody to be taking collecting art works seriously on our behalf. That’s cool but if we believe in collecting works we would be disingenuous to deny the collection of collections.
Another benefit would be the absence created by selling off an entire collection as presumably the institution would need to start collecting again. This is a great opportunity for artists and a great opportunity for cultural institution workers. Imagine the activity and spending that would happen that could be spun into economic feel good indicators.
In principle I also like the idea of demonstrating the worth of collecting art by selling it and paying off the debts incurred by business-oriented ideology. I think the US, as with many countries, already gets this idea and accepts the worth of art in society. Sadly, this last point may be a more useful albeit basic lesson for Canadian arts funding models.
I have travelled through the U.S. last year in January and saw hints of what ails this country. Almost the entire trip through to Mexico I saw the vast ruins and hardscrabble towns interrupted at regular intervals by shiny McDonalds or WalMarts. These poor states such as Oklahoma contrasted sharply with affluent neighbouring states such as Texas. Texas was surprisingly boring, bland and visually homogenous to travel through and thus reminded me the most of Ontario.
This trip though was to attend an academic conference in upstate New York, just a couple hours east of Buffalo. I love Buffalo – I really admire their arts community and the way they’ve preserved their heritage buildings. So I was eager to see some of the countryside and small towns on a road trip with friend and classmate Kyle Cihosky.
I’m always nervous going through customs. I’m sure that is nothing remarkable or unusual for most people passing through customs anywhere. No matter how many planes land safely I’ll always probably be a nervous flyer as well. Anyways, this U.S. Border Guard was not tall but muscly-bulky with a short cropped buzz cut and sharp, unsympathetic eyes. He was gruff, did not look at me as I talked to him and I could barely hear his grunted questions or instructions. Because I asked him to repeat himself I was afraid he would get annoyed and strip search us and tear my car apart. That is the nature of authority.
He waved us through and he turned out to be the nicest experience with an authority figure we had.
We arrived at the College at Brockport residences and met up with the conference coordinator. Our floor was men only for this event and he told me it was ok to use the women’s washroom – so I did! When I came back out there was Kyle, the coordinator and a not tall, muscly-bulky cop with short cropped buzz cut and sharp, unsympathetic eyes. He looked at me accusingly, evaluating who I was and what I was doing in the women’s washroom. He seemed to be standing in a defensive posture and one hand was resting on the mace on his belt. I know this because I looked to see what he was resting his hand on. Turns out there is a thing called campus police and their police station was on the first floor of this very building. This intrepid individual heard us talking and checking out our assigned rooms and patrolled up one flight of stairs to investigate.
He asked what we doing here.
The coordinator informed him there was actually a conference happening this weekend and lots of more people were coming to check in. I remember him saying softly over and over “no tensions, no problems” and giving us a slightly exasperated glance when this policeman finally relaxed and decided to end his investigation.
I got a sense that this is part of an overall cultural reality here.
Later, we went out for a beer and we were asked for ID. This pleased me as I’m over 40. Later, when we a bought a four pack of beer and twelve ciders at the local grocery store the cashier asked me for ID as well. I then realized there is no reflection, analysis or judgement allowed here – there is instructions to ask for ID no matter what is before your eyes. Our purchases were watched by male employees whose job it was to stand at each cash and watch purchases. They stood between us and the door.
Kyle and I played board games in our dorm room and sipped our drinks. When I went to bed, it was cold in the sparse dorm room with only a thin blanket and one flimsy pillow. There were stains on the hard carpeted floor. Kyle had it worse – his room had noisy pipes.
The next day the conference ended and we drove back. The video above is Kyle taking photos with my camera as I drove. You’ll get a sense of the many derelict business and homes that sit within sight of the road and almost every barn we saw was in an advanced state of disrepair. As we approached the border, no less than four black military helicopters flew overhead.
I chose the lane for our Canadian customs poorly. I noticed the guy kept directing cars over to the side for inspection. The other lanes were going more smoothly, more quickly. Fuck. It was too late to switch lanes now. I’ve always found Canadian customs guards to be more challenging, more stern — more macho somehow than their American counterparts. Looks like we got the guy with something to prove.
You see, we were nervous because we had more booze in the car than we were supposed to for a less than a 48 hour visit. I had two cans of beer left and Kyle had 11 cans of cider left and now one bottle of red wine he just bought for a big date he had the next day. Apparently, it is up to the whim of the Border official if you will be allowed to keep your purchase or pay extra. We chatted briefly about NAFTA and how this doesn’t apply to us.
Our turn came and we pulled up to the kiosk. Our Canadian Border Services representative was a not tall, muscly-bulky man with short cropped buzz cut and sharp, unsympathetic eyes.
I gave him exact answers to where we were and how long we were there. I got the name of the college we were at wrong and Kyle corrected me. Oh shit. I told him we had exactly 2 beers, 11 ciders and 1 bottle of wine in the car. We had given him our passports already opened to our photos. I hoped this consideration to his work would help.
He asked us for our receipts for this alcohol. We both sprang into action and I found the receipt for the original 4 beers and 12 ciders in my wallet – I had absentmindedly stuffed it in there. Thankfully. Who knows what would have happened if my paperwork was not in order. Kyle found his duty free wine purchase documentation papers. The officer looked at them and then asked me to re-state exactly how many cans of alcoholic beverages we had left. 2 beers and 11 ciders. This man would now know we had only three drinks last night.
We answered his questions correctly. He waved us through. He handed us back our receipts. I actually felt grateful for a brief moment that my car is an ugly green 2010 Hatchback Hyundai Accent. I think no one worth investigating is attending academic conferences in cheap, ugly cars. I think it’s important in the face of security experts to have a vehicle that is less nice than they would drive.
We drove back and I dropped off Kyle at his house near our University. It was dark now and we parked at his house’s drive way while unloading his stuff and making sure he had not forgotten anything. I heard a car on the street behind me and I looked to see a police car stopped in front of us, with a not tall, muscly-bulky cop with short cropped buzz cut and sharp, unsympathetic eyes staring at us. We ignored him and continued to chat by the car.
The police car then pulled into Kyle’s driveway and drove up beside us.
“You guys students moving out?” He leaned slightly to talk out of his open window.
Huh? Was this cop actually entering private property and asking us questions?
I did not reply. I just stared at him. I was suddenly very tired and resentful of being kept safe. Kyle briefly talked to him, assuring him (much like the conference coordinator did) that we were allowed to be here.
“Ok. I am patrolling around here tonight looking for parties”, he warned us, backing out and slowly patrolling down the residential street.
I have never experienced a police officer just entering my yard and demanding to know who I was and what I was doing. I wanted to confront him but it was Kyle’s place not mine. I did wait for awhile to get into my car and drive home because I was concerned this guy would pull me over if he spotted my car again.
Alighting: An audio visual textural exploration of the King Street bus lane in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
An Action-Research Collaboration between Christopher Healey & Ryan Price.
Running west on the north side from Mary Street to New St, the King Street dedicated bus lane is a pilot project for the City of Hamilton. Since it’s launch in October 2013 this project has proven to be a source of public debate among business owners, car drivers, transit riders and cyclists who depend on King Street to travel west.
We decided to research this sphere of public discourse through a series of investigations along the entire length of the bus lane. Our methodology consisted of walking the route with a sound recording device, identifying and collecting sounds that were specific to this routes space. Different sections of the route contained different audio environments: the ambient sounds of traffic near Dundurn Street could be defined as light (cars, mopeds, and motor bikes) and heavy traffic (trucks, buses, and tractor trailers), the audio space around Jackson Square was defined by community (sounds of pedestrians, street buskers, children and even a policeman on a horse), the space east of John, while less dense in terms of pedestrians, also contained less voracious audio characteristics in contrast to the Dundurn traffic (simply because it was only two lanes at that point).
After some reflection, our next cycle of research consisted of capturing visuals along the length of the route. What symbols, signs and textual objects could we identify that reflect public opinion and subsequent debate regarding the dedicated bus lane pilot project? To answer this, we captured visual elements of the bus lane itself: the buses, cyclists, vehicular traffic and pedestrians who all share this common space, the storefronts, both occupied and empty and in various states of upkeep, and bus lane propaganda. These images help support an overall narrative of the problematic nature of this street’s community history and uncertain future direction. For example, our research raised the question of who these businesses purporting to be suffering were actually serving — local communities or commuters from the surrounding suburbs?
Now that we had a soundscape and visual data to compare and contrast, we desired more layers to reveal greater insights into this dynamic space. We decided to seek out opinion from both those opposed to the bus lane project and those who support it.
We created another research cycle to repeat the last observation process with our sound recorder and camera while riding the bus along the dedicated transit lane. This resulted in a soundscape that we used as a baseline for the project. This research cycle acts as a constant throughout the entire work and defines the length and undergirds the textual fabric of the work.
Loosely keeping a narrative based on time, location and proximity to the bus lane we have layered our collected sets of audio and visual data into a holistic artwork that explores many of the dynamic and rich variables of this urban space. We observed from the whole of our work in the field and reflection of our collected resources that there are rhythms of traffic, conversations, and foot traffic. Using these elements of a busy urban street we reflected this repeated, familiar codes of traffic sounds and imagery into loops and staggered patterns. We also incorporated the two conversations (as well as some tertiary dialogue from ambient streetscape recordings) about two thirds into the work, giving each some prominent amplification and overlapping the two together to reflect the competing, noisy environment that this space reflects both physically and politically.
Next, we created an audio/visual work attempting to encapsulate many of the elements that define the community surrounding the bus lane, the inside of a bus, and the civic debate. The video displayed here was created as a real-time process, with both artists sharing the controls of a midi mixing controller, adjusting aspects of the source videos, such as speed, direction, zoom, contrast, saturation, and brightness, among other properties. Our manipulation of the video was done while listening to the soundtrack, making on-the-fly decisions based on the the actions of the the sound, the video, and each other’s actions.
The combination of layering and texturing gradually after establishing a normalized sound environment indicates for the audience a deliberate and composed work that leads to several perspectives which may be shared or not shared. Hopefully there are opportunities of discovery and familiarity embedded in the work for the audience. The artwork itself renders these perspectives in new ways allowing for unconsidered entry points into the issues of the dedicated bus lane pilot project. We’ve attempted to construct the work to peak in activity, noise and movement and eventually crescendo into a combination of all the elements, then concluding with the simple sounds of disembarking from the bus. Or, as the sign says, alighting safely.
I left the shallow salt plains of being a web designer and into the muddy tide pool of CMS and web development when I started working at Ottawa indy magazine Guerrilla. Tony was kind enough to give me a chance to reflect on this experience, and about print and the web, and with the magazine’s 10th anniversary edition. You can read my article here.
For the record, the current Guerrilla website is not the website I built.
Windshield needed replacement. There was no getting around it – I had to spend three hours walking through industrial lands surrounded by big box stores. This was where nature was left in the parts these worlds had no use to sculpt … yet. This was a place that did not expect pedestrians and surly middle aged men and women in trucks big and small challenged me with glances as they left and arrived to do their dirty and serious business. These men and women are competing to be heroes, and their enemy is people who walk instead of drive. I was hung over from my grad class end of year party. It was sunny and I have no idea where in this city I can buy a hat without a logo on it. These people see this space, our space, as a different world serving a entirely different purpose than I do. They truly live in the present and all the riches it brings and I live in a future that may never actually come to be because I won’t be there.
Low definition & no audio composition of videos and stills of a train in front of the Brick Yards here in Hamilton, Ontario. Some of these are auto-treated by Google+ and this gave me the idea for this experiment. I like it. I think I’ll keep messing around with the multiple split screen work – especially since I _finally_ figured out how to do this in Premiere! I may re-do this one in high def if I get an opportunity to show it somewhere.
A man from a white BMW SUV looked to see what I was taking a picture of after this.
Can I park my load in your school bus dirt lot? Yes, yes you can.
I trespassed to get this shot. You can’t see it well in this, but I like the rusting hulk just left of centre.
There was a wooded lot with thick brambles, barbed wire and warning signs.
This is a stream inside the wooden lot. This is the only stream I have ever seen in four years in this area. Hmmm….
Pay your tax and idle freight.
Clock at entrance to industrial zone.
A tree in Ward 3.
Side of a factory.
Door on the side of a factory.
Tanks by the over ramp.
More side of factory.
Trees in front of shuttered building.
Parking lot and storage facility.
Steel Worker’s abandoned protest camp.
This grass belongs to U.S. Steel.
Four gloves on sidewalk.
Sidewalk in Ward 3.
Three billboards #2
Parked Car in front of empty lot.
Tree and sidewalk.
Cars for auction.
This is a good time of year for a critical reading of the landscape in my neighbourhood, and particulariy into the industrial section just north of here. The trees have no leaves and the snow is (mostly) gone leaving the curves of the land and the angles of the industrial structures bare. The snow makes the dirt go away and now detritus is everywhere before the green veneers over it.
I was wrong about nature seeping into cracks of our urban environment – at least in this place. It’s as manufactured as anything spit out from one of these plants. Trees are there to obfuscate the view from the strips of public still left in this area. Where we are supposed to look, how we look and what we see from a passing car has been organically reacted, funnelled and appeased to. Right now, the constant burned mechanical tinge in the air is stronger than usual. The wind, usually a force in the lower city, is even more pronounced during the early, dirty Hamilton spring.
Well, I have graduated from an iPhone to a Nex 6 Sony Camera. So, I am a student again and this is very much an exercise in street photography. I continued with my interest in broken spaces and signs, though mixed with some sideway peeks as the the pull out LCD display and Optical Zoom allow me to more freedom to be not noticed.
Photographing dead things is not something I enjoy and will never be something I will seek out. But last week when we went for a walk on Hamilton Beach, we found these poor birds.
It was dusk and I just felt they needed to be documented so this tragedy will be remembered. These various different types of birds, ducks and geese I think, might have passed from the unusually frigid and long winter this year. A friend told me someone’s been shooting birds but I don’t know what happened to the unfortunate creatures or when it happened. I don’t know many more there were – these were the ones we found on our short walk.
Another class assignment. This had some more stringent rules and regulations attached to it such as 1) using only ambient light 2) use at least five different people 3) no photoshop or editing except to turn the photos into black and white. 4) cannot use people from our class as models.
I decided to use my iphone to take the photos as booking a DSLR though the school is very restrictive and inconvenient and I was at the whim of other people’s schedules for opportunities. I also wanted to be a “straight forward” as possible with this series, and be very conventional with my approach. Get close up in most cases. I could be clever and subvert this assignment but I don’t think that’s what my Prof wants to see with this one, and I think that is a bigger challenge for me at the moment. And so here we are with a collection of photos of friends and family, and I think I would like to keep doing more.
Though I feel frustrated by the terms of this exercise that disallow adjustments in photoshop, thus leaving this photo very grey and dim, I do think it reflect’s the mood and personality of my son who just arrived from travelling over 12 hours from Dawson City, Yukon. A dashing young traveller tired from the journey.
The rest of my portraits in this series have the eyes visible, and so I thought it was interesting to include one that did not. The viewer is forced to look for information about the subject elsewhere in the frame – such as the wind, the snow, the slightly stoic grimace.
Jen fresh out of the shower and standing beside the window in the late morning. This is a rather rare expression for Jen – that is, looking somewhat introverted and not confronting us with her gaze. I liked the way the wet hair was captured in the light and the tilt of her head emphasizes her eyes.
Our friend Ted is helping us renovate our house. He was kind enough to pause briefly while I shot this and I like the ladder being part of the composition in the back. This has almost a propaganda / marketing feel to it, I think, with a dramatic slash of light over a determined looking face. The light in the folds is neat.
My friend Joanna, who is teaching me a thing or two about photography. This was a tilted head away from the camera similar to the Jen photo, but is a good comparision to based on diffused sunlight and dry hair. Joanna and I spend a lot of time worrying about local issues, and so was glad to have this pensive, thoughtful look captured.
One of the reasons I choose to pursue a graduate degree right now is to catch up to what the current thinking is about many of the things I have been interested and involved with in the last 20 years. Communications, new media and art are the three big ones. Some of you hear “animated ad banners on a blog” when I say that, but really I am interested in what we think we are doing in these areas and where this thinking comes from.
For example, I read some very compelling arguments about how everything from the 1939 British Monarchy visiting Canada shaped the CBC’s style, to an eccentric French nobleman from 1583 invented the way we use social media today. I have now seen an overview of communications theory that I recognize in the art world. I have researched new media art work and community projects that I never knew existed and push me to deeper into the rabbit hole of my own studio ambitions. I’ve learned new words and have had some great conversations. Sure beats making animated gif ad banners for blogs.
Research at this level is very rigorous and any sloppy or unfounded aspects of your argument can be met with, at best, derision and mocking to, at worst, expulsion and scowls for life. Good. I mean, we must be paying all this money for exactly this sort of thing, right?
However, it is a good thing to have a blog in these cases so one can just spit out some ideas that 1) have no references or basis in demonstrated fact that appear in a lazy top 10 results on Google 2) are more speculative and initiative than even “East Sweat Sock U” would allow and 3) probably has already been written about by someone, and that someone is probably smarter, a better writer and better looking than me. Certainly slimmer. Not may giant academics out there but I imagine there are a few in Viking countries, but I don’t know why. This is an example of a statement that belongs on a blog rather than in an assignment or conference paper. Maybe.
Anyways. I have had some thoughts about photography since I am in a photography class and am hearing a lot of what photographers are telling about what photography is. Those who know me know I don’t think the experts in any field are the best judges of what they are doing or why. Forest versus the tree thing. Those who come fresh to a scene can see things others can’t, often quickly.
So with that faint justification, I’ll jot down a few thoughts I’ve had about photography recently.
1. There is no such thing as photography
We are not talking about the same thing when we discuss photography. What your grandparents had in the family album is not the same thing you see uploaded to Facebook. What Edward Burtynsky hangs in a gallery is not the same thing as the selfie someone uploads to Twitter, in the same way War and Peace is not the same thing as a stop sign. The technology, uses, functions and underlying philosophies differ so greatly, we may as well refer to anything that arrives through the post office as “mail” as opposed to what it is i.e. a cheque or a book or birthday card. Yet at one point these all arrived as the same thing (mail) through a certain frame (postal service), as do photos through a lens.
2. Imagery is primarily physical
I thought this when learning about what the fashion magazine and advertising industry does when treating photographs of models. I realized that this treatment, which is a controversial topic of oppression by unnatural body proportions, to me makes these models look almost identical, at least without closer and sustained scrutiny. Maybe this is because I am exposed to this imagery in places like grocery store check out lines and highway bulletin boards. I don’t have a TV and I don’t go to shopping malls very often. But for those who do, I think they see a great amount of difference in the subtlest of differences or adjustments. I think their physical proximity to these images shapes their relationship to this certain philosophy of lens and computer graphic work. I also think our brain plasticity is affected by what ever media and environment we are in and so people who buy into this world, which I think is most people where I live, are literally hard-wired for sensitivity to this. Or perhaps they are de-sensitized to it and simply don’t notice that there is no difference.
3. No one cares about digital imagery. Not really.
If you cared about it enough you would print it out, and print it on super fancy archival musuemy paper. If others cared about your work enough then they would do the same. Every image you have out there in the cloud will be gone in a hundred years because that is longer than our best digital archiving technologies allow for. This does not even take into account how current media that somehow may survive will be able to be viewed in the future. Have a gramophone player handy? Or how about a telegram clacking machine? Third party websites are not your fans, guardians or sponsors. They are tenuous apparatuses that at the moment are storing your shit on servers they are paying for. Not only that, but a lot can go wrong with our telecommunications platforms for a variety of economical, political and natural reasons.
Don’t believe me that only physical imagery matters? Think about this: would you rather buy 3am commercial time on your local TV station to present a slideshow of your lens based work or would you rather have show at your local gallery?
4. If you call yourself a photographer, then the imagery you make is already pre-defined.
I’ve previously made this same argument about calling yourself an artist. Just use a camera as a tool to get somewhere else, and stop worrying about an audience. Unless you want to be a commercial success, then by all means call yourself a photographer and tell people who’re looking at it that this is, indeed, photography. But if you want critical success, then you need the confidence to wait for others to label what you do.
I can’t believe what I am watching through live feeds of the protest in Kyiv, Ukraine. I have been monitoring through different raw video broadcasts, both corporate news and individuals, and find there as many questions about what I am looking at there was questions about what is being reported.
I took screenshots of a stable view at about “helicopter” distance and created a slideshow. It is fantastic, horrific, compelling to watch these lights, flames, explosions and smudges of smoke. It is a study of the cityscape away from the details of the persons involved but I think gives a valuable perspective on the sheer magnitude of the events there.
This was during the announced truce, just before sunrise in Kyiv.
These are a series of screen shots from a 1946 promotional film produced by the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce I found on YouTube. It is both hilarious and disturbing as it features a young couple relaxing together in various Hamilton landscapes but always haunted by visions of the impending future of soul-crushing and dead end jobs within various local industries. The companies featured prominently obviously paid to be featured prominently as a place where you could toil as a small cog in their machines (there are no management positions shown, I noticed).
64 years later and how did this turn out? Not well, and most of these companies are probably not paying their promised pensions anymore, and many of them simply don’t exist or abandoned this place for cheaper labour elsewhere. However, this “worker’s paradise” lingers on in our urban landscape and frames much of the sensibilities of the community here but probably unconsciously. For example, these huge 5 lane one way streets running through residential neighbourhoods here better be kept intact just in case the manufacturing and steel industry returns! Sigh…
Anyways, I found this film to a be an interesting presentation of industrial style propaganda and an exercise of pounding hereto-normal stereotypes over and over onto the viewer. So I took screen shots and slightly re-arranged the sequence to portray the film’s essence. Artistically, I enjoyed some of these shots very much and even feel inspired to maybe paint a few of these.
I notice the similar repeated angles of landscape and work environments. The shots, looking upwards at the workers, as the same as the statues show throughout the film – Nietzsche’s monumental history is present throughout this imagery.
I also noticed clocks are a prominent symbol throughout, as is immersion inside machinery, or clinging to machines as a ground. There is also a lot of monuments with a decidedly military and state nationalist framing. I learned this year not to underestimate the influence and effect of this kind of message on our society and subsequent generations. As laughable and clumsy as this film may be to us now, it is still contains a sensibility repeated today by politicians and the community at large. For me, though I sympathize with unions and worker’s rights and am suspicious of the motives of corporate entities, I have never felt comfortable limiting my philosophical musings to resistance and labour. This is only because I think we are missing the ultimate goal of utopia in our public and social discourse. I believe in the inherent goodness of people and that 100% freedom from labour and toil is a desirable and just ambition (Yes, I believe in the Star Trek universe, haha). By entrenching our position within the larger labour / power discourse, we are still maintaining the status quo and not progressing on the real issues of human civilization and the environment. We need to take a step sideways to look at what we really want to accomplish and why. Instead, we quibble over short term goals and the invisible forces of ego. Anyways…
I was initially surprised to see roughly half of the jobs demonstrated occupied by women as this was released in 1946. Then I realized this was at a time where many of the young men were killed in the war and the economic and social importance of Rosie the Riveter.
Also, note the subtext of encouraging high school students to enter the work force right away because industry and manufacturing needed workers right away. Is this utopia?
Enjoy and there are a couple of films I plan to subject to the same treatment.
This was another rewarding exercise for my New Media Studio grad program. I’ve never done a sustained series of self-portraits, and being challenged to do so caused me to ponder how to compose these perhaps in a critical and new way (at least for me).
We had been looking at a lot of “selfies” so I decided to take more “anti-selfie” approach: instead of up close, I would far away from the camera. Instead of relying on the gesture of a raised arm with a camera pointed back at me, I decided to use a remote shutter release with a cord. Instead of framing the environment to be about me and my dominance of it, I wanted my presence to instead be awkwardly inserted into environments where people were busy doing other things.
What I call “Intervention Selfies” was born.
I made an 11th meta-selfie with some of the other selfies I did not use. It’s pretty funny – can you find all the me’s? Do you really want to?
I remember, I really do, looking at my young classmates and thinking “Great, this is a no-brainer, we can stop this bad behaviour”.
Well, maybe not those exact words but that is a honest paraphrase of my assumptions in during my early public school years. For me, I did not know what racism, environmentalism, sexism or even classism was. I only learned about these “ism’s” when a special adult visitor would present to us the definition and told us about these issues and we can grow up in a world without these problems.
Sure! Sign me up! Where do I vote?
Sometimes I wonder if I am the only one left from those years who holds onto these early directives. You see, Rob Ford is of my generation and he’s an asshole. Stephen Harper is in my generation and he’s an asshole. Danielle Smith? Asshole. Rona Ambrose? Asshole. Hell, Vladimir Putin is of my generation and he’s most definitely an asshole. It’s not that these people are assholes per se that alarms me, but they are the tip of the iceberg for the asshole generation my Kindergarten class turned into.
We see my generation reflected in the urban sprawl, the environmental death by a thousand paper cuts, the derision of students who demand affordable tuition, by any concept that does not somehow sound like an economic formula. We see it in hating second-class people who get health care or the hatred for homosexual love. More than ever, as a whole, we have slid back into a dark and selfish place where extreme hatred, conservatism and short-sighted gain are the only currency.
Fuck you my Kindergarten class. You had a chance to stop this madness before it go this bad and you fucked it up. You know that mean, stinky neighbour who would scowl at us whenever we were having too much fun too close by? You are worse than that adult now. You will be the generation that is remembered that way forever or at least for however long we have left on this planet. You became a larger and scarier version of your parents.
I should not have said that about the planet. I now realize concepts like “planet” are too large for my Kindergarten classmates to grasp and provides the dismissive point they need to escape from my entire argument. I need to keep my arguments within the confines of the local mall, soccer field and vague economic platitudes.
Sometimes, when I think back to those adults educating us about social issues, I wonder if this had the opposite effect of imposing these negative attitudes onto us. I did not realize my friend was a visible minority until it was pointed out me and that we should not pick on my friend. So, of course, we did. Look at the amount of propaganda we suffered at the hands of the dairy industry about “the four food groups”. That was a chart for life long health problems.
I am much more hopeful about the millennial generation. They have access to ideas outside of the confines of their households and remote education industry bureaucracies. They see more of the material effects of the previous generations on the world around them and the world everywhere. They understand there is a world because there was instant news of the world as they grew up. Best of all, they treat things I say and things anyone from my generation says with innate scepticism and doubt.
Yes! These are the tools I was missing from my early school years. This is why, despite all the doom and gloom I’ve mentioned above, I am certain that we are living in conservatism’s last grand gasp. Though through my entire lifetime I will be squirming under the thumb of assholes I now know this is likely the strength of a death’s grip. It is already fading because the forces of progression, smashed into a million pieces by corporate hammers, are quietly still working away and changing that one thing that defies all right wing philosophy: culture.
I thought of this while listening to a Pete Seger interview on the radio.
The following is an artistic reflection on a series of photos of my Hamilton neighbourhood that I’ve been publishing on Twitter. It describes why I started taking street photos and why I am taking the street photos I am taking. I am attempting to describe this process with using only 10 photos. Mt twitter handle is @muskoxen (tweets & links are also in the margin of this post).
This was a difficult but a very valuable endeavour. The tight constraint of choosing 10 photos over a scope of over three years was challenging. I found it almost an all-consuming activity to scroll through the 40,000 digital images I’ve accumulated during that time. During this exercise of self-curation, I’ve realized it is only possible to understand my photo work by understanding why it suddenly became such a prolific activity in my life. It’s quite a pathetic story but has a well as you could expect ending. So far.
I was pretty much just a painter and drawer until just over three years ago. At that time I finally found some time and studio space to work and so I did — but, as it turned out, only for a month. Then a condition that would only be accurately identified years later as “Frozen Shoulder” struck my right arm and everything stopped. Except for the debilitating pain.
Of course … I paint and draw, write, get dressed and even piss with my right hand. You don’t think about how many times a day you need to use an arm in certain way. How many times a day you need to reach up above your shoulder? How would you get dressed or even stand in busy bus? Even a touch, a jolt, a sway or simply standing was agony.
Unable to get off of the couch for more than a few minutes at a time, I was very frustrated at my lot. Lying down was the only way to keep manage the pain. No work, no walking and not even my fair share of house chores. However, I could have a laptop resting on top of me, hunting-and-pecking awkwardly with my left hand.
Decided to keep myself busy as possible and proceed with this scheduled studio time. Produce as much work as possible. Keep my sanity through artistic insanity. It worked for me through worse.
I started to scour my hard drive for digital work perhaps I’ve forgotten about. I had done some previous photo based work but not substantially. I found lots of videos and some earlier studio and travel photos I had messed around with and, as with most abandoned work, had always intended to return to. “Well, I guess now was the time.” I thought and started to pull stills from the videos and started to finally create some collage work.
This was very rewarding and liberating. I felt I was appealing to the frustrated painter me by working with digital images as if they were scraps of paint. Through the ease of today’s software I became enthralled with creating many variations of grid work with every digital image I could muster. You can see some of that work here but for the purposes of this post / assignment I want to stick with the street photography that began at this time as well.
I needed more photos. I was invigorated and motivated to get more source material and, at the same time, exercise my brain with composition studies.
I loved walking and exploring, at first around interesting parks and industrial areas then through neighbourhoods and streets. I never really took many photos as I did this but now I was living somewhere inaccessible to most people. I was living in the depressed area of my city most noted for crime, poverty and abandoned storefronts. It’s a place you drive through to get to another part of the city. With the drugs and street prostitution some don’t admit to coming here. To most they simply hear about it, read about and see the smudge of it from the scenic lookout overlooking Hamilton from the escarpment. They don’t come here because they don’t have to. They are afraid of who lives here.
Fair enough but not for the people who do live here. One of the insights I’ve had since arriving in Barton Village is that the problems of the area are not the fault of the people who live here. Rather, they are here because this is the area that many marginalized people and communities can go to because this where they are expected to go to.
You can see this attitude reflected in the blowing garbage and oversized one way roads leading in, through and out of this place. You can see it in the thriving parking lot industry sheltering the hospital, shelter and school employees who don’t live here. You see it at night where the only food available is at the convenience stores. You see it the empty and neglected buildings that absentee owners sit on until it’s worth their while to sell. Some have been waiting for decades. There is no local drugstore or bank where I live but there is a jail and a drive through beer store. Charities, churches and police also thrive here.
So when I decided to start walking as much as I could (I was thinking this may help my mysterious should ailment) everyday I decided to take street photos of my area but not of the people. I was interested in the narrative of the spaces and buildings. Especially when compared with the blandness of the suburbs this area turned out to be a rich visual environment beyond my expectations. Even almost beautiful at times. If I slept soundly, went out first thing in the morning and used my left hand then I could take some photos.
It was very interesting to work with a new medium with my opposite hand. I am convinced it used different parts of my brain to approach and process this act. I started to adopt a “no cropping” rule for myself; I found it is almost always a stronger composition if you get it right when you take the photo. Especially with a mobile device camera it is all about your body position and reflexivity to your subject. I started to prefer squared and defined areas devoid of meaningful community communications – an area of visual cognitive atrophy as induced by the conditions of this place.
Sometimes I made more collages and sometimes I posted these to my blog but otherwise I collected these works on my hard drive and dreamed of painting and drawing very large works.
The other half of the story of my street photo series came about a year later when things got political. I started posting my street photos as a critical reaction to some decisions affecting my community.
At this time, I had gone through unsuccessful diagnosis, prescriptions and physiotherapy until my right shoulder just ended up getting better anyways on its own. It was still kind of delicate. The worst part was not knowing if I could or would aggravate this injury.
I then discovered that the big, beautiful 1932 heritage school building close to my house had suddenly been slated to be torn down. The school board had already been issued a demolition permit. This place was a no-brainer to be renovated and turned into all kinds of community things, and I discovered later there would of been a line-up of developers with more profitable ideas for preserving it.
Poor areas are typically vulnerable to these kind of bad decisions. Similar public school buildings in more affluent wards of the city are still standing and are important hubs for their communities. The one near my house was purposefully neglected for a decade. It’s part of a strategy I learned about since living here called “demolition by neglect”.
A small group of us fought to save it, to at least head of the demolition until developers could present proposals to re-purpose it. That was a bitter couple of months as I learned there really was no hope all along. It was a total sham, a farce. There is a community that cares here, but that group of us were too small and outside of influential circles. Why didn’t more people fight to save it? Perhaps for the same reasons this area also has very low voter turn out.
There is hopelessness and resignation embedded in these decisions. T found more hope for this area when talking the locals, but they tend to be non-participants in these decisions. The decision to demolish this otherwise sound and important example of historic architecture was not a community based one.
This is a very small town with blind spots the size of cities. The biggest argument I encountered for tearing the building down was so there would be plenty of parking. I actually watched a city politician and a school board trustee tell us, at the same meeting, about how difficult working with each other’s bureaucracy is. Thus they had agreed to demolish the building and maybe someday other politicians would build something there. There was and is no funding to replace it with much needed community facilities.
It seemed the plan was a patch of grass beside an empty parking lot. I was told they had not and would not consider using that parking lot for the green space instead. Later, as you’ll read, I found out why, and why they were in such a rush.
We lost. The building was demolished in early 2013.
I felt powerless. Local politics had made roadkill of my sense of civic pride. Though my blog posts, tweets and speeches at meetings had garnered some attention it did not matter. I become background noise as my voice was taken away. Activism has spawned an industry of marketing, propaganda and political lingo and I felt my voice was just currency in some sort of giant babble machine.
So I decided to stop talking. I wanted to reach beyond this wall of my ward and show the world what was happening here. Through posting my pictures of my neighbourhood on my Twitter account I wanted to let anyone anywhere decide what they were seeing.
I followed the demolition of Sanford closely and posted pictures of the process. I posted photos of the empty storefronts. I posted photos of garbage in the parks and sagging houses.
At this time my left arm then succumbed to the same pain that my right arm did. I switched back to using my weakened and slightly atrophied right arm and continued to take as much street photography as I could. I could not renovate my house, I could not work, I could not leave this place. I wanted to and still do, but until then I intended to work with everything I could handle.
I tried my best to be as good as painter with these photos as I could be. I really did enjoy the formal and artistic qualities of doing this. The peeling facade of derelict store sign, or the mesh of brutually assembled plywood boards over a window. Sometimes the way garbage has collected around an open sewer grate. These are beautiful to me now, and they are political. I am no longer held back by my physical ailment or my political powerlessness. I am no longer toiling in artistic obscurity, isolated from the western arts district of Hamilton. These threads of self-empowerment converged through this textual act of taking photos of my neighbourhood and posting them to social media. I have reached up and beyond my ward with these photos and they cannot be demolished or obscured from history. When this place is completely changed, many years from now, people will see this is the way it was.
That was not enough. I decided to represent my community by hash-tagging these photos #panam in preparation for the 2015 Pan-Am Games taking place in this ward.
By addition to the local hash tag #hamont and geo-location info, I have been preparing my tweeted photos for mass scrutiny.
My photos of my neighbourhood are as a real and valid as any other representation of my neighbourhood. I will not self-censor the defining visual characteristics of my landscape.
As these games approach more people will search online for information about this city and the Pan Am Stadium that is being built in my neighbourhood. Many will find my photos and many already have.
You see, this isn’t all sour grapes and hurt feelings. This has made a material and tangible positive difference already. I have heard from a “friend of a friend” that the purpose of the demolition of the school was not even to put in a patch of grass but actually to create a giant parking lot for the Pan-Am games! So that’s why there were in such a rush to tear it down and sell of the pieces…
Since my little group and I put up a such a public fuss, especially with social media efforts such as my neighbourhood street photos and documentation of Sanford School being demolished, they felt there was suddenly too much scrutiny focused on this issue.
It is also an election year. So there is a really nice expanse of grass with a state-of-the-art self-watering system and fences all the way round to try to keep the neighbourhood dogs out. We’ll see.
My left arm is much better now. I am relieved that this nightmare is almost over and the currently the single biggest obstacle to my taking street photos is the cold weather draining the batteries quickly on my iPhone. That and the awfully nice patch of grass makes for boring photos.
I think my relationship now to photography is one of activity, as performance on par with memory and communication. It was not an approach to create an object so much as a record of meaningful work or even a meaningful presence in a certain time and place.
Now I see compositions everywhere I go, but in the uncelebrated parts of our daily realities. I know I am sending missives from an outpost. I am an outcast here, a silent walker some may see stop, raise my iPhone briefly and then quickly walk on. Sometimes people will confront me — who am I? What am I doing here? This area has seen enough exploitation and colonization by speculators, developers and other representatives and I look like just another middle class, middle aged entitled white asshole traipsing through their community. When I explain I live here and I’m an artist and that this is art, there is surprise and then acceptance.
Often I will hear stories about where this area has been, what is going on and what they hope will happen. These are the same narratives as my photos.
I am almost well enough to move from here. We are hoping to have the house on the market by April. The real estate market is heating up here because prices are lower than in Toronto or even in other parts of Hamilton.
I know I’ll probably never come back here.
You can see more of my Barton Village images here. After the jump I’ve added 14 photos that did not “make the cut” for the above post.
It is quite a boring and unspectacular park. As such, I thought it was very suitable as a challenging exercise for practicing my photography and refining my collage ambitions. This was back in 2011-12.
In addition to the ambitiously named Woodlands Park (a “gift” from a manufacturing corporation that has since abandoned the community for greener pastures) is the vacant Westinghouse Building. A favourite locale of movie productions and idling cops cars.
This post is a school assignment for my class “New Media Studio” (hey everyone). As I understand this exercise, we are to post 10 photos that we’ve taken. Next week we are presenting another photo assignment of 10 works from around our neighbourhood.
Since quite a large part of my photographic practice is specifically about where I live, so I’ve decided to present 10 works that outside of this part of my work. I’ll save the local stuff and its sordid back-story for that next assignment.
This was a difficult but a very valuable endeavour. The tight constraint of choosing 10 interesting photo works over a scope of over three years was challenging but rewarding.
For example, after reviewing so much of my work as chronical narrative, I am starting to believe my relationship with photography is as activity, performance on par with gratifications of memory and communication. Perhaps it was not an approach to create an object so much as a record of meaningful work.
I am pretty much a painter and drawer, even with a camera. Everything I do is composition and conceptual based and sacrifices any notion of being a window or representation in order to try to be interesting.
I don’t know how to use even use a proper camera and I look forward to picking up those technical skills and the chance to work with DSLRs. In the meantime, I’ve been working with my cell phones and whatever software I could hack or was free. Welcome to my digital image revolution.
This panorama is from a series of surreptitiously taken photos at a horrible place I worked at in Montreal. I had a crappy silver flip-phone with a camera. The phone OS promised the ability of composing panorama with three left to right shots. It just forced whatever three photos you took together as best it could, and I loved that. You could create some really messed up compositions by “breaking” the functionality, which is something harder to do with more recent digital camera technology. Today’s algorithms simply will not render a picture that won’t look consumer shiny and flawless. That to me is very interesting.
These panoramas had to be taken in order and with a few seconds in between before the little camera phone would take a few minutes to stitch together a pale, grainy and misaligned sequence for you. It seemed to lend it self very well to the vast bland cubicle maze I was surrounded by. Problem was, at that time all phones (by law) made a sound when you took a photo. If I was caught, I would of been fired. So I figured out that if my phone was calling another phone, it would not make a sound. So I kept a speed dial number of some insurance company and proceeded to call them and have about 7 minutes before their system would hang up on me. Unfortunately, my cell signal would cause some rather dramatic interference on nearby monitors and feedback on speakers. Luckily, no one figured out it was me causing this. It was all very fun and exciting.
This work is significant for me as the beginning of using a camera, subverting the technology and creating photo based collages. I did not care if it was not a high quality photo because I thought it conceptually made sense to be a low quality photo. As a painting, this work would make sense. These are my themes throughout the rest of my photo work, I think.
So I quit that job.
I’m from Ottawa and spent a lot, and I mean a lot, of time driving back and forth for two hours. This time, a friend was driving so I decided to make more use of my crappy phone camera’s panorama function to take pictures of the road ahead with that horrible sun blaring. I did this as fast as that little piece of plastic would let me the whole way back. Three years ago, I came across these various photos and created a collage work. I really liked, then and now, the time based mapping of that journey. I like the idea this is as valid a landscape as any other landscape depiction. Perhaps it is even more real. I’ve done similar based work since.
An artist friend of mine, Andreanne Hudon, was having a show of her ceramic squirrel heads at a gallery in Toronto I was curating for. Being from Montreal and being a small gallery, the attendance was sparse. Since her partner was letting me take pictures with his really nice DSLR camera, I decided to stand outside and invite people in to have their portrait taken. It was fun and really interesting. Most people were ok with it. I also like the lighting I rigged up, which consisted of a filmless projector throwing light from behind the subject from the right, and she is bathed in light from the left. I think the angle of the dog’s head helps re-enforce this movement.
I scanned the well worn path up the side of a mountain in Mexico with the panorama function of the iPhone 4s, happily stressing both its purpose and ability to render seamlessly. It is important to me at this point that my work is entirely captured, rendered and output through a mobile device and on location during one session.
For me, there are several classical and contemporary themes in the work, such as: the supernatural; a formal approach to landscape; a questioning of political / social issues involving digital topographical mapping; a spiritual journey reflecting on death. There are many other contemplations that are evoked for me when I engage the work, and hopefully there will be for the viewer as well.
I enjoy the compositions of the shadows and the rocks, as well as the idea of a digital shadow cast on real objects through a challenging process of documentation for both the tools and the artist. The stresses of this effort on the image and the human traces archived in the process are a very interesting for me.
Also in Mexico, I used my iPhone to approach the classical form of still life with skull. I quickly realized that this was giving me the wide and flat yet close scrutiny of the surface I wanted. I only had my mobile device. What to do? Well, I realized I could take a series of photos of the skull in sequence of a 4×4 format, starting with the upper left corner, and it would appear as a grid in the thumbnail preview of the phone. Simply screen capture that, treat with some photo apps and I was creating rich collage works. This work appeared in an exhibit I had last summer on James Street. Oh, and this work is about death. Notice the flowers under the white plastic and highlighted about the shadows?
This is another collage from the same series, but using the source photos and composed later on my PC in Canada. It was exhibited as well, and both works are five feet across.
As you can see in the previous work, I seem to like taking things apart and reassembling them in different presentations. Including landscapes and the idea of collage led to this kind of work of pulling stills from video I would take on trips and presenting them one by one. More maps of time and space. The below video is from a bus trip many would be familiar with between Hamilton and Toronto, and right through Ford Nation territory. As such, I named it “A Nation’s Official Landscape”. I like the blury smears of colour and the wiry trees and bleakness. It reflects my astonishment of the landscape of southern Ontario consisting almost entirely of suburban sprawl and highways. This is our shared ceremonial landscape and I understand if you grew up in a populous region such as this it is not unusual. But it is for me and this is my way of showing you that, I think.
Here’s another selfie. I like messing around with as many image capture and rendering apps as I can, so I tried to capture my head with a 3D object app. The result is simply simulacrum. I really want to do a whole series of this, whole bodies in groups. Somehow so each part is something you can turn and play with.
Again, I love the idea of imperfect transportation into the digital realm. Perhaps I have Tron envy.
That’s it for now. Thanks for reading the post and thanks to my classmates and Professor for being my captive audience for this artist talk. I’ll take it when I can get it.
Welcome and congratulations on wanting to improve yourself.
All you need to start is a pre-existing figurative oil painting (can be substituted for acrylic – consult your Doctor) with an impasto flare to it. It should have at least one area that wants to leave the confines of the canvas.
I used a still life painting of fruit that I did in 1994. At the time I was living in Montreal and going through chemotherapy. There were over 15,000 empty apartments in Montreal, so I was able to live in a loft in the old port even though I was a student. I lived beside a hydro facility with lots of wires and conductors. I took so long to do the painting that the fruit dried up and a wasp flew in through the open window and worried me.
Step 1: Preparing your Palette
Try to use a painting with at least as interesting a backstory to it and follow the video tutorial below before proceeding to Step 2.
Step 2: The Basics
Are you done? Great!
Now it’s your turn to create a pile of the paint flakes on a neutral surface. Like this:
Now zoom in close with your camera phone, pretending it is a wooden frame. You should end up with something that looks a bit like this:
Don’t be afraid to take photos from different angles or mix up the paint chips a bit:
Great! Now that you’ve got the basics of abstract painting down, we’ll move on to more advanced techniques.
Step 3: Advanced Techniques
Let’s pull that “wooden frame” out a bit to make use of negative space. Don’t be intimidated – the post-it note was invented from negative space. Steve Jobs was famous for creating negative space in the office, and so can you.
Again, express yourself by randomly mixing the paint flakes around a bit. Yes. Good. Like this:
Look at you!
Now, let’s create some “dynamic energy” and spread our paint flakes even further, with an even larger lens. Don’t be concerned about reaching deep inside, but do keep children and small animals away from the designated creative area:
So beautiful. Don’t forgot to pin it with a link back to this tutorial.
Step 4: Master class
You are truly ready to unleash your inner artist. For this final segment, we’ll be using negative space combined with a circle shape. You may recognize a circle from your yoga class or from that power point presentation, but it has actually been used in many civilizations throughout history – and now it’s our turn!
Give yourselves a pat on the back – now you are ready for a rich and rewarding hobby.
And don’t forget about the painting we started with! It’s now a new work too and should be mounted with glee:
Here’s what we call a “detail”:
Step 6: Art as an object
And that’s not the only new work you have – don’t forget about the paint chips themselves. They make a nice ornament if you put them in a glass container. I’ve used a round jar so it will go well with the circles from our master class:
Questions or comments? Please let us know below – and we would love to see how your home abstract paintings turn out, so please feel free to share in the comments as well.
This is the best single example of this relationship so far. From my slide deck presentation for Communications Research Methodology on Chapman & Sawchuk’s “creation research” (Canadian Journal of Communications) and *unexpectedly* put together for me by Google+ during automatic archiving from my phone.
I’ve also enjoyed my philosophy class, wherein I’ve learned about thinkers such as Jean Baudrillard – though exploration of his ideas does not necessarily mean I agree with them, but there is something to them when we think about why people think they way they think.
I would love to do an interactive full body work like this. So much fun.
Here’s some bonus screen shots of a sad stapler – my first attempt.
Been working on a open sim maze project, and the Minotaur narrative is something artistically dear to me or awhile and this provides a good opportunity to start my (resistive) reading of that myth. Here’s some prelim work from November:
Don’t you think this is the most important skill that is not a skill? I do.
Sometimes I wonder if there is a correlation between being a “good shipper” and artistic success. Obviously, this is true for online art sales. My point is you probably are held back if you can’t pack it or rack it efficiently.
Don’t look at me. I suck at that and, frankly, am intimidated by the whole process. When I actually get around to packing something its never that bad. But its definitely not great either.
I have some artist friends who are fanatical about packing. They’ll build a crate for a week. They are such nice crates one keeps the crate forever. Me, I just started to use paper and work with digital prints more.
Even just the act of postcards or stuffing envelopes and actually going to the post office is simply not to be underestimated. International? You are at the mercy of a series of several shipping challenges which are so little appreciated and understood by me that they are impossible to describe here.
Speaking for myself, I think having a personal delivery drone would help. Then I could tell it to deliver hand written exhibition invitations so I would not have to ship work.
A cool idea might be to turn a drone into an actual gallery. It flies around at art festivals holding a work, for example. I would have to pack it in carefully constructed crates in order to send it to galleries and festivals around the world. Ah, forget it.
I’ve been captivated by the 10,000 rule since hearing about it a few years ago. Simply put, if you put 10,000 hours into something you’ll become an expert on it.
Well, since I’ve been launched Art PR Wire (4,732) and Art Listings Professional (7,245) since 2009, I have posted over 10,000 posts. I’ve been aiming for this metric consciously and now must decide what to do next.
At worst, it is a natural part of what already exists – a lot of marketing, advertising, business, porn, political and industry propaganda, some news and opinion. Outside of the guided tour provided by search engines, the reality of the real blogosphere is one that is overwhelmingly dominated by empty graveyards of abandoned blogs and an ecosystem of robots who scour everything.
I never really held a structuralist view of blogs as being different that any content posted to the web. It does not really matter as you cannot ultimately control the appearance of your content, but you can frame how you would like to be seen. (If you want it to be seen with a blue background colour, for example, then you are SOL). You can control exactly how something is to be seen but then it needs to be something other than a blog or website.
The same goes for the content of this blog – what the hell have I done here? It’s all over the place. There’s no editorial calendar. Those involved in one sector of my professional life are probably aghast if they read my opinions about my other professional haunts. Blogs and social media are already experiencing an actual to goodness paradigm shift based on reputation management and other vulnerabilities. It is an extension of our own local laws and customs and often there is more than one layer of this. Some folks are virtually unhireable based on what was posted about them, and not on any exceptional qualities or for any other reason uncommon in society. A true online diary is a risky and rare thing now and perhaps this is for the best. Most, if not all, of what you will be able to find is arguably contrived.
(I always wondered why submarines don’t have more windows. The Nautilus did. Are we not able to reproduce the technology of steampunk? I mention this because navigating the web is much like I imagine being in a submarine is like: a map, a sonar and a radio but you are not actually looking at the landscape. Giant squids can still sneak up on you.)
So blogs now seem best suited for a professional narrative or to house a serious project. Things that you want to be found. Sometimes I post things that I don’t want to be found. Sometimes I change things or contradict myself. Sometimes I ramble.
I felt bad about the way I blog, over these last 4 years, until I started reading Michel de Montaigne. He is the source of essays and, by extension, blogging. He also would of loved LOLcats.
This makes me happy with what I’ve done, and ok with the fact that what I have compiled here is worthy and interesting. It is a rich source of my projects and priorities since 2009 and in some ways I see parallels with Montaigne deciding to write and reflect in his tower. Seeing yourself reflected in Montaigne is actually quite common, apparently, but I’m ok with that. It is reassuring.
However. There are many differences and many changes coming to my own life at this point. I feel the urge to destroy and create. This blog, my blog, is a constantly changing and evolving and contradicting and snarky and satire and serious and pathetic and .. popular. The more it becomes popular, the greater the risk of not being able to manage my online reputation effectively.
However… I know it sounds simple, but I have recently realized social media is different for artists than it is for everyone else. The same rules do not apply – there is more elbow room for the personal and controversial. If you are a professional outside of cultural spokespeople, then you have to pure as the driven snow. I called this the social eunuch in a previous post.
My posts are not me. They are my work and my work is part of who I am. I have treated my blog as both a sandbox and a jade garden. I’m ok with that and so are many people but most do not get it. I understand and accept it now but not always and not until recently. I have also realized if you are going to do something then do it all the way. If you are going to be an artist online then be an artist online but don’t be what you think other people think an artist online is supposed to look like. Don’t be a simulacrum.
So, by this time next year I should have my grad degree finished. These last four years have been a self-imposed series of learn’ins and experiences vital for preparing for a career of serious work in earnest. Four years ago I lost my business, house, fiance and worst of all time with my son. What was the point of that? A failure for a most people. A typical and honourable tale for an entrepreneur. Rich texture for the life of an artist.
So. It has come to this.
I think it is time I close up and summarize this blog and my art listings professional endevours too. I want all content I produce to be housed on my server with teaser content on social media. What I am thinking, researching, producing will be my posts of my art and creative writings. My communications work will on linkedin and throughout that industry.
I think I have other channels emerging and a new art magazine website project starting next year. I want to “thread” my content out and disperse it widely. A new blog for my activist posts and another blog for my communications career. A third blog for my artwork is almost done. I am trying to currently decide whether to port over some of this content first or simply start anew? I do like a blank sheet of paper.
I am also considering a name change. I am considering a complete severance with any work done prior to 2009. I am considering a PhD in Bio Art. These are all refreshing ideas to me and suitable as interesting blog posts. After I post about them, I will probably be in a better position to understand how I actually feel about them.
There are a lot of things to purge and clip by the end of next summer. I’ll keep this blog going until then and will post new links and updates in the meantime.
I think I am starting the equivalent of Montaigne’s second book. Maybe the third.
I have a small, enclosed front porch with it’s own lighting and electrical outlet. It’s almost perfect to maintain a small gallery space so that’s what I have been threatening to do.
So, now I am. The space is still not finished and has a whack of drywall leaning on one side. I’ve been waiting for our cheap and (very slow) renovations to stop but I don’t think they will before I leave Hamilton. Sometimes, you just gotta say “fuck it” and go ahead with a project – this kind of public declaration essentially forces you to carry through with your threat of art. Sometimes it takes me years to demonstrate I was serious (and usually right) about something and the BAG Project Space is such a something.
So, no time like the present. After agonizing for a year about how I am going to work with and work around the long vertical windows on the west, east and north walls I finally came up with a practical, cheap solution that is easy to implement and just as easy to remove and without damage to the space before we sell the house: white fabric over the walls. It sure beats my previous plan to have a series of drywall panels with wooden frames hanging from the ceiling by hinges.
The 6 sheets of drywall leaning against the west wall are not going anywhere but with a white sheet draped over that, it will transform into a respectable plinth. Hey, it’s my project space and I can do whatever I want.
So the first exhibit “slower: advice for the economy” (a projection about the industrial skyscape) opens up next week on Friday the 13th from 6-9pm. Yes, I am aware of the symbolism of both sets of numbers. For local readers, you will also no doubt recognize that my gallery is open during the exact hours of the ArtCrawl. You will also note that I live in a poor, some would say “scary”, area of downtown Hamilton not know for arts and culture. Well, consider this new gallery space as a response to that – I’ve criticized designated areas for arts and culture in a city before. Now I believe independence for an artist is the most desirable goal to achieve – more than funding. No, I don’t believe in the BS that anti-arts advocates spout about not funding the arts. I believe the arts should be so integrated and integral as part of our society that we would have trouble even distinguishing where support ends and begins.
So. I have a humble and independent space for exhibiting a series of exhibits by others and myself. I have some really exciting ideas to materialize in this space, and in many way culminates my work about and in Hamilton over these three years. I have not listed the address because I want to encourage people to explore this community in order to find. I want people to explore this community because that is the way to improve any neighbourhood – go walk through it. Lots of people out walking through a place is a very powerful device. I know many people will probably not bother coming to find it at all, especially if I keep the exhibition hours the same as ArtCrawl and I don’t pander to the usual agencies for promotion. I don’t care if anyone shows up or not – I care about the projects and the documentation. The reason we were able to buy a house here was because of the negative impressions people have of this area – and they don’t come here so the houses were affordable. Why should I now conduct my business on my estate grounds with any different formula?
However, I care if the local community here engages with the projects. I do care about people coming here to engage with the projects too. This space is simply part of this neighbourhood though the act of a pop up art space should be universal.
Contained therein this act and through this upcoming series of projects is my final dialogue with Hamilton.
I’ve heard it said before that the manufacturing required for WWII turned around a soft, lagging economy. I heard it described as equivalent to producing tens of thousands of vehicles and then dumping them into the middle of the ocean. It was the activity that sparked the momentum.
I’ve also been learning about the perils of people on social media not understanding the art of reputation management. One of my professors told me Larry Page of Google believes everyone in the first 20 years of the internet should be granted an online amnesty from everything they’ve posted about themselves. Thus, no employer would be allowed, by law, to creep you on social media and then discriminate against you based on your personal texts i.e. revenge porn.
This gives me an idea. Why don’t we purge the World Wide Web of all content? Not structure, but all the content.
Imagine the work required to re-build relationships and websites. There would be jobs for everyone and we could re-build it better since we are starting from scratch. The economy, an insane entity that wants to constantly expand or fall into crisis, would have plenty of expanding to do. People’s reputations would start from a clean slate once again.
Maybe we can do this every dozen years or so until we evolve past the need for an ever expanding monster called the economy. Maybe this will help stunt urban sprawl as everyone will be too busy getting rich in cyberspace.
I’ve been thinking about something I’ve heard a few times – an artist is predisposed to becoming a dictator.
Yes. I think I’ve seen this and I think I would become a dictator if I could too. Most certainly an abusive prison guard. Take a bribe from a menacing gangster. I think you would too and by the same stuff that made you and I what we are today.
I just think artists can visualize it more readily.
I would also think that :
Musicians have the potential to become mad scientists.
Curators would murder democracy if they could.
Writers would impose more democracy just to fuck shit up.
Designers are budding mafioso who want their cut forever.
Photographers would end up getting us all turned into pillars of salt.
As I witness the Rob Ford theatre of the absurd playing out before us, I am keenly aware of the power of the sprawl of subdivisions that occupy between my current Hamilton outpost and urban Toronto. This area is very possibly is worthy of the greatest contempt and scrutiny we can muster for it’s deleterious effects, both physically and morally, on the rest of the Canadian landscape. By extension this phenomenon may very well be the harbinger of doom globally, undergirded (word usage inspired by Hume; see next paragraph) by the collective suburban consciousness’ inability to meaningfully self-reflect upon itself and the consequences of its own actions. I truly believe that left unchecked our entire continent will be someday be entirely and evenly blanketed by subdivision houses and shopping malls. Even more disturbingly, many if not most of our population would not see this a horrifying possible future.
Why am I harshing on the suburbs? The Star’s Christopher Hume has summed up the characteristics that offend me in his article here. In particular, this paragraph describes accurately the motivations of the class of people who hold our future in their hands: “Like Ford, they see little value in the city, prefer Tim Hortons and choose to drive everywhere. Their interest in civic issues goes no further than how much they pay in taxes, noisy neighbours and the state of the roads they depend on to get around. Like him, they want subways not because they will use them, but because they will replace the streetcars that would otherwise slow them down.”
I can already hear the protests and howls. I have read it in replies to his article from indignant suburbanites. I know there are “good people” in the suburbs. Maybe I am just a city snob out of touch with the reality of our society but the truth is I grew up in suburbs. To say I and others are unqualified or in an illegitimate position to meaningfully critique suburban culture is like saying someone who just finished twelve years of the public school system is not informed about how the public school system works. Conversely, I can say with confidence that those who grew up and remain in the suburbs are ill-suited to judge the merits of the urban core or, equally as distant, undeveloped natural environment. These people’s entire world is the suburbs and that perspective of reality is not to be underestimated – it’s powerful and palatable and always reinforced by a sense of being under siege by those who don’t have their lifestyles (read: from people who are envious of their material goods, because what else exists in this world?). The Fords understand this and deftly manipulate this insecurity to their political advantage.
It is an interesting characteristic of people who live in the GTA, that I and others have noticed when moving here, that most of these people have never traveled anywhere. They don’t actually know anything about the rest of the world. They may of taken an all-inclusive vacation to the Dominican Republic or maybe have engaged in cross-border shopping but that’s it. This produces the effect of resisting change in attitudes or approaches to problems because they are willfully ignorant of how other communities of the world may of dealt with similar issues. This also, curiously, produces a somewhat counter-intuitive approach that the world and it’s resources are limitless – so what harm is one more subdivision going to cause? Why is one more car a problem? This isn’t Europe – we have more than enough space to spare. It occurs to me that these people share much with young earth creationists. They may intuitively believe that the earth was created 5,000 years ago and on the eighth day Jesus drove out of the ocean in a SUV and decreed it is a divine right that everyone should have a parking spot.
I am writing this post as a way of making sense of how this person could be elected, supported and then defended. Some revelations have occurred to me during this time, such as when the Fords and their apologists are addressing the media they are not actually talking to their critics – they are bypassing the rest of us and feeding their army of suburban supporters with talking points and cliches to fall back on. That’s why their dialogue appears so childishly naive and ridiculous to everyone else i.e. “stopping the gravy train”, “war on the car” and “I’ll just drink at home from now on”. As they saying goes, never argue with an idiot because they’ll drag you down to their level and beat you with experience. The Fords depend on this as the more you patiently try to explain the flaws in their arguments, the more you are losing the war of attrition with their army of hollow men.
For example, it is very interesting to watch the rats scurry from the sinking ship of Mayor Rob Ford’s regime. But why now? Why not six months ago? Why not a year ago? Because it only took a massive police investigation, international media covereage and undeniable candid video footage for any of those in the Ford camp to admit that anything may be amiss. Does this stubbornness and tunnel vision sound like an ideal state of politics and good governance to you? This smacks of fanaticism, of a kind of shallow consumer fundamentalist whose very nature precludes meaningful debate or compromise. In short, Ford Nation is a tribe of bullies and the man they elected is a perfect representative of their values and motivations. Those only now quitting his team or proclaiming their sincere concern for his well being are deserving of our greatest scorn.
Unbelievably to the reasonable person, there are those still defending Ford on the basis of his “good fiscal management”. Ok, seriously, what the fuck kind of reason is that for supporting a lying, crack smoking elected official? This is another pitfall of arguing with idiots because what is “good fiscal management” is actually a very fuzzy set of priorities based on your philosophical (or lack thereof) outlook on life. I’ve heard these people on the radio, and they claim that his private life and public life ought to be kept separated. Ok… so this sentiment does not apply to celebrities? Or how about to priests? Or to the person who manages your child’s daycare? How about to the surgeon who is about to operate on your parent? Or to the teller at your bank? Or the airplane mechanic? Are these areas of responsibility more grave than that the Mayor of Toronto?
What is really going on with this rationale is something I heard about a little while ago that makes sense to me – the absence of morals when making decisions in a marketplace environment. Do people sell and buy stocks based on ethical decisions? No. For example, you might of mutual funds but you don’t know exactly with what companies because you don’t care – this is a matter of money! Most people still buy clothes from sweat shops in third worlds because of the savings. Most of us will eat chickens that are raised in cruel conditions because of the convenience and savings within our marketplace. This same effortless self-entitlement is now applied to our politicians and is the basis for the appeal of modern day conservatism in general.
So, it’s ok for the Mayor to be a crack-smoker and liar – as long as he is saving us money. Putting aside the very valid arguments that he is not actually saving money, and that conservative governments in general are the worst possible approach to the economy, let’s assume it is ok for Rob Ford to be the way he is because of his fiscal management. Is it ok if he does cocaine too? How about crystal meth? How about acid? How about opium? What does it matter if he does all of them? What if he enjoys watching dog fights? What about porn? What about snuff films? Why does that matter anymore? If a certain style of fiscal management is desirable, then can we replace him with a robot? Why not? Why does it matter anymore if someone is human, or has certain values?
This line of logic pretty much lays bare that those who support someone like Ford have only self-interest as a guide to society. They have no understanding of history or much of a care for the future beyond their own life. They don’t care if the world is burning beyond the horizon because their world, their real world, is inside whatever routines they have carved out inside the noise and stink of your average suburb that you can find anywhere. And Ford nation gets to drive around it for $60 a year cheaper than if they elected another Mayor.
I have categorized my observations of the worst, most destructive inhabitants of the suburbs into four thematic categories I call…
The four horsemen of the suburban apocalypse
1) The taxpayer:
What a great tool for dividing our communities into quarrelling factions! If you pay more income tax than me, or own property and thus pay property taxes then you should have more influence in a democracy. When a politician refers to a serving taxpayers, they are creating a class based society and removing morals and values from the conceptual equation of who to vote for. Don’t worry about doing the right thing – just worry about your entitled position in this pyramid scheme.
Society is all business right? Of course, this rhetoric is complete bullshit. We all pay taxes in one form or another. I remember former Toronto Mayor David Miller warning about the dangers of segregating society in such a way and he urged people to think of “citizens” as opposed to “taxpayers”.
I am a citizen and I have a responsibility to the world around me. A “taxpayer” is someone who sees the world as having a responsibility to them.
2) The Stooge:
Remember “Dave from Toronto“? This is typical of our society and happens all the time. More than you think, probably. I’ve seen this at a community meeting I attended to plead for the preservation of a heritage building. We were essentially shouted down by employees of the elected official we were pleading to.
It’s a normalized practice in Canadian municipal politics to cherry pick the community members you consult with. There is a such a disconnect with politics that the majority of people don’t vote – so only those with an immediate vested interest or beliefs approaching the fanatical are the majority who vote. If I am a politician, I will tailor my campaign to appeal to the 10% of the population who actually vote and not to represent the interest of 100% of my community because they don’t all vote.
I will hire communication professionals to mediate with the media to create a perception that my campaign represents the democratic majority. Thus the rise of the Stooge as the most powerful incarnation of politics today because things in Canada are getting downright tribal – what or why is not important anymore as who.
3) Mall security:
Malls are the cultural centres of the suburbs. They are the mass-produced, big boxed heart and soul of these communities and yet they remain private property. If you are not there to shop then you have no business being there and can be legally barred from the premises.
How do they know if you are not there to shop? If you act different or look different, then you will be singled out. This is true for all of the suburbs – the police, for example, would have no problems stopping someone wearing a top hat and toga and walking backwards on a sidewalk. They are not breaking any laws, but they are acting “suspicious”. You, as a tax-paying property owner residing in the suburbs would have no problems with police stopping and investigating this oddly behaving individual. You would not consider the intagible implications to our individual rights or our democratic freedoms – because you don’t care about the past or future or they way things work elsewhere. What you don’t understand you loathe and Mall security feels the same way you do because Mall security works for you.
By contrast, someone wearing a toga and top hat and walking backwards through a large urban core would tend to be tolerated much more.
4) The friendly mafia:
When I think of mafia, I think of back room deals, winks, nudges and financial transactions within closed systems that ought to be open. I think of an agreement to gang up and punish those who get in the way of conducting business.
Well, this is the way the people typically involved in Canadian municipal politics operate. To me, it is very arrogant and naive to believe some of the revelations of corruption in the City of Montreal and Laval are not present in the GTA or Hamilton. In fact, it is probably much worse precisely because it has not been remarked upon.
I call this “the friendly mafia” because those who sit as trustees and on city councils typically have deep connections business wise to the community. Contracts and policies that lead to contracts tend to happen to the benefit of these public officials and their buddies in the community. For example, a quaint lakeside town not far from Hamilton recently compromised its scenic appeal by allowing a monstrous condominium to be built on the beach front. Though this may have detrimental effects on the local economy, in the short term the council member who owns a duct installation company and subsequently got the contract for this condo building benefitted greatly. He’s a business and community leader. Gosh, a really nice guy and even volunteers with XYZ Charity once a month.
He has also helped unleash the pattern of suburban sprawling development onto his community. Nothing can or will be done because his is part of the local friendly mafia – everyone knows each other and dissenting views bring repercussions unto themselves. This is the marketplace and ethics have no place here. Besides, if he didn’t benefit from it the next guy would of.
Everything I have written here is from a weak position because the greatest weapon in the Ford Nation arsenal is the fact they just don’t care. You can be right, clearly and unequivocally, but it does not matter to these people. That is their source of strength and pride.
We can trace the problems to amalgamation of cities, giving councillors from surrounding suburbs the advantage of numerical supremacy to downtown councilors and thus power over the budget and lives of citizens living in the urban core. I must point out the decision to amalgamate was a budgetary one by a conservative government and this sensibility has led to the depraved and hypercritical stance of Ford Nation supporting a drugged out Mayor who appeals to them because he lives in house like them and drives to work like them. There is nothing redeeming or noble here.
I know I am a better person than most of these people because I can and will admit my faults and hypocrisies. Unfortunately, this kind of honesty is a detriment when engaging Ford suburbanites in a similar way as it must of been to admit you are a sinful person to the Spanish Inquisition.
Economy, jobs and good fiscal management they refer to would be easier for me to accept if it was actually a responsible and sustainable model for prosperity – but sadly it’s not. But that is another post for another time. For now, I suppose my post can be dismissed as an argument against society in general and these values are the way it is so I better stop complaining and get a real job. I better stop considering the past and stop hoping for a better future and get as much as I can right here and right now while I still can. Someone like Ford can make that quest a little easier for me.
I forgot about this video! One of my first “art documentaries” – it gets funnier but not easier. Description below:
Two goofballs from Toronto decide to travel to Montreal and keep a video diary of their exploration of Nuit Blanche 2010, following the “Art Souterrain” route of contemporary art in the subway tunnels and public halls underneath Montreal.
There are a lot of artists out there. Some people say anyone can be an artist – all you have to do is try hard enough. Other people say whatever you happen to be doing can be art, if you do it well enough. Artists without art school say labour is the defining element of being an artist, and artists with degrees and diplomas will lament all of the above and write about it as their differential. People with little or no empathy for the arts will simply shrug and mumble something about the free market dictating who are artists.
They’ll probably also complain that no one paints like the old masters anymore.
Reminds me of when internets was taking over during the 90’s and Architects and Engineers where shocked – SHOCKED – that their professional designation was being co-opted by fly by night IT school. Instead of taking 6 years to become an Architect, you could become an “Information Architect” or “Software Engineer” in six months. You still can, but becoming an artist is even easier and more exploited (Hello sandwich artists).
So being an artist is simply not enough to distinguish the top of the industry anymore. The industry as we fantasize about it is gone (if it really ever existed at all), and all that is left is a series of merchants selling marketing to this dream of a profession – and that’s fine. I waive my claim of being an artist and leave the fields of this empire of dirt burnt sienna to the political and social mob that chases wall space, status and art supplies with fervor and passion.
I abandon this title of being an artist because I want to be more – I want to evolve to the next stage of being an artist: media.
Media artists is not a new concept and most of you will be familiar with it. However, I am not talking about being a media artist, which is still bound to place and time but rather becoming Media.
Ai Wei Wei has done it. So has Damien Hirst and Banksy. All of their work, and the artists themselves, could disappear tomorrow and it would not affect their influence for most of us. They transcend place and time and manipulate our very mediums of communication with whatever art in whatever way they wish.
That’s pretty bad ass and just obtuse, obscurantist enough and without immediate practical merit (“How do I buy and sell this?”) that it should work as a mechanism to keep the art barbarians outside the gate and provide a historical measurable to strive for.
As part of my graduate studies, I’ve been reading a lot of philosophy concerning the mentalistic, the internal, and the imaginative simulation of realities as a way of explaining the way we think about reality (Chomsky, Goldman, Descartes for example).
It bothers me to consider the notion that we live in the very top of the inside of head, and arguments of the divine existence of another mind, and thus of the divinity of ourselves by virtue of recognizing this, is a way to keep us safely separated from the rest of our beastly body.
So as a counter reaction I dug up some fun collage work from messing around with some apps and pictures from my phone. These are kind of Churches to the body, and not the divine. They are not devoid of morality or guidance, but structures we’ve built ourselves, with our own hands, and determined our own ceremonies as research into meaning. I beleive we understand the world around us through our full selves, and we are connected to the world around us in ways we don’t yet understand. You could rightfully consider these as shrines to Carl Sagan ;)
(These look kinda obscene, I know, but there are actually just very ordinary body parts suitable for public display…)
I am seeing an orthopedic surgeon later this month about my wonky shoulders. Renovations to our old, crappy house are going very slowly, so as usual my studio is packed with storage. We are living in one room in the main floor. I am also in the thick of an intense but enjoyable graduate program focused on communications, new media and teeming with philosophers both alive and dead. Everyone is smarter and quicker than me. Art is my only hope of surviving this. I always feel like Ethan Hawke in Gattica.
With that being said, my “classical” studio practice is on hold. In the meantime, here is a painting from a unpublished text series in progress. Art Toronto is right around the corner and I am always seeing my art on display by someone else (so to speak) so I figured I better start staking my originality claims while I can.
This is the 3rd performance intervention at the arts festival in Hamilton, Ontario and perhaps my last here.
My recurring character for these enactments is the Consultant persona – a outside critical eye from an outside theoretical framework, and not always welcome. This series of my work is not meant to settle as part of a landscape (the Consultant may describe the same concern as “becoming a monument”) but a slight affront to it, and three times in the same context is probably approaching a demystified state of local cultural interpretation.
The first intervention was a interpretation of the local concerns of gentrification of an area, and took the form of evaluating the worth of gallery spaces, but outside of considering the cultural worth but the physical shape and other detached values. The second was in collaboration with a poet and performance artists and we adopted a social theory induction approach that was more aloof of our immediate surroundings, but drawing our “data” from it.
This, the third time, was based on my earlier concerns about the presentation of the role of the visual arts as a brief form of entertainment in a carnival context that would lead to expectations of public art’s function as almost purely theatrical. I reject the notion that art is entertainment, and worry about the political economy interpretations of art as function for entertainment. This is the crux of the criticism.
To enact this, I designed the performance to skirt around the edges, the fringes, of the festival as a sort of walking “Salon des Refusés” of the curatorial process for these kind of brief public constructions of precious arts funding. Being a closed ecosystem for artists outside of property owners and the jury, all others participation of serious contemporary creation are, by definition, an intervention.
Specifically, some of the elements I am researching through this practice are:
1. Just outside of civilization (the border of the art festival).
2. An aloofness; a sense of purpose, value and priorities unknown and unknowable to the observer (projection my own “art” onto objects that do not normally warrant close or equal scrutiny).
3. A reaction of confrontation, hiding, and moving away into darkness, i.e the bush (hiding in doorways, behind signs).
4. A reliance, a faith in, a tertiary media (social media, photos, oral retelling and interpretation) to substantiate the documentation of the event.
I am happy to report it worked – someone told me of the “creepy guy” they saw. What a great opportunity to find out why! I learned from him it was my “odd” behaviour and the confusing costume (he couldn’t see “where the face was supposed to be”) that prevented meaningful interpretations based on the immediate cultural / ceremonial context.
In other words, I was out of place and not cooperating by providing instant meaning in an entertaining, accessible way. I was creepy. Most people keep their distance. I’ve had groups follow me for awhile, almost as if they are waiting for something to happen. Sometimes I get trapped by a group of people circling around. Believe it or not, sometimes people get really mad and confrontational when I don’t acknowledge or interact with them. You’ll see an example of this in the video below.
This time, I incorporated a catcher’s mask with an iphone displaying an animated swirl (as did my papered (bureaucratic) costume). These are “null” symbols – the swirl is universal enough to be without any set cultural meaning other than usually meaning something. They broadcast an intent, but not my meaning. They aren’t meant to as tools to decode, but to establish questions in a public sphere.
I had a second iphone mounted on the frame in front of my face, but this one was with the camera facing outwards and recording whatever I was looking at. It was very shaky and poor quality – perfect media for an imperfect experience. I wanted to document the experience of being … different in a crowd. The quality of alientation and intrusion are very present, I think. I’ve included a three minute clip. It’s very shaky, grainy, inconclusive and heavily processed with anti-shake and anti-wobble algorithms – just like a number of media fragments surround the Sasquatch mythology. Thanks to my support team, Jen and Cedric.
I was honoured to be part of the initial test of the PhotoScopo-recursiveradiogram machine and am very happy to report it worked spectacularly. See below for the very first image from our ancient past:
What we are seeing is a picture of the very first mushrooms that appeared on earth approximately 569 million years ago!
The premise of the machine is simple: it filters light that has been trapped between the moon and earth for eons. Since the moon moves around the earth in every direction, there is enough dark and bright light collected naturally during this time to forensically measure with some very sensitive equipment.
However, even with computers, the process to make a complete PhotoScopo-recursiveradiogram is very time consuming at over several months. No one can be near the machine and even looking at it might damage the equipment as it is apparently very sensitive to organically diverted light. This is not including several years of trying to find the right angle to use and not knowing if there was anything in that spot at that time.
I’ll have some more sneak peeks of our ancient past soon, and these will go into the book. I am very fortunate they choose me to “curate” the first series of backwards-deep scans.
During discussion in my media & reality class last week, I learned of and been thinking about the concept of two classes of social media citizenry emerging – those who keep their reputations online clean and those who don’t.
Of the those with a clean reputation, there are those who flourish online as communicators and those don’t.
Of those who do excel in this medium, there are those who digitally represent brands and personas.
These are trusted and valuable to an organization, as they are closest to the identity machinery, are typically not an owner but an employee, and yet trusted with it. This reminded me of Eunuchs, castrated to serve as of class of slaves or servants throughout history. They too were trusted in the most intimate and public environments as the thinking was that, among other presumed losses of particular desires, there would be the lack of ambition.
I’m thinking of that person who dropped their pants or posted something in passion or conflict. The Social Eunuch would never do that – so you can trust them.
I mulled in an earlier post about how it seems better to not have a presence online at all for some. Some politicians and organizations now wish they weren’t. So the next best thing is to have a replaceable, dependable and (at least as an online footprint) completely unremarkable person as your social media lead. This is the Social Eunuch and is perhaps has emerged as the most valuable class of online citizenry today. The stereotype of our historical notions of the personality traits typical of a Eunuch lends itself to a Social Eunuch’s presumed virtues of no desire for sex, no ambition, docile and dependable. This lends itself to a standard of reputable online presence free of sex scandals, criminal accusations and no desire for online conflict like being snarky to a competitor or critic.
Eunuch’s were considered easy to replace – so is the employee who tweets out something racist or sexist. First impressions are very important on social media so if suddenly a lot of people notice your social media profile online because of a bad or embarrassing behaviour, then that is your first and lasting impression unless you become immediately and permanently bland and unremarkable. This is strategically attainable to middle class citizens by never appearing publicly on Social Media again – and thus castrating yourself from your shameful extension.
For a brand, the only hope is to acknowledge a distinct personality was associated with the brand. Little he/she had a mind of their own and are now cut from the team.
To achieve Social Eunuchism:
Hire someone who does not have an online presence or has a very careful, minimal and unremarkable online presence.
Person(s) anonymized when acting as the brand voice or the person(s) are identified as persons but only publicly online as the persona.
Person is a dedicated professional.
Does this affect artists?
I think artists are, as usual, a special case and social media is a different tool for us. Our reputation can “take more heat” than non artists, intellects or celebrities. Even boutique or cultural enterprises can cross lines on the web and actually benefit from it. There are Social Eunuch artists and cultural entities, to be sure, but there are also more social selfies (social media as a self portrait construct) and more controversial artists who are also social media elite citizenry. I look forward to posting more thoughts about this.
I’ve become even more aware of his work since – count me in as a fan. However, I was not a fan of how this exhibit was put together by the AGO.
As my friend remarked, it looked like some sort of “sampler pack” and left us slightly … unsatisfied. They seem to have taken a bit of as many different series of his work as they could and crammed it into as few rooms as they could. If any art deserves lots of white cube space, it’s his work. Weiwei often works on an industrial scale and the AGO reduced his art series to a sort of token participation.
He is one of the giants of our age and will be a central figure of contemporary art history. If the AGO was ever going to clear as much as possible for an artist, then this was it – but they blew it. They did however have $25 dollar tickets for two hours of viewing, so that part of their machinery is well oiled. Oh, and the Ai Weiwei gift shop in the middle of the exhibit took up probably at least 15% of the total space…really?
One cannot help but think if his passport was not currently revoked, then he would of been able to be here to ensure they curated the work better than this. Then I kinda of realized that for me and many a retrospective at the AGO would be the height of professional achievement, but internationally maybe it’s more a provincial gallery.
What really moved me was the rebar that he collected from the disaster scene and then painstakingly straightened. Holy fuck. The poetry of this is reverberated in my brain pan and my eyes started to mist up. I’ve seen a lot of art in my time and I’m a bit jaded and desensitized at this point but this cut right through all that. The material, the process and the presentation are inseparable from it’s content and concept – and it’s simple. This guy is the real deal.
Another revelation for me occurred at this point: As an activist and artist, I understand that an incredible and obvious amount of labour is a way to communicate a powerful message a government authority. It becomes undeniable and that at the end of the day is perhaps the most powerful tool available to a contemporary artist in this day and age.
I also understand that the media is the art and my posts of my own work online is powerful and significant and valid. For Ai Weiwei’s, his social media presence acts as a herald for his work and bridges his universal themes into real spaces around the world. Again, his process and presentation is inseparable from his concept and contains an resolvable tension both conceptually and formally i.e. his studies in perspective. For me as an artist, this validates my own concepts and practice.
A few more photos of the exhibit are posted below – that the public is allowed to take photos at this exhibit is a rarity for the Art Gallery of Ontario and I think is due to the influence of the artist. He understands the power of media more then most artists and galleries.
Ok I can’t find my projector power cord. My “pocket” projector that I ordered off amazon.
It’s the cheapest, weakest knock off plastic calculator of a mini projector ever but it’s priceless right now.
Performance tomorrow. This is what I got this portable doohickey – but I put off looking for the cord until today because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to find it.
So I planned and gathered all other materials. Lights, attire, media, papers and people with a plan. The projector was sitting right in front of me – I just *assumed* the projector power cord was close by.
Gah. I spent four hours rumaging for it. House is under renovations because it’s a shitty house because I’m an artist who works in intervention performance art with multi-media components like a cheap hand held projector and things I bought at a dollar store.
Dust, Mystery cords that don’t fit. pulling papers and a flashlight in the attic full of pre-renovation stuff like the cord for this projector.
(Also pressing present pressure of having to finish reading 50 fucking pages of Nietzsche’s Use/Abuse of History for one my courses. How did it come to this?)
There is no one here I can enlist to for manual search help. Shoulders and temper both tweaked so I stop.
Research immediate replacements; closest is via kajiji at some guy’s house two hours through Toronto. I would have to rush out at 5pm, through the GTA, and buy this second hand and more expensive version. Then I would have to drive back into Hamilton and prepare everything.
The seller informed me it was already sold.
Why don’t the big box stores carry them? Some do but they are high end.
I see “universal adapters” for sale at these places, but my device may be is probably propriety in it’s size.
I have to keep turning my system on and off to re-install drivers. The newest ones from the video card manufacturer’s site is literally crashing my system when I try to install that.
I need my system to edit the video footage central to the media element of this work.
Ok. I am now considering not doing the performance. I read the last 50 pages of Nietzsche’s epic 18th century blog post.
Feeling refreshed several hours later, I decide to install some special viewer software on my PC for another class assignment so I can interact with a special virtual world project. This will be a significant studio experience throughout my program.
It won’t install because my of my video card and window 8 and yadda yadda.
I might replace the projector element with another iphone and the same media element. To establish a logical relationship between the symbols and behaviour within the work.
I’ve re-downloaded various drivers and even another version of the software. I think I may actually need to get a new system if I don’t want to live in the program’s computer lab. There is going to be some epic virtual studio work and collaborations happening with this platform.
But not on my four year old computer.
Or a mirror. Maybe actually just a mirror instead of projection, but not clear to everyone around perhaps.
Upgrading to a new system right now is a terrible time and resource wise. My shit is packed or piled and there’s dust and damp smell everywhere here. We used to have a Mac which would of run this thing but it got stolen a few months ago.
But then again, the indifference in public is part of the performance practice, so that still works.
Knock on the door. Basement guy appointment I made three weeks ago. Ok.
One hour later I am alone and again feeling better about my performance work re-jig. I was also already going to have a camera recording of my POV, so it’s the media is the frame of this work, the performance is the content. I also remembered I was going to run the video through google’s face-blurring software so I’m excited again. The final cut might look on this thing.
We have to get another computer – we’re both working more than full time hours. I have to buy a mac so I can keep hitting the ground running, or something like that.
And it’s going to hurt because this whole production is way over budget already and hasn’t made a cent. My pride is about be cannibalized by my avarice for monumental art.
I’ll keep the audio raw though, as usual. People say the darnedest things when the consultant walks by, chasing after his own reflection.
I really wish I just found the stupid cord.
I hope I find the cord. There’s no equivalent in the school’s A/V inventory.
It’s 2 a.m. now and I’m no farther ahead except for fifty pages. They were actually a really great 50 pages though.
Got to be at a paying gig at 9am.
I have to attach two iphones to the wire frame of a catcher’s mask tomorrow after work. I plan to use string and need to remember to clear media memory on it.
I hope this works.
Everything is equal weight right now and it’s all on my shoulders.
When I get my shoulder’s fixed, I am going to throw out half of the crap in the basement and attic.
And I’m going to do a performance with the portable projector cause that fucking cord is here somewhere.
It occurred to me that those who are very poor and those who are very rich do not use social media. The former for lack of access and the latter for lack of use.
Wealth that is generated by the middle class and thus dependent on the middle class is represented i.e. a large retail or media corporation. Political interests as well, but the truly powerful have no reason to engage risking their reputation by being noticed at all. It’s a far safer strategy to be off the radar.
The marginalized and those toiling in poverty are represented, but arguably by industries that depend on the cycle of poverty such as non-profits, activists and charities. If you have access to the internet via a signal and device, and engage on platforms such as Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest then chances are you are (relatively) not representational of the plight of the truly disadvantaged – especially globally.
Social media is more and more of a shopping mall – and the super wealthy don’t shop where you shop and persons living on the street aren’t allowed in. In the meantime, we are hearing more and more about reputation management and the need for a respectable online footprint if you want good career opportunities, or even to not be fired for indecent behaviour or comments in public. These are concerns of the aspiring middle class.
As I attended my grad program’s orientation session, the Department Chair informed the room full of new students and new Hamilton residents of this news. To be fair, he was hesitant about it’s validity because it does seems ridiculous – and it is ridiculous because it’s actually a superb piece of parody news originating from this city’s version of The Onion – Hammer In The News.
OMG. I laughed and still chuckle thinking about it.
Luckily, I clarified that this was spoof news (which is very relevant to my communications program) and encouraged my fellow students to attend the event on James Street North in Hamilton – it’s not moving anywhere. I also found out later a couple of last year’s students have installation work happening that night and I am really excited to go see it. Hopefully no one will show up in Ancaster looking for Supercrawl, and hopefully the organizers of this event have learned a lesson about marketing and publicity.
For example, one small signal that they have become more sophisticated is that little old me has finally received a press release for the event after three silent years since asking to help promote it through some of my art news websites. Their previous approach reflected the insular and political nature that plagues much of Canadian arts marketing practices by keeping it in within the community of arts professionals and out of the larger discourse of the public realm. This is akin to a siege mentality which is of course ultimately self-defeating. It is getting better simply because it has to get better to try to keep up with the rest of the world – but this is a whole other post to composed soon.
The lessons here are three brave new forms of media born of digital culture that are crucial for art industry to embrace.
This local parody news website has tremendous value in earned media and shared media because it focuses on very relevant local attitudes and politics. Earned media because people are talking about this spoof news of their own volition – it’s what happened in my above example of a the department chair discussing this of his own volition with the new students. Shared media is passing a brand’s marketing campaign through social media and other channels – it’s what I’ve done by posting Supercrawl’s press release, which goes straight to my wordpress, facebook, tumblr and twitter accounts. Think of it as a net being cast out and capturing more relevant eyeballs, as opposed to keeping inside a sort of walled garden of content where only the same community of people are subjected to the same message over and over.
The third media form I wanted to point out is News Jacking – which Hammer In The News engages in and what I have done with this post. Simply, by posting your own relevant content that mentions, links and relates to large events before or as they happen will result in increased organic search engine results. When someone searches for Super Crawl, or about the rumour that Super Crawl is moving to Ancaster, then this blog post may very well appear. For an artist, you can post about Art Toronto a couple of weeks before it happens and include a photo of your own work. Chances are you’ll get increased traffic to your website as people search for news about Art Toronto as the date closes in, and these people will see your work when they are in a mindset to see the best in world class contemporary art. Best of all for the arts, it’s a free strategy.
Hammer In The News has caused disruption media for Supercrawl’s brand message, and I think this ultimately of great value to the festival though I hear the organizers are somewhat exasperated with the popularity of this parody news and the catalyst it provided for some negative feedback of the festival’s direction.
First, I only am commenting on the visual arts approach of the events and is not relevant or pertinent at all to other elements present such as music, performance, food, activism, etc. Only the effect on the public’s relation to the visual arts and the compromises that the artists themselves make to their art to accommodate the nature of the festival. It is not a criticism of the artists or even their art – it is a criticism that work, even the “best” work by the “best” artists in the world, are compromised when placed in such a short, temporary location and subjected to thousand’s people shuffling by briefly. It pulls fine art out of it’s purpose of contemplation, challenge and questioning into the realm of entertainment. Fine art is not entertainment, but becomes such when competing with the overwhelming sensory experience that is the entertainment of this kind of festival. This is different than Burning Man which runs for a week and allows for time and space that is not cluttered, or Art Toronto which is only three days but the art is not competing with entertainment or performing arts.
Secondly, these concerns about such festivals are not original or new. It is simply a concern that local visual artists are there to be called upon by a tourism department to “celebrate the vibrancy” of a city’s cultural scene at such brief events and then are dismissed back into a state of toiling and scrounging in relative obscurity. There has always been a bias that visual artists need to volunteer their time and comply with presenting temporary art that is “appropriate” – which means safe, temporary, non-offensive and generally entertaining. This is not a sincere reflection of a serious contemporary artist’s motivations, in my view. My concern is this approach is putting the cart before the horse. A festival like art crawl did and should continue to be the child of a sustained contemporary art scene and not be confused as the end motivation. People should be coming to downtown Hamilton any day of the month because of the visual art, and not associating it with a once a month party.
Thirdly, it’s about ownership and control. By limiting the exposure to Hamilton’s art scene to a handful of a single location specific festivals, we are ceding ownership of our work to a select group of interests who have now taken control of who can show and how – the roots of the scene were firmly placed in a more open environment for artists and this was the engine of its initial popularity. Extended, this is the crucial problem with Toronto’s Nuit Blanche – it’s an onerous application process to be included and is virtually inaccessible by a since art-loving community as it now largely an outdoor drunk fest filled with yahoos and absolutely packed with crowds. It’s turned into a corporate advertising opportunity tightly controlled by a select group of interests. This is not about the sustained development of excellent studio work by a community of contemporary artists. It had the promise of that, but isn’t and should *not* be the measurement of the local art scene. It should be one of many supporting apparatuses of such a scene.
Fourthly, my view of the problem of juries selecting art comes into play here – any jury selecting any work of any medium tends to eliminate the best and the worst applications and you are left with a slate of programming that represents the average of the submissions. Thus, a prestigious festival such as Nuit Blanche attracts some of the best artists from around the world, and you’ll get a high caliber of art but it is still the average of the range of submissions considered. Masterwork, by definition, is the unexpected, unconsidered and unexplored that confronts and challenges us and this is what confuses a jury of experts whose job it is to compromise and select work that is recognizable as acceptable by other experts. This is not a specific criticism of any artist or curator but it is simply an observation of human behaviour and group dynamics, and I am sorry if I offended anyone by applying this concern to Supercrawl. In my opinion, the only way to truly embrace the avant garde, the experimental, the truly best of contemporary art is to open up meaningful participation beyond the specific time, location and control. In this way an art festival can grow and become remarkable and the remarkable becomes the new normal.
Fifth, to be fair, I am not a hypocrite and I do participate with my own work in both Art Crawl and Super Crawl. I have not applied to be part of Super Crawl, and I do believe there is a place for excellent and sincere contemporary visual and performance art in such a setting. Having thousands of people and open streets to work with is a fantastic opportunity, but I will not cede my own standards of a progressive contemporary art scene to a small group of community festival organizers. Myself and other artists will take part but in a real sense the participation will be intrusive, disruptive and guerrilla in nature. I won’t be measuring the success of contemporary art work by how entertaining it is or by how many people walk by it. I won’t judge a work by being on one part of the street rather than a few blocks away . This is a dangerous path to limited arts funding because corporations and local government who will put more of this precious limited funding into a two day event rather than other overall sustained efforts that are ultimately more beneficial to the creative economy. Politicians love a chance for one-off, symbolic support with high media visibility that will carry over to the next election and corporations are the same as they want to appeal to the broadest demographic, and not necessarily the worthiest.
I am concerned that, typical of Hamilton and many other smaller cities, that Supercrawl will become a white elephant project of sorts to the detriment of the health of the larger arts community and to the benefit a few business owners and the careers of a couple of curators.
I understand that the counter-argument will be that such a festival attracts interest in the arts and enhances the health and thus overall funding. I hope this is the case, but my criticism was a challenge to do better, do more and do it all the time. Galleries sit largely empty on James Street North between the art crawls – this is the crux of the problem. If you let them, those who control and dole out art funding will pay themselves to throw a big party with all the money and starve the event workers for the rest of the rest of year.
Does open public debate about these kind of issues have a place in Hamilton, or should I have submitted it to a committee first?