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.
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.
10 images in accordance with the requirements of Assignment #4, 703.
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.
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.
1. There is no such thing as photography
2. Imagery is primarily physical
3. No one cares about digital imagery. Not really.
4. If you call yourself a photographer, then the imagery you make is already pre-defined.
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.
Here’s the original film… enjoy, if you dare…
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?
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.
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.
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.
Happy 2014 everyone! Make art not oil.
I’ve been enjoying working in virtual reality this past school term, and that has led to messing around with 3D modelling apps on my mobile phone. As I keep figuring out about myself, I really enjoy working with the possibilities and limitations of a mobile device – including the artefacts and degradation of importing the real world into the digital world.
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:
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.
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.
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.
I’ve been interested and incorporating elements of popular myths into my performance interventions for well over a decade now, starting with UFO mythology as embraced in the group performances of The UFO Research Group collection (Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto). The Consultant incorporates common reports of behaviour and situation as reported in Sasquatch reports.
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.
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.
You know, I just don’t know where this work is stored right now. I hope it’s ok.
- What the idea looks like in your mind.
- What you tell you other people what it looks like.
- What it looks like after it is created.
- What it looks like in a space.
- What it looks like as described by other people.
- What is looks like as media.
- What it looks like when other artists re-create it.
Visited the Art Gallery of Hamilton today and it’s always worth it. There’s usually a good selection of text work too, and this time I saw “not wanting to say anything about art”, a multiple plexiglass pane square object with eroded text by John Cage that was very inspiring.
I know that is a confusing description and I wish was allowed to take a photo of it – unfortunately the AGH seems to be one of those places that doesn’t yet put much credence in art bloggers despite my efforts here over the last few years. They don’t send me press releases or media preview invites so I don’t cover their exhibits (yes, I did ask but never heard back. Oh the humiliation).
But it has motivated me to post one of my text works from my new series “_landsc_APE_” – you can see another one here. I have lots of stencils and vinyl lettering and big stack of rag paper waiting to be worked on, and look forward to completing this series (hopefully) after my shoulder surgery. Hope you enjoy.
p.s. Posting about another current event to lead a relevant online audience to your own content is a type of digital marketing called “Newsjacking”. For example, people searching for the “Play” Exhibit at the AGH in Hamilton, Ontario and with an interest in text art might find a link to this post in Google’s organic search results. I’ve newsjacked that large and well funded endeavour to capture some relevant eyeballs. I’ll post a couple of more examples of this SEO method for artists soon.
This is the second in my series about my shoulder problems and how it ties into problems with our health system and perceptions that promote poverty in Canada and thus ultimately the economy … seriously, they are all related and this post outlines a second example of this.
I’ve just experienced some bad customer service at Curry’s Art Supplies in Hamilton, Ontario. A little while before that, and for largely the same reason, I experienced some bad customer service at Aboveground Art Supplies in Toronto. How does this relate to my shoulder, poverty and health care?
Because some artists work best at small, or medium. As an artist, I’m at my best when I work large. My drawings and paintings that are large work well, and with my recent digital work this is also true I think – conceptually, when I compose on the computer I am imagining the work as a large scale print.
Unfortunately, with my shoulders, I am not supposed to raise my arms above my shoulders. My left is half-frozen with atrophied muscles and my right *hurts* when I raise it for even a dozen seconds. It really sucks. I’ve literally been fighting off depression because I can’t work the way I want to (more about that in a later post) and I want to work large – I need to work large for what I what to accomplish in my professional practice.
So how to overcome this obstacle? There is a slew of self-help jargon out there that basically states for every closed door there is an open window, and I think this is true – the solution should dove tail with an creative idea and I think I solved it.
I would paint on small squares, a grid, and join them together. Like this test run from an older series a couple of years ago:
In this way, I can create very large works by sitting on a couch and keeping my arms low. I can paint and draw on each square with a well-worked chart and affix them together at the end. I’m really excited about this and have wanted to get started for months. But…
The above little square canvases are actually pretty expensive. About three dollars each and when you multiply that by the seventy panels it comes to $210. If you bought a single canvas of the same size, you are probably looking at about $80. But I can’t do that, because I have bad shoulders.
Ok, so I just need to buy a cheaper square of something to paint on right? No problem, I jump onto the interwebs and look at the options available to me at Aboveground Art Supplies in Toronto. I like this art store – good prices and friendly service – they are usually worth the trip into Toronto.
Hmmm…. they have nice cradled painting panels in a the small square size I need but they are $3.50 each. Ok, looks like they have a bamboo wood “mount” which are much cheaper and not exactly meant for painting, but they will do nicely. They are about $1.55 each – I can work with that! – but the sizes are rectangular, not square like I need. The closest square ones I can see are still pretty large at 6″ x 6″. I need smaller, so I figure I’ll email and ask if they can order some in.
I get a friendly reply and over the course of some emails back and forth, then a long period of time where I had to prompt the inventory manager as to the status of the request, I get a quote for the 4″x4″ size… at about $3.50 each. Sigh…. when I pointed out I was interested in the bamboo panels they were selling, not the more expensive line that are handmade by a local craftsperson (which is great, but out of my budget for the large amount I want) I got this reply “Those are shipped to us by freighter from Taiwan once a year.” and I have not heard back from this store since. I’m not sure why this was a deal breaker for them. Why can’t I pre-pay for a few hundred of them? What does it matter where they are from or how they get here?
Because this was outside of a routine request for this middle manager. It was easier for him to stop trying to accommodate me than to make an exception for my creative needs. At an art store. Again – sigh. I haven’t heard back from them for a few months now.
So I’m walking by Currey’s in Hamilton today and decide to pop in and see what kind of panels they had. Currey’s can be helpful, and always friendly. Their prices are not that great. The biggest reason I don’t like going in there is the awkwardness of always being confronted immediately with laser focused eye contact and a greeting of “Hi how are you!”. I know this is a corporate script and helps discourage shoplifters – it’s their job to do this but is it my job to respond? It’s so … American. Actually no – it’s too insincere to be American because we Canadian don’t tend to like this kind of loud gregarious behavior when first entering an establishment and this comes through in the employees tone. I just want to look at some supplies.
Anyways, not the employees fault, I look at some of the panels and don’t see the size or material I want so decide to inquire at the front desk about custom ordering. The same employee sort of interrupts me half way through explaining what I need with “No. What you see is what we have. We can’t order anything else in.” Case closed. Ok, she (which is say the store through its policies and training) did not even ask what amount I needed (hundreds in the short term, thousands(?) in the long term) and what she said was very illogical. If one thinks about her response for a second, it make no sense as how do they know what to order and how much to order if requests by customers like me are immediately dismissed? Is there no way to measure supply and demand? Is it a secret way?
Sadly, just like Aboveground Art Supplies my request is slightly different so becomes problematic. That’s why the subtitle of this post is that art stores hate creativity. Remember that public school teacher who conducts art lessons for the kids – but only in special area that is easy to clean up, and only colouring in the lines, and you must cover the entire surface with paint, and you can’t use to much, and it should be happy… any creative worth their salt knows that is actually a way to stifle true creativity and these art stores are no different.
The solution, as many real professional artists know, is to skip these kind of art stores altogether and go straight for the hardware store. I know I should buy a sheet of the kind of light wood I want (because of the way I assemble it, it can’t be heavy) and cut it myself and ground it myself.
But I can’t, because I have bad shoulders.
So I don’t have a pile of small, light wood panels, so I am not producing art. I have not spent any money on this, and cannot sell what I have not made. So I don’t have enough money to buy the pre-made squares or to put an ad on Craigslist or Kajiji offering $3.50 for someone to go buy, cut, ground and deliver these squares for me.
These panels exist, but they might as well be in Taiwan for all that it matters.
It’s a bit frustrating.
*update* Aside from connecting with someone who won’t mind helping me prepare the panels when I am able to get back to studio work, I have considered simply using paper. This may be the best option, but assembling it will be tricky. I need to adjoin each square to the next to support it, and thus the whole grid supports itself. I like the visual wear and sagging this produces, but not sure how this will work with rag paper. I guess it will have to be wire and glue. Maybe something else will occur to me.
I’ve been doing text in paintings for several years now. It’s changed a lot over that time but I’ve always like the freedom of working in this area between representational and abstract, as many do. It was a chance to slip into formalism and automatic painting without losing the conscious context, the connection of the subject matter. For me, the act and object of the painting is inseperable from the meaning and narrative of the text itself. They are but more personal than Truisms, more stories about me and the painting process. Kinda like tweets as paintings before Twitter existed! Haha.
This series was not exactly well received by all, but maybe those people failed to read between the lines. Those who liked these tended to like them a lot. and when I realized these paintings kept people’s attention at least as long as it took to read them. Hmmm… so I started to make very large, dense text narratives (will post when I find an image) and that challenged some and quickly discouraged others. Ah, I’ve always loved audience analytics…
I’ve got a new series of text paintings (on hold like all my other studio work) that I am really excited about. In the meantime, here’a few of my early favourites of these series. Sorry about the quality of the images, but often for artists poor documentation is all we are left with.
It seems once a year Shutterfly has a promotion for free 4″x6″ photo prints. In my practice, I’ve always liked the idea of working with a very common, consumer oriented medium and trying to make it something … “more” than it was intended for. By signing and numbering the prints as editions, am I somehow magically turning these into art with the stroke of pen? Yes, and so can you.
Anyways, with the Shutterfly email promotions, sometimes I manage to work with some books or prints – I would like to do more but it seems pretty pricey at normal prices.
Last year, I left a series of prints at Hamilton’s Supercrawl to be found. It was a series of three and I left them on garbage cans, curbs, window sills, hidden in brochures at the tourism office, inside gallery comment books, in cafe bathrooms, etc. I don’t know if anyone managed to collect all three, though I did leave complete sets at Hamilton Artists Inc.
This year is a bit different though. I’m in a decidedly “Salon des Refusés” mood about all things art in Hamilton these days – let’s just say there are way too many one-way streets here and not enough two way streets. I know now I am leaving here in just over a year. To where is not quite certain – certainly internationally is captivating me and the job opportunities for me are very lucrative. I know now I need a more “vibrant” urban core to work with, and even moving back to Toronto is real second option. This is because I know I’ll be working with the contemporary art and social media for the rest of my life, and if you are serious you generally have to leave Canada for greener grasses (or at least a bigger city in Canada). I think I have a lot to contribute to organizations as online communications professional, and I have a lot to contribute as an artist and general artsy smartass. Sometimes if the local scene is not getting this, you gotta shake things up and find somewhere where you can be who you know are. It’s about fatigue and both myself and other people taking things for granted. It’s also very exciting.
I’ll miss many people here and hope to continue life long friendships with them – and so this year’s print give away is not random, but I am giving some certain special people a set of prints that were part of but not displayed at my Uranus of Hamilton exhibit. Usually with a rather sappy and badly handwritten letter. Most of these are non-artist friends and I am not sure if they really like or “get” the work, but that’s ok, because it’s a sincere gesture. That, as an artist and a human being, is all I can do and what I try to do.
I called this 1995 oil on canvas series “The Flowering God Machine”.
During my last two years of art school, I had Hodgkin’s Disease. During my last year, I was finally diagnosed and underwent Chemotherapy.
It was rough, I won’t lie. I was scared at first, then gradually more and more annoyed at the inconvenience of sickness and death just when I was about to become an art star ;). I was also a single parent of a toddler. I had a job as a manager at an artist-run cafe. I was almost stage 4 (out of 5, very bad) and given a 70% chance of survival.
Really bad timing. (Honestly, it’s always bad timing but maybe getting cancer when you’re 98 years old is slightly better timing)
What was I supposed to do? It seemed obvious to most around me I should pack up, leave Montreal and move back to my parent’s house in Ottawa. Ugh. I just felt this was the wrong way to go – I would lose meaningful contact with my social network (reminder: this is pre-social media. BBS was an emerging technology). I would be in possibly one of the worst cities in the world for arts in 1995. I would be isolated, without my hard-earned, mostly lucked upon studio loft in Old Montreal. I had a hot contemporary dancer girlfriend. Worst of all, I would lose access to my young son.
It sort of struck me then that the best thing to do was not to suddenly stop my life, but to re-double my efforts at what was I wanted to do. I made more plans, I set more goals and stayed where I was. I drank more. I smoked more pot. I had more sex and very deliberately and methodically I made more art.
I used driving a car as a metaphor. Deriving life-saving inspiration from driving a car is kinda pathetic in retrospect, but for my age and situation driving a car was still very new and cool and the way to connect with people and places (Did I mention social media didn’t exist at the time?). Anyways, the metaphor is to keep your eyes on the horizon while driving and not on the road directly ahead of you. I figured by focusing on a distant goal i.e. graduating with my BFA, then I would effectively “trick” my body into getting through this ordeal without giving up.
This was a good start, conceptually. But as artists who work with their hands all know, the physical process of making art is where the real magic exists. So for my final art critique I worked on the below series of paintings. I used “Old Master” oil painting techniques of glazing, which involved lots of paint thinners, Damar varnish and rabbit skin glue. It took a long time and a lot of patience. It was perfect. My body had no choice to but to keep up with the project at hand. Perhaps it was pride but that kept me alive, but fuck it – ego works if applied properly!
Yeah, so I basically “Hemmingwayed” through this difficult period. I partied, I womanized and selfishly worked on my art in any way I damned well please. What were my professors going to say? They all let me hand in my work whenever I wanted. They gave me A’s. Some smoked pot with me. Ah, art school.
Don’t think that this was a giant pity party. I really suffered and in turn caused suffering to my friends and loved ones. Ever seen a toddler gravely worried about your mortality? It’s not pretty. Ever had an infection in one of your testicles? Also not fun. Ever been on an experimental drug that increases white blood cells but works too well and you end up with too much pressure from the inside of your bones out? That was almost indescribable. Ever spent a decade afterwards in a mental haze and physical listlessness because of the chemo and steroid cocktail you received? It’s been quite a trip.
Right. Back to the paintings below.
I called this series “The Flowering God Machine” because cancer seemed like a garden of sorts to me. It grows in you like you’re a garden, almost like it’s a separate life form. And it’s a fundamental part of our physical state of being – so it must be of “God’s Plan” right? (I wanted to give this some heavy associations so I used God in the title) Finally, the whole genre of cancer and treatments is very industrial revolution. If it’s chemicals that cause this, then we are fighting fire with fire because it’s chemicals we are using to try to defeat it, and is a huge industry – thus, it’s a machine. All in all, a pretty bad ass name for paintings about cancer, right?
The first one below is 4′ x 4′. The second one is really big: 6′ x 4′ and the last one is only about 17″ x 10″.
My art after this changed forever. I always felt lucky, and often like I shouldn’t have lived at all – perhaps I would of more easily achieved the reputation I wanted by “cashing out” at that point. That’s selfish. If you are an artist, or anyone with cancer or dealing with someone in your life with cancer here is my advice: make plans, make plans, make plans. The quality of life is the most important thing. Doing what you love and doing meaningful things helps greatly – making sure I got these three paintings done helped saved my life. I am sure of it.
My Montreal artist friend, Andreanne, told me my recent photo collage artwork gives her a “headache” when she looks at it. She also introduced me to her roommate as a “really good drawer”.
I get the sense she doesn’t prefer most of my work.
That’s ok, because she gave me feedback, and she doesn’t pussyfoot around – that’s all an artist can ask. I also kind of like the idea of my work giving someone a headache. That’s more powerful and tricky to do than perhaps making someone coo with how pretty a work is ;)
I also don’t mind criticism from Andreanne because she shows up to my exhibit anyways – and offers to help with any art installation or performance going on. Again, what more could you ask for?
So I got her help with another “Landscape with X” work – this time at a demolition site of a heritage building in my neighbourhood. I have a series of paintings I finished with the letter “R” repeated in it (sort of a reference for corporate involvement in my subject matter). So I used that in this work with Andreanne holding a piece of paper and I used my pocket projector, on site and at night. I think it turned out really well, and it gives me a little thrill inside that I had an artist who is not crazy about this work participate in helping to create it. Hopefully, someday this will be an interesting footnote in an art history textbook – because when you’ve involved two artists, you’ve doubled your chances of this happening.
From Feb 13, 2013 in Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico.
This is a work I am experimenting with by presenting it as an “Online Exhibit”. Though there is nothing new or experimental by having an exhibit of digital works on the web, I wanted to show the work in many different forms (i.e. photos, slideshow, collage, movie) on many different platforms (Blog, YouTube, physical gallery space) throughout 2013.
It is important to note that this 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 important part of the production philosophy for me. I welcome comments and questions in the discussion field below where this conversation can continue.
You can see the original posting with the work as a series of photos and a collage at:
You listen to the Audio Only Podcast or watch the video below:
Raw audio + finished video from a 20 minute interview on June 29th, 2013 of Christopher Healey. Conducted by Hamilton Artists Inc’s Curatorial Assistant Caitlin Sutherland, and Gallery Assistant Samantha Roketta, about my exhibit Mexico ii featuring paintings by my mother Beverly Healey and digital collages by me.
I’m the first artist for this video interview series for the Inc, and was glad to help out this way. I really appreciated being able to articulate more of about the show and the process, and yet still feel like I forgot to mention a couple of key points – of course. That is, essentially, my work is about death and the “thinness” of our existence – which is one of the reasons I used the sunlight and the materials I did, such as the skull and white plastic. My Mom’s oil painting portrait work is about life, and the richness of an individual’s character and immortalizing it.
More information at my original post about the show here: http://chrishealey.me/2013/05/26/mexico-ii-an-exhibit-of-paintings-digital-collages/
One of great things I enjoy about the culture of the Inc is involvement with some young graffiti artists – one in particular has been very involved. He got very excited telling me about the impression my Mom’s work made on him during the member’s exhibit “Oh my god it was so good – no offence, but it was the best work in the gallery… it’s like a 17th century painting by on old master… no one else came close to it – no offence to your work or anything – it was totally sick. If she gave me her one of her paintings, I would walk out of the gallery and never do graffiti art again.. I’m serious!..”
This was awesome feedback for my Mom :) Especially since we live in an age where street artists usually end up as the new art stars.
I’ll update this post when the video is available. In the meantime, enjoy the pictures of the exhibit below:
Beverly Healey & Christopher Healey
June 13 – July 6
opening reception is Thursday June 13th from 7-9pm-ish. Art Crawl is June 14th.
Two generations of Canadian artists, mother and son, present two different visions of the same place.
As tourists from outside of the culture, this is not really Mexico but rather alternate versions of Mexico framed within particular contemporary and modernist biases. Hence Mexico ii.
The artists wish to thank Paul Elia, Inspyder Software & Tom’s Bar.
@ Hamilton Artists Inc.
155 James Street North, Hamilton ON (at the north west corner of James and Cannon Streets)
I have an upcoming exhibit, sharing a space with my Mom, Beverly Healey, at Hamilton Artists Inc. The opening reception is Thursday June 13th from 7-9pm-ish. Art Crawl is June 14th.
It’s called “Mexico ii” and features work done from my parent’s residence in the town of Ajijic, Mexico – just south of Guadalajara. My Mom is a painter and a very different artist than myself so it will be an interesting show of contrasts and similarities. Of course, her being an artist has been central to my development and its a dream come true to have a show together like this. I know she’s looking forward to it as well.
I’ll post more work and info next week. As usual, these works I am posting here now probably won’t be in the final exhibit but are part of the same series.
My son and I fooled around with his new Windows phone and the “Symphony” photo app. This capture technology is a trend right now across many mobile platforms of producing a sort of half-photo, half-video looping clips. We ended up making a rather creepy series of carving and eating a mango.
I enjoyed the stresses and pushing, pulling of animating parts of the picture and leaving others static. Unfortunately, like most of Microsoft’s approach to apps, my control of the process is limited and the process plays out like a meek multiple choice that seemed more like a bad focus group result than a robust tool. Also, there was no way to export the result as a stand alone movie which is a troubling trend – these social app platforms are determined to keep the user and their content inside a “walled garden”. They want you to purchase their software to view your friends content.
So I filmed the sequences playing on the Windows Phone screen with my iPhone 4s and put it together with iMovie :) I like the degradated and shaky quality of this process and the audio I accidentally captured transferring the footage in this manner.
Update: my son has the original footage for the project, so it may appear again in a different presentation and in more pristine quality. I’d like to show them all in chronological order and simultaneously, both in a space and on a web page.
I had made myself promise I would not compose any text based work for a year. I kept falling back into the same work, the same way and it was slow and I was losing the joy.
I cheated a bit, but mostly held true to staying away from using text – and super glad I did. I’m feeling freer with the composition and quicker about it to – funny how feeling uncertain will slow things down so drastically. I am now officially allowed to work back in text as much as I want.
Yep, another series to finish off – this one will be called “AP3″. This will be with a lot of stencils work and on a stack of very nice arche rag paper that I’ve been hoarding for almost 20 years. It’s … relieving to have this kind of clean break from the old text work to this.
I thought I was alone these last couple of years watching in awe the monstrous, billowing, sky creatures of Hamilton’s industrial sector.
Oh, I know Hamilton is and has long been an area of fascination for artists both casual and professional. Most of what I’ve seen (and much of my own work) is based on the ground up i.e structures and landscapes. But just above that is another landscape entirely – and I’ve been referring to the airspace above the industrial sector as “landscape” because what is going on up there is far too solid and far too much a permanent fixture to be called anything else.
I look for the flames when I cross into Hamilton from work, and I’ll always glance to the air above the architecture to see what is billowing where … and just marvel at how large and, literally, “opaque” these are. Night and day, though wind and rain, I would explore vantage points and study these shapes. I started to take pictures, then time lapse pictures, then movies, then collages… and now, thousands of photos later my first exhibit with this series of work opens tomorrow at 173 James Street North. Both formal and a flight of fancy influenced by a healthy dose of local activism and politics, I started to anthropomorphise the emissions as kind of creatures of mythology. (Is “anthropomorphise” the right word? I’m not sure as technically I am ascribing qualities of non-humans, greek gods, to non-human emissions… )
The relationship, for me, drew similarities to what I assume living among titans and gods would of been like. Huge and obvious, dominating and affecting the landscape yet uncaring and oblivious to gnats like me frittering away at the edges. Sure, I can indirectly communicate with the people operating this machinery, but that is also a claim of priests and oracles at any temple. There are always prophecies of doom and of hope flying about in classical mythology, as there are in Hamilton council and on the local chorus – twitter. I could go on, but that’s basically how my mind always keeps connecting things on me and then I tend to go “deep into the rabbit hole” with work and research. And that’s how I arrived at this collection of digital prints, my first solo exhibit in many years. It’s called “Uranus of Hamilton” – and yes, I know. The name has a few different stories to it, though it is the correct name as this 7 work exhibit refers to the creation mythology of Ancient Greece.
Anyways, so I thought I was alone out there watching for industrial emissions because of their visual qualities. But I was not alone – here’s a recent CBC Hamilton news article about Lynda Lukasik, executive director of Environment Hamilton, who was out there around the same period “documenting and photographing the emissions for months”. I didn’t know there were laws on the opacity of industrial emissions, and it’s neat to think that what I saw as formally fascinating yet rationally horrifying was kinda validated by this unfolding environmental story.
I am very impressed with Lukasik and local residents for their work on this, and very grateful. It’s a real effort, I think, to break out of our accustomed blind-spots that build up over time and prevent us from seeing some of the absurdity right in front of our eyes. These titans of industry are no slouches – they know what they are doing and they know how to minimize the perception of their presence. For example, I can’t get anywhere inside the industrial sector – I once got in trouble by three security guards for standing on patch of corporate lawn to take a picture of a statue. Public parking is also non-existent in that area and they spend a lot of time and money doing marketing and PR based on charities and the arts.
As thick and opaque as Dafasco’s industrial emissions, this kind of practice shields their activities from most citizens by associating what we are seeing with warm and fuzzy feelings about community and jobs and things like that. Adding insult to injury is the fact that they are spending millions on marketing while receiving millions to keep the plants open. They are also not spending the millions government is spending to clean up toxic areas such as Randal’s Reef.
This asymmetrical scale of priorities and responsibilities is a neat trick of smoke and mirrors. I learned it takes full time dedication from patient and perceptive locals to see through it and be able to change the titan’s behaviour. I, on the other hand, was only observing the titan behaviour.
Some more work from that series is in this post, but not of the works in the exhibit though. You’ll have to show up sometime with April 12th to May 6th to see those.
Bonus: I’ve included a sort of “hidden” work in the gallery that is based on the below raw footage of Tartarus.
I was feeling like my personal twitter account, @muskoxen, was losing focus. I was meandering in bit in timing and content and losing interest fast – and losing followers as well, though quality is better than quantity for an earnest and meaningful dialogue. I have lots to say but was tiring of text, as that seems to much of a … box, somehow. I needed to get fresh with what I’m posting, more challenging in a way and also more experimental for twitter users.
Something I’ve been thinking about for a while was switch entirely to photos on social media for a year and see what happens. This seemed like a perfect time, though I’ve limited the experiment to this one twitter account and changed the parameters to be pictures, movies and/or audio. Also, links, retweets and especially hashtags are ok, otherwise it kinda looks like spammers have hacked my account before anyone would even look at a picture attachment.
I’m a flanuer and I like immediate dialogue so this feels like it’s working well with my neighbourhood photos and local based community on twitter. My photos of Hamilton, without a lot editorial, for a year will hopefully have an effect on building awareness of what’s going on in central Hamilton, and in my studio.
After all, the web is heading to be primarily a video based medium – this is just ahead of the curve… ha. But it is an ongoing interest for me to contain the entire capture, production and publication process of the work cycle to a mobile device.
Below are some of the photos i’ve posted to twitter since March 30th, 2013. The project runs until March 30th, 2014.
Thanks to my studio assistant with the robust, young shoulders I finally assembled and hung the long suffering portrait of Hamilton. This work, consisting of 80 separate little canvases stapled together, is preciously why I am an artist and not an engineer. As of the time of this post, it’s actually holding up quite well though stretching a bit – but I like being able to see staples bridging some gaps in the city-scape.
This work is the last of the 2011 urban survey series. Thanks for the help James.
April 12th- May 6th
173 James Street North, Hamilton, Ontario
Opening reception Friday, April 12th 7-9pm
Displaced Landscapes: Uranus of Hamilton| Christopher Healey
Please join me during Art Crawl night on James Street North for my new show of photo based prints based on local skyscapes. These are selected works from my Hamilton series focusing on industrial emissions in the city – but pretends what we are seeing is actually Greek Mythology. Below is part of the exhibit statement: ~ Chris
“According to the poet Alcman, Aether was the father of Ouranos, the god of the sky. While Aether was the personification of the upper air, Ouranos was literally the sky itself, composed of a solid dome of brass.”
“After Cronus was born, Gaia and Uranus decreed no more Titans were to be born. They were followed by the one-eyed Cyclopes and the Hecatonchires or Hundred-Handed Ones, who were both thrown into Tartarus by Uranus. This made Gaia furious. Cronus (“the wily, youngest and most terrible of Gaia’s children”), was convinced by Gaia to castrate his father. He did this, and became the ruler of the Titans with his sister-wife Rhea as his consort, and the other Titans became his court.”
As an industrial city and port, Hamilton has a particular relationship with the sky, earth, fire and water. It’s an elemental dynamic that is always at play, and that makes for a sweeping and majestic landscape. This primal yet manufactured visual is reminiscent of Greek mythology, and prompted me to dissociate elements of what I was seeing, and to re-frame them as scenes from classical stories. The hubris, struggle and morality lessons of creation mythology are an apt commentary of a Hamilton in a state of identity crisis: The titans borne of industry and their older world status are being challenged by a younger, cleverer community. It’s a grand philosophical battle that is reflected in the devastated areas of the urban core and in the physical manifestation of our relationship with the sky.
Formally, since moving to Hamilton late in 2010 my process has been greatly influenced by the built heritage, community relationships / history with industry and the perceptions of Hamilton from both inside the community and outside of it. This series of work, outside of my usual practice of drawing and painting, is my first exploration of digital print based media.
Through digital photography and layering techniques, these prints are a perspective of landscape as environment of cloud, air and emissions. A familiar and often documented fixture in the Hamilton community, as well as many other communities, smoke stacks are universally symbolic of industry, environment and politics.
In this series, I am attempting to focus past these common discourses and formally examine the ephemeral and displaced characteristics emissions of steam / vapour / smoke without it’s architectural source or other visual clutter. It can be argued this moment of shape and process is a valid, important and beautiful part of our visual community landscape as any building or geological feature – especially if we remove it entirely of our own bias and associative meanings of it’s practical function and effects.
Can the shapes and movements of emissions transcend preconceived notions of industry and be accepted as a natural part of our immediate environment?
These careful studies ask this absurd question by de-contextualizing the natural and the manufactured as a process of artificially homogenizing multiple images. The result is series of very soft, subtle fields that are both familiar and strange, encouraging study and contemplation.
173 James Street North
Media Contact: Christopher Healey