Artist seeks in other what he already knows for himself
Published November 21, 2013 by Andrea Williamson
in Visual Arts
In her book Ugly Feelings
, Sianne Ngai references Herman Melville’s character Bartleby the scrivener as a near complete example of political and emotional inertness. In the story, a while into his new job as a wealthy Wall Street lawyer’s scrivener, Bartleby politely refuses to do his job with each renewed request. He also declines to move from his small office corner until finally, he is imprisoned. The scrivener is known to scholars of short fiction as a classic embodiment of clinical depression that results from powerlessness and suspended agency in a modern bureaucratic world.
There is a sense today that we are at a loss to change the face of government policies, our cities and even our daily lives. We seek retreat from the mechanical churning of ordered production to something personal, heartfelt and honest. These feelings of dysphoria are felt ever more acutely by artists attempting radical political change using a language that is incompatible or untranslatable within today’s political systems.
Steven Cottingham, in his literature-soaked exhibition at (the fittingly equivocal) Untitled Arts Society, makes his subject this very incapacity to speak one’s truth in a world with no ears for it. The artist provides a simple pamphlet as a guide of sorts, reminiscent of Christian salvation propaganda found littered on the sidewalk, which bares the exhibition’s title: All My Faith to See
. On the verso a quote by D.E. Ofullnaegjand offers, “I know your tongue yearns like a beast from a cave to find an unknown burrow, a new language, a new love.” Though the works referenced inside the pamphlet and exhibited in the small Beltline gallery are made from various materials and processes, each of them expresses this yearning, like the scrivener’s, to “break through” bureaucratic limitations.
In a bold gesture that brings the above-mentioned metaphor back to a physical instance, the front window is taped up as though a rock broke through it. A cardboard piece used as temporary repair was once a mailing package; postal stickers reveal that it contained a meteor rock shipped to the artist c/o the gallery. The metaphor is clear: in place of the real rock breaking the window, the action exists as idea, conveyed in language and circuitous administrative processes. The involvement of the postal service, Internet vendors, gallery administration and even gallery architecture within the making of the work draws attention to the invisible and ubiquitous institutions that govern our movements even within the art world. At the heart of it, the physical meteor as the cause of all this administrative work is nowhere to be seen. Unknown whether the meteor was actually thrown through the glass or not, this piece titled “Even here, even now, fate will find us out” stacks reality upon idea and questions the relevancy of real action in an abstract world.
The other works in the show, arranged minimally and carefully under the guidance of feng shui’s spatial awareness, further this comparison of passion and inaction: a Kafka quotation from the unfinished novel The Castle
is written in invisible ink; a Gabriel Garcia Márquez quotation is written on cardboard in precise and artful calligraphy by a dispossessed and homeless man Cottingham met on the street ; a cyanotype of personal items is made somewhat illegible by the inexact process of sun exposure; hearts are carved into a tree branch that was felled by the flood. The tragic romantic figure who inhabits each of these pieces expresses unrequited love that falls through the cracks of a concrete world, like the charged words of a formal letter between speech writer and politician, on a page covered in magnetic paint, in a piece called “I Know a Place in Santa Fe.”
For a show that positions itself as a yearning for love and personal expression, there is little trace of the artist’s own words or hand. Instead, all of the pieces enlist or appropriate the work or skills of willing or unknowing collaborators. Cottingham’s decision to portray himself as arranger or curator of his show, rather than creator or maker, potentially betrays a lack of faith in his own personal expression. But a more accurate assumption would be that he arranges world objects and processes because he seeks in others what he already knows in himself. Sincerity of emotion is plentiful within the art world — the problem is elsewhere, in the world beyond art, we might say. This move from personal material to that of other people’s reveals that this show has political questions, if not intentions.
So what, if any, actions are proposed by the exhibition? Do the works chart a course for finding love in all the wrong places or does it simply say that love conquers all? Like his piece that frees Untitled Arts Society’s wifi network for any and all public use, the exhibition shows that bureaucracy is everywhere. But so is love.
With the first month of 2013 behind us the awesome just keeps coming. And, boy howdy, there’s a whole bunch more coming. Like this week – we have the next show in Theatre Junction’s epic season
, new art exhibitions, Exposure 2013
, the UofC is full of music
, filling Station launches issue 55
and so much more.
Art. Photography. Music. Theatre. Literature. It’s all here in this week’s Arts Round Up.
AMAZING NARRATION: Award winning actor, Dirk Roofthooft, stars in Sunken Red
, Theatre Junction GRAND’s newest show running this week only.
Photos by Pan Sok, Courtesy of Theatre Junction GRANDPerfection on Stage
It’s a classic Dutch novel brought to life by one of Europe’s greatest actors. It’s emotional. It’s tragic. It’s the next show in Theatre Junction GRAND’s
stars Dirk Roofthooft as a complex man reflecting on his childhood trauma – being imprisoned in a Japanese concentration camp with his mother.
Using five cameras to observe what’s happening on stage and sound techniques to enhance even a whisper, the piece takes the viewer into the character’s intimate world.
“Sometimes drama is hallucinatory,” states De Volkskrant, one of the Netherlands’s largest papers. “Like a trip, a dream that lifts you out of your theatre seat. It happens only rarely, but Guy Cassiers and Dirk Roofthooft have succeeded with Sunken Red
But it’s only here for a very limited engagement so make sure you go and checkout this masterpiece.Sunken Red
runs February 6 to 9 at 8pm.Conflict/ Resolution at the Untitled Art Society
It’s time to switch up once again at many of Calgary’s galleries and one new show this week shows awesome images that combine Eastern spirituality and mysticism to nourish the creative spirit.
Brian Batista’s Conflict/ Resolution
is being shown as part of the Calgary Animated Objects Society’s International Festival of Animated Objects
and runs February 8 to March 31 at theUntitled Art Society’s
I’ve been seeing a lot of Brian’s eye-catching work around lately with two simultaneous exhibitions in the EPCOR Centre for the Performing Arts building and Dive Inspiration
running in November 2012 at the Stride Gallery. His work is bright, engrossing and multifaceted and well worth a look.
There will be a closing reception on Friday, March 21 at 7pm and more information can be found here.Musicians Care for Boys and Girls Club
There are a lot of good causes in this city but the Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary are one of the best. Anything that helps kids is A-Okay in my book.
And for the fourth year, Musicians Care for Kids benefit concert will be raising funds to support this awesome organization.
The 4th Annual Musicians Care for Kids takes place this Wednesday, February 6 at the Jack Singer Concert Hall and features amazing Canadian talents like Reuben Bullock of Reuben and the Dark, Del Barber, Andrea House, Romi Mayes, Gordie Johnson of Big Sugar and David Gogo.
And Calgary’s own Mandy Stobo will be on hand doing a live painting.
Last year’s concert raised $30,000 and they’re looking to better it for 2013. All the proceeds will go to support the Boys and Girls Clubs of Calgary and more information can be found here.All Along at Pith
Here’s something awesome you might have missed and if you didn’t make it out for the opening last week, you still have plenty of time to check out the newest show at Pith Gallery in Inglewood.
features works by artists Hye-Seung Jung and Stacey Watson and runs until March 8.
As part of Exposure 2013
, Stacey’s photographic work on walking and the imagination graces the upper gallery while the lower galley is filled with a collaborative sculptural installation by Hye-Seung completed with photographic elements from Stacey.
“Artists are often keenly aware of social processes such as the formation of a city’s identity and see their role as creative and critical thinkers within these processes to be necessary. In All Along
, Hye-Seung Jung and Stacey Watson propose that there are a multitude of cities within every city—as many cities as there are living inhabitants, as well as those gone before and those yet to come,” says local artist and writer Andrea Williamson in her essay on the exhibition.Pith Gallery and Studios
(1018 9th Ave SE) is open every Saturday from 11am to 5pm or by appointment.Season of Strings at UofC
It’s a celebration of strings with violin and cello through piano, organ, and viola de gamba.
The University of Calgary is presenting a ton of great music this month with not one, but three shows, featuring strings.
First up is part of the Celebration Series: The Visionary Liszt this Saturday, February 9 and features Charles Foreman on piano.
It’s the sixth and final concert in his series of Liszt performances and will cap off with treasured pieces such as Fantasy and Fugue on the Theme B-A-C-H, En rêve (Notturno), Sonata in B minor and Hungarian Rhapsody No. 12.
Then it’s the Organ Series with Suites and Sonatas on Tuesday, February 12 featuring Neil Cockburn on the organ and Felix Deak on the viola de gamba.
And lastly, it’s the Quartet Series with A Celebration of Shostakovich II on Friday, February 15.
The UCalgary String Quartet will present Shostakovich’s Quartet cycle – often regarded as one of the most important achievements in this genre– along with works by Schubert, Grieg and Brahms.
All three shows take place, on their respected night, at 8pm at the Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall, Rozsa Centre and head over to performingarts.ucalgary.ca
for more information.New Gallery’s Secondary Explanation
A series of drawings and a narrated photographic slideshow will be taking over The New Gallery’s
main space but it’s a bit more complicated than that.
In Duane Linklater’s exhibition, Second Explanation
, his work is specifically reacting to an image of an appropriated traditional ledger drawing – and its problematic author – found online.
“The history of ledger drawing is quite complicated, but essentially they were drawings which were done by Native Americans while imprisoned for various ‘crimes’ by the US army,” explains Duane in a statement. “While incarcerated, the prisoners were given ledgers to make drawings – much of these drawings relate to the freedom that they once felt.”
runs February 8 to March 2 at The New Gallery (#212, Art Central, 100 7th Avenue SW) and a public reception will be held on Friday, February 8 from 8pm to 11pm.
Jack Bride speaking at the Untitled Arts Society building in Calgary during the Sled Island Music and Arts festival. My apologies for the style of shooting, was trying to get coverage wasn't quite ready for the presentation as it happened. Very interesting talk.
Watch the video: http://vimeo.com/53652185
Thanks to Tarantura Pictures and Sled Island for this video!
works within realms of the numinous, esoteric, transcendental, and ecstatic. He develops visual languages to tell stories and provide experiences that bring the viewer into states of disorientation, bewilderment, and contemplation. Pineal Hand
, his current solo exhibition at the Untitled Art Society, is proudly featured at next week's Sled Island Music and Arts Festival
Am I a hypnotist? Short answer: yes. One person at a time and completely of their own free will. Although, I don’t plant specific commands in anyone’s mind. No, what I instill in my audience is an awakening to non-ordinary realms of awareness. Research words like entoptic and hypnogogic; you will understand that I am reintroducing elements of reality back into my audience, who may have only seen such things in the dreams they forgot upon waking. My imagery not only speaks to the optical nerves of the human body, but also tunes in to an expanded response of the greater nervous system. The most common, lazy response to my work is, “I can’t look at that! It hurts my eyes!” We all know that those who claim such things are not in pain. However, if it is an awakening they are experiencing, well, sometimes the truth hurts.
2. Honouring the dead
In countless cultures, the process of death is given as much attention as the process of birth. When a member of the community dies, various degrees of ritual are carried out, sometimes for months. These rituals can involve burning effigies, building spirit homes, leaving specific objects at altars, even strict scheduling for when and how to dispose of a body. As critical as I can be of the neglect given to the dying and the dead in North America, I would rather give credence to the time and attention artistic types give to those fellow creators who have “dropped their bodies.” When artists die, their contemporaries come together in a ceremony geared specifically to the life lived by the deceased individual. For example, DVDs of short films and animations compiled to honor dead performers and independent film producers serve as requiems screened ceremonially in a fashion similar to a wake. This I have witnessed first hand.
As part of Sled Island 2012, an entire multimedia exhibition at the Museum Of Contemporary Art
will honor former Calgarian Chris Reimer, who passed away in February. Reimer’s spirit will be remembered and conjured through the auditory and visual recordings he made in his lifetime.
3. The sky
I live in the foothills of Alberta. The sky here is something of an evangelical entity, delivering a continual sermon upon humanity below. At any given time one can look up and feel rapture, brought about by the larger-than-life clouds and light above. Though this can be seen as a mere water cycle, wind current, or other banal weather trend, the sky refuses such impotent dialect, as its bombast demands not only attention, but reverence to the gods themselves inflating and crashing down to this strange, sacred, and rocky land.
4. The zodiac
Anyone who knows me at all knows that I enjoy astrology and the occult. What I love about astrology is how it relates the planets to our bodies. I see the human embryo floating within the womb, greatly unaware of gravity. There it is, a fetus, just suspended in a stasis of the primordial, rhythmic thrum. Then SNAP, FLUSH, SQUEEEEEEZE. Everything becomes too much, too soon. The first breath is forced into the lungs and, suddenly, the weight of the world is felt pulling upon every cell, demanding obedience to the magnetic forces of Earth. What I hypothesize is, when the newborn is in the throes of this initiation, its sensitivity to the forces of our entire solar system serve to brand the astrological weather of that moment onto its operative behaviors. It’s the universe saying, “Here. This is your map. Do what you will with it.” That is the natal birth chart. A planetary equivalent to genetic influence.
5. Spirit vs. matter
Part of my process as a human being is a coming to terms with what is “psychic” and what is “concrete.” I have gone through times where I side with one nearly completely and the other barely at all, and vice versa. It can be enlightening to realize it is all a projection and everything one employs to approach the outside world is a myriad of projections in relation to objects living, dead, and non-living. A mirage of seeing what one wants in the world or from it. However, you never know if that outside world is as real as the realm of the psychic. Therefore, I need to engage with the outside world as a way to close the circuit of mind and matter. I need to discover what I find fascinating, thus transferring elements of myself onto that which fascinates me. Dealing with my own obsessions in an objective way is what makes living in this world so anxiously exciting.
Some good openings going on around town this Friday: Cassandra Paul
‘s Cadavers Dressed in Rainbows
, at Untitled Art Society
, opening April 20th from 7 – 10 PM, and running through to May 12th.
Imagining a post apocalyptic planet, Paul’s work concentrates on depicting what the world might look like when void of any life. Highlighting the amount of waste left behind by a single person, Paul’s paintings and three dimensional works seek to focus attention on the quantity of material possessions we collect and carelessly discard of. https://www.facebook.com/events/368748493166160/
, curated by Austin Taylor, opening at Circa Showroom – good group of artists!
Featuring Artwork By:
Tyler Los Jones
Kent Merriman Jr.
Kristine Zingeler Two Liners
736 17th Avenue SW (Backdoor)
Friday April 20th
7PM – 11:30PM https://www.facebook.com/events/333552883375093/
http://freshbreaddaily.ca/?p=12361. Please tell me a little bit about yourself and your practice.
Well I’m an artist and facilitator or “cultural worker” as they say. I’m currently based in Calgary and have been here for the past 6 years, but grew up in rural Alberta. My practice has mostly been focused on site-specific installations which I consider to exist somewhere between the realms of architectural intervention and three-dimensional drawings. There’s an element of “fact or fiction” in my work as I’m interested in exploring the boundaries of different mediums. I’ll often use two-dimensional materials (paint, ink, etc.) to mimic three-dimensional objects like string and mesh wire, and investigate the transition between the two. I’m really conscious of the formal aspects to my work, taking into consideration colour and composition, but I’m also quite interested in seeing how art and space affect or influence each other and how that changes our perception of our environments. That’s basically my practice in a nutshell. 2. Where did you study? What kind of an influence has this had on your practice?
I graduated from ACAD
in 2010 with a major in painting. I think the studios there were the biggest plus for me, having the freedom to do nothing but create and work out ideas. I was able to learn different medias and that’s something that I was interested in exploring, combining print media, painting, and sculpture to make art. There was also a really strong sense of community there; I really appreciated being able to work so closely with other people in my department. I also grew up in a really small town so I didn’t have much sense of contemporary art before ACAD, so it really set the pace on where my practice is now. 3. What have you been doing since graduating?
Right after I graduated I started working at TRUCK Contemporary Art
in Calgary as the Programming Coordinator. It’s been great to have the opportunity to work with so many different artists from all over. I’ve also been involved with M:ST Mountain Standard Time Performative Art Festival
and trying to keep up my own art practice outside of all of that, I just got back from participating in Art Souterrain
and Nuit Blanche
in Montreal. 4. What struggles do you face in your practice? Do you have any insecurities while making your work?
I think my biggest struggle is just making the time for it. I’m still kind of trying to find the balance between work, fun and my practice. You really just have to make it a priority if it’s something you’re serious about, what helps me is having deadlines to meet, applying for shows and trying to line things up so that I have something to work towards. I try not to stress about that too much because I’m working in a gallery right now, which has been really informative to me as an artist – learning the professional and administrative side of things. I think the biggest insecurity I have in making work is worrying if I’m doing enough, I don’t like the idea of becoming comfortable with my work because if I’m not challenging my process or my ideas then it really doesn’t leave me anywhere to go. I’ve considered my whole practice to be a bit of an experiment so there is always that room to fail, and for me that’s what makes it work. 5. Do you find yourself attracted to work that is unlike yours, or work that is very similar?
It’s kind of a mixed bag for me. I’m obviously influenced by work that is like mine and I do look out for it because it helps me critique my own work – seeing what I could do differently or how I can make things more successful. And when I say similar work, I don’t necessarily mean the visuals and design of something, but work that addresses similar interests and ideas to mine that are dealt with in a completely different way. But I definitely appreciate all kinds of work, I mean there’s nothing quite like a good portrait, right? 6. Who are some other Calgary-based artists whose work you are interested in? Artists in general who you are influenced by?
So many! This city has a lot of really talented people. Erik Olson
, Shelley Ouellet
, Sarah Smalik
are just a few Calgary artists whose work I always look forward to seeing, but it’s a long list for sure! In terms of influences, I’ve looked a lot at minimalism and op art but lately I’ve been looking at Sarah Sze
, Kristi Malakoff
, Jim Lambie
… again, it’s a long list! 7. What music do you listen to while working in the studio, if any?
I actually don’t mind it being quiet when I’m working by myself so I don’t always listen to music when I’m in the studio or installing. If I have people helping me with an install I’ll put the iPod on, I mean I can only make small talk for so long… 8. What are some of your favorite things to do in Calgary? Places to eat? Way to spend a day off?
Most of the time I stay at home and watch really bad TV. When I have free time I’m usually hanging out with friends or family, going to pubs or movies, I just bought a new bicycle…so, that’s fun. I don’t really have a favourite place to eat, but I like going out for sushi. I really like to cook, so I’d much rather do a dinner party with friends then go out. I sound like a hermit… 9. Do you have any upcoming exhibitions or projects?
I just finished installing a show at UAS Satellite Gallery
. Next year I’ll be doing an exhibition at The Ledge Gallery from March to May, 2013. Shortly I’ll be starting a position through the Public Art Program’s WATERSHED+ where I’ll get to work with lead artists Sans façon
, that’s going to be an ongoing project, I’m pretty excited for that! 10. Website? www.randyniessen.com
Niessen’s current exhibition, Vertigo
, runs at the UAS Satellite Gallery (343 11th Avenue SW) until April 7th, so get down to see it if you haven’t already!
All images via Randy Niessen and http://www.randyniessen.com/
Randy Niessen welcomes feedback from those who view his installations, but there is one proviso: Although the 24-year-old often works with yarn, he is not keen to talk about knitting. What Niessen wants to do is prompt viewers to consider his work from different angles. With his new installation, he hopes gallery-goers and passersby will pause to study his work through the large window of the Untitled Art Society. So, if you find yourself on the outside looking in, you’re doing just fine.