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The UN/makers Series & UN/making the Frame

For those of you who haven't seen the advertisement of the online interview series I am conducting, I invite you to come out on Thursday night from 7 - 8:30 pm to hear my chat with the wonderfully talented and thoughtful interdisciplinary artist Michelle Wilson. Recently awarded her PhD from Western University, Wilson's research has been helping to redress Canada's colonial history of the buffalo and is now working with the Coves Collective to help remediate soil in London, Ontario. To register you can visit the Eventbrite link or follow the zoom link featured below at 7 pm this Thursday at 7 pm.

If you haven't been to check out my exhibition at Georgian College, UN/making the Frame is a large scale installation constructed from the lines found within one still life painting. Resisting the pressure and desire to create more drawings, paintings or sculptures for the exhibit, the entire space was constructed from only using reconfigured art works in my existing archive, ready-mades and black tape.

Beyond trying to be more ecologically friendly, something I was thinking about when conceptualizing the exhibit was how nothing is 2D or flat, as all objects, whether they be paintings, a table cloth or masking tape, only ever represent 5% of the total amount of material that goes into the making of something. By extending the picture plane of the still-life entitled Landscape on Table, which you can see in the back left hand side of this image, I was hoping to draw attention to how everything, including humans, are part of a much larger four dimensional ecology of physical and psychic material. When I say psychic material, what I am alluding to is how materials, things, images, colours, textures, spaces, and places have affect on those who encounter them. So despite the installation reflecting an environmental concern, which one might expect to be dark and depressing, I intentionally set out to design a space that emanates a lightheartedness and joy, while also illustrating how the old can become the new.

The unmaking of the picture plane of the painting also evolved into other approaches to unmaking the frame:

  • house hold items were integrated to blur the lines between a gallery space and home,

  • old frames were cut up to make a ladder,

  • surfaces were mirrored to help create multidimensional reflections,

  • old stretchers were deconstructed to signify a forest,

  • canvases were cut from their stretchers and reconfigured into sculptures,

  • the installation was extended beyond the confines of the gallery,

  • objects were positioned in an abstract way to un/make our normal frames of reference when it comes to a thing's function or placement within a space, and

  • flowers, a record player, salted licorice, exercise balls and push carts were placed in the installation to un/make the sterility of the white cube and stimulate senses often denied or discouraged within a gallery space.

Simultaneously familiar and unsettling, there are also juxtapositions within the space that point to connections between iconography and materials on display with a ceramic sheep placed beside one of my wool entanglements and a ceramic rabbit by Frith Bail situated so it is confronting a fur rug on the wall.

On clear display, is also the wonderful book by Seetal Solanki that outlines a number of creatives who are inventing new materials and using new methods that help to address the huge amount of waste in the world. If you are in the space, feel free to pick up the book and look at all of the innovation happening in the areas of design and craft which we can begin to incorporate as artists.

Also trying to un/make the idea that art is only an object that can be consumed, when in the gallery, visitors can view a series of stop motion videos that share the process of the installation. For me this is where the art lies. Then, and when the audience shifts from observers to doers. By drawing attention to the multiple stages of the installation and the methods of unmaking that were undertook to arrive at certain aspects of the show, I also draw attention to labour as a material that matters, somethings artists are drastically underpaid for despite what they bring to a community. To be honest, about eight days in, there was a part of me that wanted to retreat to my studio to paint over old works on canvas and questioned why I was working so hard for something so short lived.

For the most part happy with the installation, from a critical eco-ethical perspective there are a few things I would change upon redesigning the exhibit. By providing marker outlined suits for visitors my hope is that visitors would feel a part of the drawing and take up a variety of different prompts around the room that encourage play, self care as well as care of the space. Where this falls down is where I have encouraged people to eat bananas and and zest lemons, two fruit products that have to travel from way outside local food economies. There are also four different objects plugged in to help animate the space and keep my plants alive. We often don't think of our energy use in galleries, but just the lighting alone, left on all day regardless of visitors or not, is something to consider. I was also told that the tape I had bought for the install was contentious in that the owners of Uline are big TRUMP supporters. I haven't researched this for myself as of yet, but it provides one more example of how we need to unmake the distance between ourselves and what we are buying to become more ethical consumers and producers. If you visit the space, you will also be able to discern the number of car trips I would have needed to make to the gallery to complete the install. Working for 10 solid days, each day I would bring a new car load of "stuff" to the space as well as made many trips to thrift shops and people's homes to pick up my Facebook Marketplace purchase. As all things come to an end, there will also be all those car rides home from the gallery. I hope you will have an opportunity to visit and engage with the space before that day comes.

To read or learn more about the exhibition from outside of the region, check out the AKIMBO listing or listen in on the live artist talk on Tuesday, November 22 starting at 10 am. Link to follow.



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