March 29: Monuments

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Ahoy, ahoy!

In our last class we had a guest lecture by Leah Garnett, who teaches drawing and sculpture in the Fine Arts department here at Mount Allison.  In her lecture she spoke of many different ideas and concepts pertaining to installation art as well as sculpture.  However, one thing that she did mention was the concept of monuments.  Monuments are all around us, every day.  Usually, a monument is erected or commissioned as a piece that is in memoriam of someone, or a group of someones, to recognize a great act, deed or sacrifice.  Here at Mount Allison, we have memorial plaques in the student centre that commemorate and recognize students who attended the institution, but gave their lives to fighting for Canada in various wars.  Almost every town or city will have some sort of war memorial, whether it is extravagant or simple, where wreaths are placed each year on Remembrance Day.  And yet, the interesting thing to me, is that I have never questioned or wondered who exactly designs all of these memorials.

One of the simplest forms of monument that people are likely to be familiar with is that of a headstone.  Though in modern Western society these are personal monuments for loved ones, they are still recognizable as a structure that is meant to stand as a lasting reminder that this person, did indeed exist.  Of course, headstones and grave markers have not always been simple, nor do they remain simple today.  Ancient Egyptians had intricate pyramids for their most honoured dead, while ancient Greeks and Romans had necropoleis, literally “cities of the dead” where the deceased were left to rest in replicas of houses.

This practice of remembering those who have passed on through monument lives on in such a similar fashion.  The wealthy dead will have masoleums or memorial statues, while the less wealthy may have just a simple head marker.  If you sacrificed yourself or were an important personage in the country or city you grew up in, a monument may be erected for you, in the form of a plaque, building or statue.  Now, companies design the basic tombstones for “everyday” deceased people, but people of significance will be rewarded with something more.  This something more will likely be commissioned by a branch of government and designed by an artist.  However, the concept of the monument itself is what interests me the most.  Why do we feel the urge to commemorate people through monuments?  I suppose it may be related to an idea of creating something physical that be a visual reminder to people.  After all, the proverb does go “out of sight is out of mind”.  Perhaps human nature demands a visible presence in order for remembrance and respect to be dutifully paid to these honourable dead.

That’s all!

Brit

March 24: Installation and Conceptual Art

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Conceptual art,as well as installation art, can be confusing for some people. Heck, even I find it confusing sometimes.  This is one of the reasons why I find this youtube video both hilarious and thought provoking:

The idea of adding false labels to everyday objects within a museum setting makes me smile, but it also encourages me to think about what exactly is being presented to us?  Is the intent of the false labelling to encourage us to reflect on what we believe conceptual art is to be?  Is it making a mockery of conceptual art?  Or is it presenting an idea of guerilla art, the idea of putting false art into a museum to see if people believe and accept it a credible work, solely based on the presence of a label?  Evidently the artists here see this as a project, not a prank, and they carry out this work at more than one museum worldwide.  The work is credited to an artist or a group of artists called Tiny Arrow.  I searched on the Internet for more information about their work but couldn’t find any.  However, the video in itself does a pretty good job on its own.  In a sense, this installation or alteration or addition of existing work was also a performance.  We see the artists intervening with the surroundings in order to place the false labels, we see the reactions of people around them.It is also largely based on conceptual art, so beginning with the MoMA seems natural to me.

The first piece at the MoMA is a drinking fountain.  This appealed to me especially because I visited the MoMA this past November.  While we were there, a student from the Mount Allison group broke a sink.  The first thing I asked my classmate who delivered this bit of gossip to me?

“Wait, so was the sink a display or in the bathroom?”

And of course, because it’s the MoMA, the sink had been on display in part of an installation about Tupperware and the American kitchen.

That’s all!

Brit

February 17: Censorship

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“Art is never chaste. It ought to be forbidden to ignorant innocents, never allowed into contact with those not sufficiently prepared. Yes, art is dangerous. Where it is chaste, it is not art.”

Picasso said this.  It is a quote about censorship, which Picasso himself was a victim of, multiple times.  As soon as a work is different, it is often seen as threatening.  Art and books are tow things that the public has access to, regardless of age.  Anyone can take out any book from a library, just as anyone can go see any painting in a gallery.  Film, however, does have a rating system associated with it.  But how can someone censor art?  Do you censor based on nudity?  Do you censor based on themes?  Indeed, some works are shocking, maybe vulgar to some viewers.  But often, the works being put on trial are ones that people are simply afraid of.

Censorship grows out of fear.  Sometimes, the intention of artwork is to make you uncomfortable.  Why are you uncomfortable?  Why are you so upset by this piece?  Art can be very confrontational.  After all, it is about the expression of feelings and ideas, not just a bunch of aesthetically pleasing paintings or sculptures, or what have you.

Censorship is Canada is an ongoing battle.  The CBC archives website has plenty on the topic.  From the array of stories and clips, one can see that the issues being challenged are vast and varied.  Some may appeal to you as much worse than others.  But who is to say what is offensive to whom?  We all interpret art differently.  If offense is the interpretation of one individual, does that mean that no one has the right to view the piece?

http://archives.cbc.ca/arts_entertainment/visual_arts/topics/300/

Food for thought.  That’s all for today!

Brit

February 15th: How To Effectively Show Video and Film

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Ahoy, ahoy!

I’ve gotten a bit behind on my blog entries, as the last week before the break was a rather hectic one!  Nevertheless, I have some time to make it up now.  On the fifteenth of February, we had a rather relaxing class, as we viewed a bunch of different videos and talked about the importance of the National Film board.

This class was obviously different in structure than normal, because we do not often sit for the full time and watch videos.  Not surprisingly, this was actually unintentional, as what was previously scheduled for that class had to be rescheduled.  As we sat and watched videos that varied greatly in content and construction, I began thinking about what the best way to show video is.  I have been in art galleries before that have had videos playing, and I do not always watch the entire thing.  If I come in during the middle of the video, will I even be able to understand what is going on in the piece?  Also, if I begin watching it, will I be sitting for 2 minutes or 2 hours?  I don’t believe it is very effective to show videos in galleries, but then where else are people supposed to go to view these works?  The National Film board website gives you access to either whole films or trailers, and you can buy some DVD’s of the works, but is this the only option?

I suppose another option for showing film would to have scheduled viewings, much like a film festival.  I know that last semester, the Sackville Film Society was showing experimental shorts before the feature presentation.  Perhaps this is an effective way of getting an audience for your work?  Additionally, sometimes the National Film board puts these videos/films on television.  If the film is short, this could be another way of getting an audience for the work.  We briefly discussed this problem in class, but it really got me thinking.  On my own personal exploration of the National Film board website, I certainly did not watch each and every film.  Some films I started and then stopped.  Having everything on a website makes it accessible, to be sure, but just because it is accessible does not mean it is being accessed as often as the artist would like.

This is the film I liked best on the National Film board website.

http://www.nfb.ca/partial/player/popout/35741/?ct=0

Maybe personal media sharing, such as blogging, is another way to get word out about particular films?

That’s all!

Brit

February 3rd: Performance Art

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Ahoy, ahoy!  If anyone is reading this (aside from when Gemey reads it in April), I hope your day is wonderful 🙂

We’ve been discussing performance art in class for the past few lectures.  Honestly, I find some performance art to be really weird.  I know that maybe that sounds offensive, but I have seen some examples of performance art that really do not seem to resonate as having much meaning, or, I actually find the concept to be off-putting.

Take Israel Mora’s Banff Centre piece, Level 7. He masturbated for six days and put his semen into seven vials.  The vials were strung between two trees on the centre’s property. I find it very hard to look at this as art.  Perhaps you need to have the piece explained to you or put into context in order to understand it more fully, but from what I could gather, this piece in particular was meant to represent the seven members of his family.  Somehow, I don’t think I would be too pleased if a member of my family “represented” me as a bottle of semen.

Then there’s Viktor Mitic’s Hole Jesus.  He took a painting of Jesus to a rifle range and pumped it full of gunshots.  Was there a deeper meaning behind this painting?  Not really.  Apparently, a critic told Mitic that his work was not penetrating enough.  As an act of retribution, Mitic decided to outline this painting of Jesus in bullet holes.

I dislike both of these performance pieces and don’t really see either one as art.  I know art is supposed to push boundaries and challenge our view of the world, but neither of these works do that for me.  Mora’s piece is something that I find unappealing based on the material being used and Mitic’s just seems like laziness, not a well thought out and carefully executed performance piece.  Yet his painting still brought in almost eight thousand dollars.

This is not to say that I dislike all performance art.  I think some of it is really quite brilliant and interesting.  Some artists are incredibly dedicated to a performance piece that they might be really passionate about.  Stelarc, for example, had a third ear implanted under the skin of his arm in 2007.  Stelarc also wants to put a microphone inside so anyone, anywhere in the world, can hear what Stelarc’s arm is hearing by connecting to the feed on the Internet.  In an interview, Stelarc said this work had been in progress for almost ten years, and it was clearly something he was very passionate about and dedicated to.  I like Stelarc’s arm-ear.  It may make some people squeamish, but I actually feel like I understand what the piece is about and the message it is trying to portray.

The context and place of the body in human culture is a much discussed phenomenon.  Many people feel that new technologies  and medical procedures play a large part in the increasing disconnect of physical presence being a necessity in the modern world. We can bank, shop, chat with friends and even order a pizza for supper without having to physically see or speak to another human being.  It’s kind of eerie, and also thought provoking.  Is this the future of how our bodies will be able to connect?  Are we losing touch with our physical makeup and presence?  Food for thought.

That’s all, and if you’re in the Maritimes, don’t get caught in a snowstorm!

Brit

January 20th: Artistic Ownership/Conceptual Art

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Ownership is a complicated business.  How we validate and regulate ownership of objects and properties is mainly tied up in legal forms and documents.  Contracts, agreements.  Sign on the dotted line, please.  We often do not give the process much though at all, unless an unprecedented circumstance arises in which the process is delayed or slowed.

Along with the advent of conceptual art, the lines of ownership become blurry.  All the artist may have really created is the concept of the art, and nothing else besides that.  An example that comes to mind would be Joseph Kosuth’s One and Three Chairs. Certain aspects of the work will change each time it is installed at a gallery.  The chair and the photograph of the chair are never the same, because the curator is to select a chair for the installment and then take a photograph of it, exactly as it is.  The results in varying installations of One and Three Chairs.

One and Three Chairs

One and Three Chairs

One and Three Chairs

As you can see from the three examples I have found of the installation, the physical chair is not the same one each time.  The only constant chair, which is the dictionary definition.  This is the only part of the work that Kosuth signed and it is put on display with the varying chairs each time.  What the galleries are paying for is the ability to use his idea in their exhibition.  One and Three Chairs was first conceptualized in 1965.  However, the artwork is still always changing, and the physical chair used does not belong to the artist.  It is the property of the gallery or the curator.  So how do we define who owns what part of the work?  Conceptual and theoretical art can prove to be thought provoking in many different ways!

That’s all!

Brit

January 11th: After a long hiatus…

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Ahoy, ahoy!

It’s me Brit, and I’m back again for part two of Canadian Art.  The winter break was lovely and refreshing, and now it is yet again time to hit the books.  We’re picking up Canadian Art again in the 1960’s to present day this semester.  So without further ado, I’ll be launching back into it.

Canadian Nationalism.  Oh long studied and disputed and mulled over topic by artists, writers, politicians and everyone in between, how I have missed you!  To me, I feel that Canadian patriotism comes in waves.  We are always at the height of our national pride during times when the Nation is put in spotlight.  Positive spotlight that is.  The sixties brought Expo 67 and the Centennial.  2010 brought the Vancouver Olympics, and more gold medals for Canadians on Canadian territory than any other country, in various different sports, including, of course, men’s hockey gold.  The truest epitome of national pride for almost any Canadian male between the ages of 2 and 200, showing the rest of the world that it was (and always will be) OUR game.  This time of pride for our country was so meaningful to some people that they are actually repeating it in Vancouver this February.

http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=161787573855201

This Facebook event has over 6’000 people agreeing to attend and over 20’000 people “waiting to respond”.  This event is organized to revisit a time when Canada was number one.  So what makes these moments so special to people?  I think it’s because it’s a chance to show off.  How are we showing ourselves off to the rest of the world?  How are we defining ourselves?  In the sixties, it was common to want to establish ourselves as not American, but not being American does not make you Canadian.  What makes us Canadian?  What do we want others to think of us?  What do other countries make of our anthem, flag, cities, people, culture, landscape?    I asked my friend on exchange in Britain, what do people ask you about Canada?  Expecting some profound response, I was shocked when she told me “They ask if we always have red beer cups to party with because they don’t have them there, and they (the British university students) associate them with movies about college.  You know, National Lampoon, that sort of thing.”  Another friend from the States, responded “You’re altogether too tolerant of the cold and snow.  If it’s cold out, it’s not beautiful outside, I don’t care if the sun is out.”

Not exactly what I was looking for, but I suppose it’s a start, and definitely different answers than what I would usually expect to such a question.  More to ponder on Canadian national identity?  Because really, I still don’t think anyone has figured it out yet!

That’s all!  And welcome back to second semester musings with me!

Brit

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