April 5: Handmade, Homemade, Selfmade, Craft?

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Ahoy, ahoy!

Welcome to my last entry for my Canadian art class!  It’s been a good run.  I hope this journal has helped me to be more interpretive with art and art forms.  I think it has been very useful for my reflections, so hopefully that is a good sign of my abilities to work with art in a productive manner.  In our last class, we tackled the homemade and handmade.  These works are used with methods such as sewing, spinning, knitting or cross stitching.  Typically, these activities are seen as women’s work or handicrafts from long ago.  I must say, I could hardly see my friends and I sitting around knitting or embroidering for an evening.  We’d much rather be out dancing, bowling, playing pool or at the very least, sitting at home and playing cards.  I don’t even know if any of us know how to knit.  I know it’s something I am always meaning to learn, yet never seem to have the time to actually try.  The reintroduction of craft into the fine art world is something that I think is wonderful.  Creating work with string and thread must take just as long as it does to sculpt or carve or paint something.  I also think it has opened up many avenues for reinterpretation of what art truly is.

Sewing and knitting and cloth seem so much more tactile to me, almost more friendly and inviting than a painting.  Concepts like knitting or embroidery are things everyone understands, even if it is just from some old cushions in your grandmother’s living room.  I think that often, embroidery and other things such as this can be more fun and playful than paintings, yet they can also be extremely beautiful, and really quite exquisite pieces.  To imagine that some people do not consider it art is ridiculous to me.  Have they never heard of the Bayeaux Tapestry?  This work is not an actual tapestry, but rather an embroidered cloth.  It has established itself within the canon as an important and relevant work of the early medieval period, not just for art history, but as a document of history in general.  Embroidery is simply another medium for creating work.

Halley's Comet in the Bayeaux Tapestry

For the last time, that’s all!

Brit

February 1st: First Nations Performance

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Ahoy, ahoy!

I can hardly believe it is February already.  It feels like the Arctic out there, with blustery snowy days and windchill of -40C.  Brrrrrr!  I’m happy to sit inside the library with a hot cup of tea and blog while the drifts pile up outside…

First Nations performance art is an interesting topic because too often, First Nations performance is used to demonstrate Canadian culture to the world.  The type of performance I’m talking about is traditional performance, that is, traditional dances and songs.  Often, these performances are done in the traditional dress of a particular First Nations group.  At the Vancouver 2010 Olympic opening ceremonies, every First Nations group in Canada was invited to dance and perform to celebrate the beginning of the games.

This ceremony celebrated the histories of the First Nations peoples, to be sure, but did little to recognize or acknowledge present day First Nations people.  These traditional dances originated with the express purpose of passing knowledge through the generations.  They ensured that the preservation of the legends and customs of their people are passed on.  The First Nations writer, Thomas King, often speaks about how knowledge is transferred from one person to another.  In his mind, becoming entertainment for others is what you do when you have nothing left to offer, when nothing else has worked in order to have your voice heard.  The very fact that contemporary First Nations performance exists demonstrates, to me, that becoming entertainment in this sense has been like a cry for help.  These new stories that are being manifested and performed through these performances are the ones that the next generation of First Nations are going to have to worry about.  The sale of their traditional lands, the contamination of their ancestral rivers and the general dissipation of their language and culture is what is happening, and these performances urge a change.

They are not only demonstrations that exist within the present, they look forward to the future.  These performances about the current plights of First Nations people provide us with information about what needs to be addressed.  Sometimes, when all you have left to do is entertain, the survival of your culture could very well depend on your performance.

That’s all!

Brit

January 20th: Artistic Ownership/Conceptual Art

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Ahoy, ahoy!

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

November 25th: Abstraction and Emma Lake

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Ahoy, ahoy!  It’s been a very cozy weekend here in Sackville.  The roomies and I have been drinking tea, and doing incredible amounts of homework. We’re all in different programs, but we are always all very busy during the last week of school!  Depending on which one of us you are, you have essays to write, photos to develop, lab reports to finish, songs to learn or conversations to transcribe…always go-go-go and never a dull moment!

So, now to throw us back to Thursday….
Abstraction in the Canadian art world began to take off during the late 1930s and early 1940s.  Paul Emile Bourduas was an influential player in the Canadian abstraction movement and encouraged his pupils to create spontaneous work.  He also wrote Refus Global, which is a social commentary on a call for reform in Quebec, and a separation of Church and state.

You can read it here: http://www.dantaylor.com/pages/refusglobal.html

As an early figure in this movement, many of his pupils were intrigued by him and his home in Saint Hillaire became a sort of artistic retreat for him and his students, where they would have discussions and suppers and develop new ideas and techniques related to the movement.  The importance of centres like this for artists to gather was very central to the implementation of the abstract art movement in Canada.

Emma Lake in Regina, Saskatchewan was the site for many summer school art programs put on by the Regina College School of Art.  In 1955, Kenneth Lochhead, one of the instructors of the time, decided it would be most beneficial to have major summer workshops out at the Emma Lake property rather than just the regular summer school programs.  He hoped he would attract some bigger names to the workshops and it would be a way for artists of the prairies, who were seldom paid much attention to by the larger city centres, would gain attention from the public.  The workshop proved to be such a roaring success, that it is still held annually each summer, as a way of connecting artists and bringing them together to share work and ideas.

To me, there is nothing better than a workshop to get creativity, ideas and conversations going.  Workshops can occur within almost any profession, and if they are done effectively, everyone involved walks away with a fresh perspective and new ideas.  They keep things moving, they allow for the evolution of ideas and most importantly, they bring people together who otherwise may not have had an opportunity to meet!  This was the original goal of the Emma Lake workshops and it proved to be more successful than anyone could have ever hoped!

Thats all for now!

Brit

October 21: Symposium of Art!

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Ahoy, ahoy readers, if I have any, that is.

Last class we spoke more about the Group of 7, Tom Thomson’s death and the evolution from the Group of 7 to the Canadian Group of Painters.  But I am more interested in an event that is going on in Sackville RIGHT NOW!  I’m talking about the Symposium of Art, that is put on by the Owens each year.  On Monday night, I had the pleasure of attending an Evening of Performance at the Sackville Music Hall.  I’d never been to the Sackville Music Hall before, but I have to say, what a venue.  It may be old and it’s glory days have been long ago forgotten, but this little space above Pickles and Blooms (German delicatessen and a flower shop) is enchanting in it’s new, rediscovered way.  It’s secret and tucked away, and though we were seated on plastic lawn chairs, looking at a sheet tacked to the wall for our viewing screen whilst shivering, it was truly wonderful.

The Sackville Music Hall- a Sackville hidden treasure!

The two film pieces that were shown were A Fool’s Errand and Bridge ProjectA Fool’s Errand was a documentary style movie made by Annik Gaudet of two people hitchiking their way to Gaspé (she was one of the two people).  The film was filled with scenic shots, shots of the road and some spoken parts that were updates of how the experiment was unfolding.  The two adventurers eventually made it to their destination, but the real point of the film was not the destination, it was the journey, as cliché as that may sound.  The interaction of the video with the surroundings of the Gaspé Penisula, interspersed with still photographs of the landscape was interesting to dwell on.  When one is hitchhiking, you’re going to be much more aware of your surroundings, in your stops than if you were in a car, and staying in hotels.  The environment and landscape around you becomes your home, in a sense, because you are truly living within it. Bridge Project was a collaborative work by Olivia McNair, a Fine Arts student at Mount Allison and Blair Ellis, a Music student.  I really liked this piece, as it was about the Bridge Street Bridge, which is one of many people’s favourite spots in Sackville, mine included.  The work had music created from people banging on the bridge, and it was overlaid with stories of people’s memories with the bridge.  Illustrations had been sketched to accompany the music, and were animated to move on the screen.  It was beautiful.

Landmarks can be so powerful for people, places that instantly jolt us to that sense of remembering, of being pulled back in time to a certain event, or person or instance.  What does the Bridge mean to you?  What do you think of when you think of the Bridge?  Olivia and Blair asked this of many people to help with their project, and though they only featured a small sample of the Bridge stories, I’m sure everyone they asked had something important to say.  I have my own Bridge memories too.  Sitting at the end of the old bridge, on a red blanket, eating a mixture of berries from a tall Tupperware container.  Making fun of you because you had forgotten to wear an actual jacket, and wrapped your torso in the blanket, then put your sweater on over top.  We stopped at Bridge Street Cafe for a small hot chocolate and peanut butter cookie each.  I bought them for you because you never carry cash.  You were worried people would know there was a blanket under your sweater.  I just laughed and ate all the whipped creme off your hot chocolate when you weren’t looking.

A landmark can be anything.  It just has to hold meaning to you.

Brit

October 7th: Canada’s Landscape, from Sea to Shining Sea!

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Ahoy, ahoy!  First of all, Happy Thanksgiving weekend!  I celebrated with a quesadilla from Jungle Jim’s. Very different from a big celebratory feast, but I was among friends, so the experience as a whole was actually quite lovely. Anyways, I know this one’s a bit late going up, but it’s been a bit of a holiday for the past two days…time to get back into reality!

Our focus last Thursday was the Canadian landscape, yet again.  Going into this course, I wouldn’t have thought we would spend so much time focused on the Canadian landscape painting.  I’m unsure of what else I though we would be learning about, but when you think about it, it actually makes quite a bit of sense that so much Canadian art would be inspired by our landscape.  In this lecture in particular, Gemey mentioned that the landscape was what Canadian artists realized they had to “sell”.  Other industries realized this as well, and with the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway, one could travel from one end of the country to another and take in all of the natural beauty our country has to offer.  Tom Thompson and the Group of Seven would later reinvent landscape painting, and those who first forayed into the field painted everything from Banff’s mountains to exciting canoe scenes of river rapids to the great cedar forest of British Columbia.  The terrain seemed to be pure and unharnessed by man’s industrial touch.

Emergent artists today are still very much involved with interaction between themselves and the land.  This weekend, I had the pleasure of going to the Confederation Centre in Charlottetown and going to the art gallery.  A new exhibition by Hannah Claus was being installed and I find that she is an artist who draws on landscape in a much more subtle way in her work, but it is still there, quite present.  Hannah came to speak with my film and photography class about her work, and her artistic style is influenced by her Mohawk background.  There were a few pieces at the Charlottetown exhibit that stuck out to me as interaction between landscape and the artist.  The first piece was a projection of a blue china pattern dish of water onto river rocks  The projection is obstructed every few seconds, by a drop of water into the dish.  This projection of a European china pattern onto rocks, signifies an interesting correlation between the artist’s Mohawk heritage and European heritage.  Is European influence merely a projection onto the Canadian landscape?

This is the clearest image I could find of the installation.

The concept of European presence in Canada as being a temporary thing is absurd to most people, laughable even.  We most definitely believe we, those of European descent, are here to stay.  Is our country not often described as a melting pot, or a mosiac?  Canada’s culture and people are described as being a fusion, a blend, a mixed bag of any sort of combination or possibility.  Surely European presence is more than just a projection?  Yet, in another country, similar to Canada in it’s history of colonization, and also a member of the Commonwealth, is New Zealand.  The ongoing controversy of who owns the coastline of New Zealand was addressed in the Foreshore and Seabed Act of 2004, which declared the land to belong to the Crown.  However, in June 2010 the Act was repealed.  Will the Maori people of New Zealand gain control over the coastline?  It’s a very real possibility, and the prevailing presence of the European New Zealand citizens may actually come to an end.  While their influence may never be completely eradicated, it is quite the concept to consider that the control may be taken away from them and given back to original inhabitants of the land.  To learn more about the current status of the Foreshore and Seabed Act, visit http://www.justice.govt.nz/policy-and-consultation/foreshore-and-seabed

Well that’s all for tonight!  Hopefully everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving!

Brit

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