Chaos of Surfaces

Remember the austerity of Swedish design? Remember the clean lines and huge expanses of white, cut through with perfectly placed blue pencil lines? Forget all that. This is what greets visitors at the entrance to the new Ikea-mega-complex in Richmond:

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WOW.

I have an untested theory that the quantity of textiles that we encounter in designed spces (retail displays, show rooms, new restaurants, etc.) is inversely proportional to the cost of textiles, and their transport to North America. In the last ten or twenty years (since NAFTA, infact) retail fabric stores have closed, restaurants have become fabric-free, curtains and tapestries are no where to be found in this city of glass... But look: Ikea has obviously sourced very inexpensive expanses of printed cloth, and even a cheap sewing machine to take home! None of this adheres to an ecological 100-mile way of living, but then:

"The Office for Soft Architecture finds the chaos of variation beautiful. We believe that structure or fundament itself, in its inert eternity, has already been adequately documented--the same skeleton repeating itself continuously. We are grateful for these memorial documents. But the chaos of surfaces compells us towards new states of happiness." Lisa Robertson, "Rubus Armeniacus: A Common Architectural Motif in the Temperate Mesophytic Region" in Occasional Work and Seven Walks from the Office of Soft Architecture.

Finished today, the latest Comforter Art Action:

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Emily Simpson designed it from the box of mail-art-derived 6" squares in my studio. It was knotted on the street in downtown Vancouver as part of the Manomano Collective's TOGETHER 2012, street intervention (August 25, 2012) - manomano


Blankets in Motion Pictures

About a month ago I was sent links to these two, contrasting, motion pictures about blanket projects. Like a curator who has stumbled on contrasting but cohesive artifacts/creations, I wanted to put them side by side in a blog post, to show the depth of meaning that is embedded  in projects about blankets.

First, Pamela Calore from San Diego sent me a very simple image archive that she put together after spending a day in the company of Micaela Saucedo who is shown dstributing food and blankets for migrants in shelters and canals in her city. It is a collection of pitcutres that document the extreme living conditions for some of the homeless in border cities, and the work of people who are try to make their lives a little more bearable. Pamela is an artist and activist who works for the San Diego-based Border Angels advocacy group. Their activities can be followed here - borderangels.org

 

Next, Yvonne Mullock sent me a link to a blog that she has helped to set up for a group of Fogo Island quilters in Newfoundland - quiltyquilts.blogspot.ca On the blog, I came across this video that Tim Wilson created with the backing of the Shorefast Foundation. The Shorefast Foundation is funding Yvonne's work with the quilters. They aim to create a massive stash of quilts to be used (showcased) on beds of the soon to be opened Fogo Island Inn. This short video gives a taste of the culture that produces the blankets, through a skilled, multi-generational group of women. Even the mummers show up... so it doubles as a holiday greeting.

 

OLD HANDS: The Quilts of Change and Fogo Islands from Shorefast Foundation on Vimeo.

Both of these videos are inpsiring a new chapter (a renewed action) in Comforter Art Action. Stay Tuned... let me know if you want to make a blanket(s) with me in 2013! loiszing[AT]telus[DOT]net

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Creative Commons Salon

Last week I was asked by the new Canadian Creative Commons Affiliate to be part of a salon on how artists are using the creative commons. This call sent me straight for the boxes of Mail Art that I accumulating during the final decade of the last millenium. From the top of one of the Renegade Library  archive boxes, I found an "Add & Pass On" book that today is a perfect example of how  marginalized artists in the 1990s were motivated to work collaboratively and in an international context. They were situating their early "scoial media" in the context of Fluxus and Ray Johnson. They were saying over, and over again: I make art in a social and open context.

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Flux, September, 1996 (approx.), various contributors. From the Renegade Library archive (L. Klassen 1998- present).

At the salon, I also quoted a text that was written for the Creative Commons by Glen Lowry, Marina Roy, and Joomi Seo, Rob Stone, and Robert Sweeny during QR_U (an open school) at Emily Carr University Concourse Gallery last year. The entire text was written collaboratively over 24 hours using a shared google doc. It can be found in its entirety here: http://qruopenschool.ca/

This is the portion that I read at Creative Commons Salon:

Artists are amongst the most dedicated to the commons, as they do the most in funding the production of creative works that are freely shared with the public. In terms of the amount spent on promotion of the arts, this pales in comparison to the sheer number of talented artist who support their own practice through working in various capacities and making work “in supplement” to their daily labour in other forms of work. The remarkable commitment of artists and artist collectives is tempered by the extremes of a global art market and the “star making machinery” of certain art schools or programs. Within a creative economy, the work of art is highly ambivalent. On the upper edges, the creative output, cultural products of contemporary art stars might approach the returns on investment (ROIs) of more lucrative creative enterprises, such as the gaming industry; in the main, artists who can not be promoted and marketed as top flight entertainers are paid as artisans or more often than not, end up teaching applied skills. In this way, the ideals of the commons are difficult to separate from the necessities of sustainable creative practice.

(Glen Lowry, Marina Roy, and Joomi Seo, Rob Stone, Robert Sweeny, "What is the Open School of the Arts?", Collaobrative Text, QR_U (open school), 2011, page 5.)

 

 


Mayne Island Comforts

This is late, but I want to acknowledge the hospitality and comforts offered to me and the project, Comforter Art-Action, way back on Februray 24-25 2012 by Kriss Boggild. Kriss hosted a retreat of sorts, for her and Elaine Mari and me at her recently renovated Mayne Island home. We ate and talked and sewed; caught up on life and had long conversations about textiles, and other cultural observations, frustrations, and puzzelments within our lives. As a result, we completed four lovely knotted blankets which will soon be delivered to MCC, for distribution to a displaced person or family, somewhere out in the world.

Thank you to Kriss and Elaine for a restorative weekend, and for putting something of yourselves into the on-going Comforter Art Action project. I really admire your insights into art and life and, by extension, your multiple intellegences.

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Social Innovation is...
From Charile Cannon, Waste For Life: Materials Research and Social Practice, Emily Carr University, Re-Making Re-Search, Feb 17, 2012.

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Honouring the Mending Aktion - Verb Woman Wins a GG

Congratulations to Margaret Dragu on winning one of this year's prestigeous Governor-General's Awards in Visual Arts and Media. How great it is to see her long career of gestures and interventions, correspondences, conversations, dances, bike rides, fictions -- in a word, AKTIONS-- recognized by the Canadian art world. Margaret has ammassed a vocabulary of art actions that describe to me a way of integrating creative experiments into a daily life and community. Living on the shoreline of an enormous land, she coreographs her body and the bodies of those around her to describe the conditions that we experience as individuals and as a collective.

Thank you for all of your encouragement, and your inspiration Margaret. And thank you for the mending aktions... sewing with me.

Coyote14

 

Read more about Margaret Dragu's Governor-General's Award here.


QR matters

I am trying to get a handle on materialism.

In the midst of QR_U (an open school) which is essentially a virtual and event-driven --a no-thing-- project, I keep thinking about the relationship of art and things. It's a bit like an irrepresible itch. Big things and little things. My things and other things that I can't seem not to notice. Even things that are not present. Maybe the absent things are the most interesting, come to think of it.

QR_U is a collaborative project that began when Emily Carr University MAA Candidate Elisa Yon asked Heidi May, Adam Stenhouse, and me to help her to launch something that would reflect the Emily Carr community of students and faculty during the upcoming W/HERE Symposium. Early in the design of this project that aimed to produce  an open school within (and without) a school, we looked to QR code technology as a way to invite exhibition participants to actively use the virtual school from the gallery, and for the gallery to be marked by the activity on line.

The QR code has some appeal as a printed thing. The tools needed to create it are free and easy (http://qrcode.kaywa.com/) but the tools to use it are far less so. To access the meaning behind the symbol, you need an internet-enabled smart phone or ipod upon which to load the free QR code reader app. Like the bar code scanners at retail check-out, the scanner on the phone will work to focus on the ancoring black squares until it registers about 60% of the image at which point it will bleep and begin to process the link to the url or other message hidden within the arrangement of tiny squares.

376516_283127705062611_100000961518100_787408_555854069_nIs the QR code a thing? does it signify a thing? does it make things happen? Those are the questions that the wall-sized QR codes that we hand painted into the QR_U exhibition space might be asking. The codes simply are a link between data and the material world. At QR_U their over-sized reproductions become the stage for an accumulation of ideas in the form of questions, responses and unofficial conversations that are enbaled through the events (open classes) in the exhibition and through the pages of running dialogue in the virtual school at qruopenschool.ca.

Adam Rothstein, in "City of QR Codes," Rhizome, September 15 2011, lets the appearance of QR codes on the streeetscape seduce him into a more and more attentive awareness of the marks and scars that the city wears in its undersurfaces and crevices. He is disappointed by our lack of imagination for the potential of this technology to hold enormous quantities of data, when all we use it for is to direct the user to a URL that could have just as easily been typed into the toolbar. He asks, why do things need to re-declare themselves? Why do we continually use technology to brand, re-brand and re-iterate? He is much more intrigued by the possiblity of becoming the scanner --what would it be like to decode everything, every scar on the surface of the street?

In class at QR_U today, we scanned and drew things. Dr Monique Fouquet and Heidi May's class reviewed how Emily Carr students have been taught creative processes and colour theory through various means like correspondence courses, TV and video education, and now internet-based courses. After that discussion, Matthew Isherwood (UBC Curriculum Studies MA Student) led us through a learning experiment: two still life drawings - first, we drew from a 'digital surrogate' then the actual thing was set in front of us to do again. I have not had many drawing classes, so it all seemed to be a lot of attention put onto a simple concept. Clearly, the two dimentional surrogate was much easier to draw, since it had already been compressed into a flat thing. When the actual thing--a chipped and stained hippie bean pot--came out of Matthew's bag it looked very strange -- much smaller and more irregular than our eyes and minds had formulated it, after the predictability of the digital photo.

With the second phase of the experiment, I can assure you that I really sweated to make that strange thing into a flat image... Thinking back on it now, it was something like Rothstein's experience of scanning not just the QR code markers but the neglected cracks and surfaces of the city. I started feeling a stirring --a love for that strange thing in front of me. An untranslatable bean pot -- frustrating and desirable, in the way it makes obvious my lack of technology to store it with a scan and a bleep.

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