Archive for September, 2010

Wine With Art Lecture Series

Last Friday I finally made it to my first Wine With Art Lecture at The New Gallery on Nancy Nisbet‘s Contours in the Crosshairs. Unfortunately I missed the beginning because I work in the North East so it’s a bit of a trek downtown in the evenings. The talk was given by Dick Averns, ACAD Instructor and Activist. For full disclosure, I will mention that Nancy Nisbet was one of my instructors at UBC; she taught me first and second year digital art. So it’s pretty awesome seeing her show in Calgary for me.

Just quickly for background, Contours in the Crosshairs is a show dealing with the effect of car culture on the Athabasca Glaciers in Alberta. The works include a windsheild, onto which is projected a video (from the windshield’s point of view) of the drive on the Icefields Highway, which is overlaid with a video of the contours of the topography of the glacier being erased. Another work is a large photo transparency of the glacier, which is on a window which normally looks onto downtown Calgary. A third is a pile of broken tempered glass over a crumpled windshield, illuminated from the underside. The fourth is two images, one of the current topography of the glacier, beside the same image after the topography of the glacier is erased.

I thought the talk was interesting. I think the Wine With Art series is aimed at the downtown business community in Calgary, which isn’t me, so there was reasonably a lot of term definitions that I didn’t need defined, and a section that was an overview of car-related or environmental art that was very broad, but this was probably interesting background for the target audience.

I did like how Dick Averns used many different theoretical prongs to tackle the work, and explained his reasoning very thoroughly. He briefly discussed the work in terms of relational aesthetics, which is a connection I wouldn’t have made*. And he did some interesting theoretical acrobatics with the “auto” self and “auto”-mobile which were poignant and connected really well to the idea of “car culture”.  He also explored the idea of self-mapping and land-mapping and the way we make our own frameworks for evaluating our actions, and connected it into the mapping of the topography of the glacier and the drive to the glacier. Our identification with the car versus our identification with the land.

Image courtesy The New Gallery.

The discussion was probably the most interesting part of the talk. I go to a lot of art talks and lectures (whenever I can), but since this talk had a different audience there was a much broader way of thinking about the works represented and different problems were addressed. I wish I could have attended Nisbet’s artist talk and had the opportunity to compare the kinds of points brought up there with the ones brought up at the Wine with Art talk. One of the most interesting points (which unfortunately I can’t credit — if you know who said this or are the man who did, please let me know in the comments!) was that the melting of the glacier documented in the show made an interesting analogy for the decline of the auto industry in the states at the moment, where people continue to insist that the auto industry will always bounce back. I thought this comment made the consideration of the issue a lot wider to include other human systems (economic), instead of just environmental. And then you can consider, what would happen to the glacier if the car industry just became unviable? Would it rebound? Not that the decay of the auto industry would necessarily remove the factors that cause the decay of the glacier.

I quite liked attending the talk, so I’ll be trying to make it to future Wine with Art lecture series. I hear they’re going to be a bit later, so hopefully I can catch the beginning of the next one.

*Especially since my 2 most vivid experiences with relational aesthetics have been somewhat fraught with issues.

Soft Core, Hard Edge

Image from The Art Gallery of Calgary

Headed to the Curator’s Tour (Marianne Elder from Calgary and David Pagel from LA) of Soft Core, Hard Edge at the Art Gallery of Calgary this weekend. Missed the opening the previous evening, but apparently it was awesome and tons of people were there.

The curator’s tour was pretty interesting. I went mostly because Wil Murray‘s work was in the show, and I’d seen The Strange Space that will Keep Us Together in 2008 at the Belkin Satellite and remembered Murray’s work. Elder and Pagel talked about how they ended up coming up with the show and choosing artists, which was primary based on similarities between abstract works of LA and Calgary artists — they didn’t have a specific program or theory, but instead they wanted to put the works together and see what would happen and what they’d bring out in each other. In some ways that bothered me … the talk was kind of, not necessarily unfocused, but it didn’t have a specific point to make, and some of it was stuff I just didn’t see in the work that was quite opinion based and formal. But, it’s better to be frank about that than to try and force a point on something that’s less specific (more abstract?) and more experimental.

Abstract painting isn’t something that generally turns my crank, but the show was quite neat especially because a lot of it wasn’t abstract painting or sculpture, and some of the items were pretty interesting to see in the context of abstraction that I had never really thought of as ‘abstract’ as such. Like Eric Cameron‘s thick paintings (2 are in the show). It’s interesting to read them within a context of lots of pretty ‘pure’ abstraction, and to think of them as abstract paintings instead of as sculptures or conceptual pieces. And, thinking of them that way changed how I read the other abstract works, because of the direct relationship those abstractions have with specific objects, but not with representing them.

There were two Dave and Jenn pieces in the show. I hadn’t seen their work before, but it was really engrossing, and whimsical. I think I like it the same way I like Maurice Sendak’s books. I went to see the show that they have at Skew Gallery as well later that day, so I got to see a bit more of the worlds they create.