Canadian Artist working in Art + Medicine


Youtube channel of student video work found here.

I hope to get a photographic gallery of student work soon. I am also trying to figure out how to properly format and display much of the relational and performative work occurring in the intermedia program.

These are in-progress thoughts (sometimes unedited) on some of my students' work. When time permits I hope to write and show more of the work being done in these Intermedia classes.

Thinking after the world ruins my mind and I think it might have infected someone. Kristen Hiemstra’s video work titled After Earth takes us on a zombie-Robert-Smithson bus tour (yes, everything is zombied now when referencing the dead, something I'll talk about another time) in a rEAL space of Google Earth. Google Earth is more or less a combination of orbiting and street roaming cameras with cars attached to them scanning, digitizing, pasting together and pairing locations in our two worlds (Real and rEAL). Then, with this unimaginable amount of data, Google creates algorithms to render form to this data, a space we can actively move in. (Download Google Earth) Very much along the logic of a fantastically terrible-wonderful show Fringe—under the exact right circumstances and just the right force/energy/chemical-combination/plasma/brain-juice/etc—Google Earth’s algorithms and data gave us After Earth. An overgrown, clumpy urban forest, not as scrumptious as a scene from I Am Legend but, for me, a crushing weighted world. Apocalyptic tropes are de-rendered in rEAL-time as Kristen navigates this landscape. Buildings stand, bridges have structure, but all those that ride on the ground, the peoples, cats and cars, are crushed flat and the clumps of vegetation rise and consume the traveler, with billboard-cyber-animals lurk and pop as we move through on our tour. As the pace becomes more fevered the data and algorithms begin to show their seems, hitting break neck speed as a field of static decay consumes the traveler. Maybe this is the story I’ve been looking for, a story without a world, at least not a human world, no struggle to preserve just a zombie-Smithson driven tour. To give this paragraph an End I will copy and paste a quote from Wikipedia:

In anthropology, liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning "a threshold") is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rituals, when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the ritual is complete. During a ritual's liminal stage, participants "stand at the threshold"[citation needed] between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the ritual establishes.

As the razor edge shaped standing-ground between Real and rEAL narrows around me I can’t help but wonder if I am constantly undergoing a Turing Test. (Even Microsoft Word is doing battle with me, telling me to put a question mark at the end of that sentence. It probably knows more than I do and I should have listened) As cyborgs run rampant around me, one in particular always leaves me wondering if I have failed the Turing Test, Haylee Fortin aka HAL 9000.1 (an inside joke, I never intend to offend!). Her recent work has her thinking about the actuality of an authentically unique experience when engaging an art object, in this case filmic scenes and music/sound. A good human/nonhuman/computer OOO question indeed. When stepping back and considering the formal dynamics of film—visuals, cutting, arranging and the all-important music—I find myself primed from a life time of filmic tropes. Scenes cut to other scenes for a reason, to push forward or give me a new object to extend the narrative. The music also helps to tell me what emotion to feel during this scene, much like how a comedy’s laugh track does the laughing for me. These disparate elements give my primed mind the ability to sort and structure these relations into the object of the film. Haylee’s video piece Lurker takes this structure and randomizes and loops the visual cuts and separates the music/sound and randomizes and loops it. Once started there is no real end, just scene after scene (if you are lucky enough the same scene might play back to back or maybe 20 times in sequence, though unlikely), with an out of sync collection of music. The combination it creates is a unique experience for the viewer each and every time based on its formal dimensions. It gives me the same sensations I get in the odd shifts in music mid scene in Twin Peaks, realigning the interpretation I was just experiencing before the shift. But it isn't just the randomization of visuals and sounds that create the unique experience, it is how a brain primed cannot resist taking these elements and forming them into narrative and emotions, each distinctly unique to the viewer. I sit beside another being in a chair, both looking at the same projection on a screen, both with headphones on our ears but with different loops of music. In this set up the visuals remain the same for both of us, though I might directly read into those differently, however it is the variance in music that forces my brain to experience different (I can only imagine) emotions and a different construct of narrative. I am a narrative being. I read and reread my memories, changing the interactions, the protagonists, editing out and adding in scenes. Lurker leaves me in OOO withdrawal. Worse yet i makes me feel like I'm failing the Turing Test of movies, and I am.

Here is a one sample of the many possible experiences. I'll see if we can set up a site that runs these scenes and music at random to go on as long as the internet will, or until someone stops paying the bill:

The stunning cave paintings at Lascaux in France are estimated to be 17,300 years old. They are remarkable human made artifacts that laid waiting and were found, studied and, both in materiality and in conceptualization, threaded us, weighted us, generation upon generation together. There are trace amounts of Plutonium found around Earth naturally, however the quantities of Plutonium needed today are created in lab. There are various isotopes of Plutonium, each with their own set up properties and half-lives. Plutonium-244 is incredibly stable with a massive half-life of 80 million years, stretching in scale past the distance between us and the extinction of the dinosaurs. The by-product of nuclear reactors gives us a usable, or fissile, isotope of Plutonium-239 with a half-life of 24,100 years. Humans have been able to set in motion elements that not only can ravage landscape through nuclear bombs, but last more generations into the future than what separates us from the humans that created the Lascaux cave paintings. What we have created are our Lascaux paintings in Plutonium. They are artifacts that not only mark our technological era but more importantly our geological time. Some call it the Anthropocene, Haraway called it (the more applicable in my mind) Capitalocene. Either way we have created a marked global geological era. Unimaginable amounts of I love you’s will be said, break ups, births, deaths, accidents, mutations and on and on will occur between now and the half-life of some of our current Plutonium stores. If those generations make it to that point I hope they uncover and meet these radioactive monuments with as much wonder and awe as we bring to the Lascaux paintings.

This brings me to plastic. It is another master crafted art object of our recent history. Oil has been and will be the combining object of war, capital and global warming for many generations on. From oil plastic is birthed. The two lay bare next to each other like an Andy Warhol painting in the room across from Pollock at MoMA. At best our plastic bottles carrying water propelled by gasoline trucks and immense ships will degrade in maybe 450 years, some a thousand, and some are so stable the degradation point cannot even be mapped. You can imagine plastic in whatever form suits you, a Coke bottle, the chairs in Madison Square Garden, Christmas trees, Garbage Island or the impenetrable casing that locks away out cool new toys, tech and batteries. These are another archive and artifact of our era. Jeanette Lazar is aware of all of this. She soaks in these excess commodities and temporal scales and makes them even more excessive in her photographic installations. Excessiveness in excess. The hyper- in Hyperobjects. Her previous work broke space and, in line with Koons or Warhol, brought beauty and glamour beyond what we would consider ‘likable’. In her more recent work, that is very much in development, she is taking plastic and spraying it on quickly degrading fruit or wrapping it in plastic gift wrap, extending its life. They remind me of Flemish oil still life paintings, with all the beauty and fleshy potential of the fruit, flowers and life but always shadowed by their eventual decay, the vanitas image. A skull, a fly, a worm eating through an apple, or simply the fact that all this has been plucked from its source of nourishment and is on a death wait. Art is about death and sex. Still-lives have both of it. What Jeanette is giving us is 21st century vanitas still life paintings just the time scales have shifted, no longer weeks to a month but centuries. Locked in acrylic plastics and glamorous colours.

As a secret lover of paintings I can’t help but romanticize the notion that all the information of our universe is but a painting of sort on the two dimensional surface of the cosmological horizon. Even stringing those words together sounds too good, purely as words, not even yet at the level of functioning to form meaning. It is the concept that all our information that we experience in three dimensions is all stored on a two dimensional surface. It is the idea of a flat disc of pure immanence. Black holes, event horizons and entropy. The note, timber and rhythm I’ve been pressing my ear to the floor boards for. I wish it all could be as well delivered as McConaughey’s character Rust from True Detective.

“Fuck, I don't want to know anything anymore. This is a world where nothing is solved. Someone once told me, 'Time is a flat circle.' Everything we've ever done or will do, we're gonna do over and over and over again. And that little boy and that little girl, they're gonna be in that room again and again and again forever.”

He speaks that around a series of carved out men from empty beer cans, all standing in circle around a can crushed top-down into a disc. It is in the horrors of transcendental beings the occult members have become through their acts, their becoming, the becoming they envisioned for their victims through the phenomenology of death and ritual (I feel like I’m slipping into Red Dragon and Silence of the Lambs territory now), that they can all stand witness to a disc, a disc that has everything on it, and it just spins, that is what haunts me. When I heard that story over top those beer cans I didn’t know if I should call my priest, Neil deGrasse Tyson or drink. In the end it’s a nice visual, like some druid gathering under the stars, but they aren’t outside the disc, just interpreting within it to horrible ends. Maybe I just wanted to talk about True Detective for a bit and that is why I had to write into that. Onwards!

It’s all about information. How discrete can it get till it’s just 0’s and 1’s. On and off. And that’s what I like about holograms, all the information from every possible direction is stored on the surface of a canvas. Nice and flat like a Modernist painting. It is a complete object, no outside work needed, no viewers like the beer cans or the occult, it just is, in all its flatness and information. When I look and Rene Perrott’s Surface Tension video and photographs I see the flat reflective background holding no information, no reflections, and it is only when a quantum bubble erupts does the entirety of the room it exists in becomes inscribe on the bubble. Like Freud’s Magic Writing Pad the bubble is constantly taking in the photons of the room and reflecting out just as quickly, some hitting the retina in my eye, others just bouncing around the room, out the window or back onto the bubble. But like the magic writing pad it does retain an inscription in the form of energy, vibrations and momentum. The surface truly holds the room in space and temporality, maybe just not a temporality we can readily interpret with our human faculties, and drifts on the pale grey abyss. A micro-verse of a space, in the case of the video the artist’s home and in the photographs the artist’s studio and the wonderful British Columbia forest. When I see the photo of her studio in the semi-spherical surface I can’t imagine a time I felt more excited about painting. No more larger than life historical paintings in the Louvre but everything held on a micro level, flat, distorted to snap it from its ideological plinth and ripe with information. It breaks free of flat geometry into non-Euclidian geometry, the thing of space-time, squeezed onto a quantum bubble, where that little cat and that magnificent girl will just be in that room again and again and again forever, long after that bubble pops.

On to Adam Whitford’s two recent projects Disintegration Cycle and Retrograde, both video based projects that take on two fascinating topics. In Disintegration Cycle, Whitford would take 5 second clips, loop them and then deploy data moshing technology to crush and take its toll on them over the span of 8 minutes. In one video there is scene of a refinery in the distance foregrounded by a dense forest. When left to run, the scene dissolves into a static field within minutes, leaving only the smoke pouring from the super-structures still discernable and the treed foreground a disparate field of pixels. In another video  he took a small clip of a woman waiting at a bus stop, moving ever so much back and forth, her outfit and waiting stop could speak to a certain socio-economic placement, possibly someone often over looked, noise in the background. However, as the video plays and the data moshing does its workthe concrete world of capital dissolves and the scene is left with her front and center moving back and forth in an unsettling yet poetic stasis.

In Retrograde Whitford creates a 10 minute short about a man who lives out of sync in a world where everyone but him moves in reverse. His isolation as he moves all so awkwardly through his everyday life is both humorous and oddly epic. His everyday movements are punctuated by his character re-enacting movie scenes from popular culture, notably Taxi Driver and Momento, where you get the sense he is practicing them over and over again to find some sort of connection to a world he is not really part of. This culminates in the final scene of the short where he has his first attempt at connecting with another person in this world where he simply asks him ‘Do you like Taxi Driver?’. From a technical standpoint what Whitford accomplished was outstanding. Every scene is shot forward then reversed, requiring him to choreograph all in the movement and speech in every scene in reverse so that when reversed again in the editing program, it would look and sound like he was moving forward and everything around him was running backwards. This process makes his character’s movements all the more isolated, tense and humorous.